How can you tell if you’re in a relationship with a toxic partner?
Sometimes you may not know you’re partner is toxic. Things are going along, days go by. In your gut something’s not right. You have no reason to be unhappy but your miserable. Maybe if you move in together that will sort things out. Maybe if you get married. How about having a baby?
That’s how it could have gone for me.
Thankfully I got out.
Using my own experience, I have compiled a list of warning signs that your partner may be toxic.
Before we get into it, I have tried to cover both sides. Remember I’m a heterosexual male, so some instances may be sex-specific. Also, there may be parts of this that veers into TMI territory. Consider yourself warned.
With all that being said, let’s get stuck in, shall we?
-10 Signs you have a Toxic Partner-
10 Lack of basic manners
Let’s start slow.
It’s one thing to forget to say please and thank you every once in a while. But all the time?
You may find it burdensome to constantly be saying please and thank you. I get it. Some days you just don’t want to have to use your voice. But if your partner never says please or thank you? You may have a toxic partner.
In my case, Toxic Partner told me that she did not like asking for things (for reasons we’ll get into later.)
Can you guess what that meant?
It meant that I would have to guess her every need. For example, when she was working from home, I would bring her tea, biscuits, fruit, that sort of thing throughout the day. If she took it great, if she didn’t then it would be left then wasted.
Why not ask her, in that case, Kieran? If I asked, she wouldn’t respond. When I asked twice she would tell me I was bothering her. If I didn’t bring her anything, it was because I was neglectful. So it was better to make her something and throw it out rather than be accused of being a neglectful boyfriend. I had to pick where I wanted to lose.
When I brought her stuff, she could not bring herself to say thank you. So instead, it came with a caveat; “I suppose I should say thank you” would be as close as she would get.
It may seem minor but basic manners are still important.
9 Weird family dynamic
Now this one may not be an as significant factor. You probably know someone who has gone through hell with their family and come out as a wonderful person. I’m not saying a troubled home makes for a troubled individual. Repeat; a toxic family does not make a toxic partner.
What I’m saying is, a toxic partner will use this as an excuse. So keep an eye out for this one.
In my case,
Toxic Partner had no real relationship with her father, or at least she seemed to resent him.
Toxic Partner’s relationship with the mother was odd too. They would message every day constantly. It was about the most innocuous stuff; the weather, shopping and TV.
Now I’m a terrible texter. Weather and shopping could be top tier banter for all I know. What I could not understand was the frequency of the messaging.
Toxic partner never asked for anything, be it a cup of tea, a hug or to get out of the house. Never asked. Now do not confuse not asking with not wanting. She would still want these things, but it was up to me to suggest for her. To be honest, I got pretty fed up with having to guess what she wanted. When I asked her about her reluctance to ask for anything, the reason given was because she had to ask her mum for hugs. She didn’t like that.
According to her, her mum had OCD. It seemed like the mum would use Toxic Partner as an emotional dumping ground. Confiding in her at a young age about things that maybe adults shouldn’t talk to kids about. Now it seems like what the mum did was wrong. At the same time, is treatment by parents an excuse for our own behaviour?
An odd occurrence
We would be on walks sometime, and Toxic Partner would use that time to talk to her mum on the phone. One time toxic partner was having difficulty at her job, and her mum was trying to comfort her. Toxic partner was having none of it. Arguing with her mum that she didn’t know what she was talking about. Then toxic partner said something that made my ears prick up.
“You know what, mum, it doesn’t matter what you said to me, I still would have had a go at you”. I remember looking at her, slack jawed, eyes wide, unable to believe what I had heard.
When the phone call ended, we talked for a bit about the conversation. I brought up what was said.
“That’s what it feels like with me sometimes. Like, no matter what I say, you’re going to argue with me,” I said to her.
“It’s not like that with us, and you shouldn’t feel like that”, Toxic partner said.
“But it does.”
“Well, it isn’t, so you shouldn’t feel like that,” she said.
There you go, did you know that if you’re feeling a certain way about something, just don’t feel that way? Feeling depressed? Well, you shouldn’t. Anxious, nervous? Stop. As simple as that, all of psychology sorted out in under a minute. Up yer hole with a big jam roll Sigmund Freud.
8 Toxic Partner ha (almost) zero mates
Toxic partner has no mates. They have a series of acquaintances and temporary alliances but no real best friend. If they do, all they will do is slabber and complain about them.
Any time you suggest they spend time together, you will be met with a look of disgust. If a toxic partner does meet up with a friend, you’ll have to be present. You’ll have to bear witness to them taking passive-aggressive potshots at their “best friend”.
In fact, you may find yourself sympathising with the best friend for putting up with a toxic partner for so long. You may even find something oddly familiar about the best friend.
They may have another kind of friend. But they’re not really a friend, but that’s a different category. So we’ll talk about that other type of friend soon.
7 Toxic partners words don’t mean what you think they mean
“It’s important to be kind” This is a phrase I would hear repeatedly, and on the surface, it’s hard to argue against.
Here’s the thing, what if I told you that it was the verbal equivalent of an optical illusion? Hear the phrase repeated to you over and over again, and you see the secret meaning reveal itself.
I was constantly being told how valuable kindness was in a relationship. There were many lectures on how at all times, we must act with kindness. Now while the theory part was extensive, I saw few practical demonstrations.
After being shouted at, gaslit, worn down, “Be kind” lost its surface meaning. The underside revealed itself. “Be kind” meant “Let me act however I want and don’t call me on it.”
When with a toxic partner, you will need to boot up your universal translator every time they speak. Nothing means what it actually means, and this is the beauty of how they operate.
Something happens. Toxic Partner blows up at you and berates you for half an hour.
“I don’t think you’re acting with kindness,” you might say to them.
“Kindness is important to me”, they’ll respond.
“But when you shout at me and call me a cunt, it doesn’t feel kind.”
“I only do that because I’m so worn down with how much I love you, and I want to get through to you, but you don’t listen. So that was the best way for me to act with kindness.”
That’s pretty cool, right? So they managed the double act of treating you like shit and making you feel bad for being unhappy.
If I wasn’t so miserable, it would have been quite funny.
6 Friends of the opposite sex are verboten (for you)
If you have friends of the opposite sex, say your goodbyes now. When Toxic Partner comes on the scene, you will not get a chance. Toxic Partner does not feel comfortable with you having opposite-sex friends. It’s no big deal to cut these people off either. Your relationship with the toxic partner is more important, right?
What about Toxic Partner? Will they have to give up their opposite-sex friends? What do you think? Send your answer to 555-COME-ON-NOW.
In my case, there was a male friend who was an orbiter. He was a nice enough guy and all that. I thought nothing of it at the time. But, looking back, I’m not so sure. I mean, she would be messaging this guy during arguments. One time she let slip that she took road trips with this guy.
While Toxic Partner and I spent the majority of our time together June-December 2020. She was in London all 2019. I trusted her. Did she cheat on me? I don’t know. If it turned out she did, I would not be surprised.
Again if you have to give up your friends while your toxic partner retains theirs. Something might not be right.
5 When you do it, there’s a problem; when Toxic Partner does it, it’s OK, and you’re just being petty.
In every relationship, there is a certain degree of hypocrisy or double standard. What is OK for one is not OK for the other. It is annoying, but within relationships, you have to let things slide sometimes. In each relationship, there’s give and take 50:50, you know?
Now, if it’s completely one-sided, that’s where the problems arise.
You can probably guess what happened to me.
Toxic Partner made me promise to uphold all these dumb rules that she came up with. Now in fairness to her, I complied. For example, not being allowed to leave an argument and not going to bed on a fight being another (we never could keep that one).
There was other stupid stuff I agreed to. You can probably guess what happened, right? Yep, you got it. She would break these rules whenever it suited her. When I broke the rules, I was an evil person who only cared about myself. So when she broke the rules, there was an excellent reason, and how dare I question her.
Testing your hypothesis
Towards the end of the relationship, I was curious to see what would happen if I pushed back against Toxic Partner a bit more. It was like, let’s see what happens. It was fascinating to watch as she would twist and contort reality. One time, she hung up on me (something we’re not allowed to do).
When questioned about it, she told me she thought the conversation was over. It was not. She hung up on me mid-sentence. Then it became her battery was low, and finally, she was tired and hung up by mistake.
There’s always a bit of give and take in a relationship. However, if it is entirely one-sided, you may be with a toxic partner.
4 You aren’t allowed anytime to yourself
If you are with a toxic partner, the last thing they will want is you thinking things over. If you’re alone, then you might have a moment of clarity. Even worse, you might start to realise that your partner is toxic.
The toxic partner is adept at taking everything personally. You will be made to feel bad for wanting some time alone. You will be told that you want time alone because you want to be away from them. One thing you have to understand is this is toxic partner’s world and we all just live in it.
Want to go for a walk on your own? “You don’t want to bring me along because you can’t stand me.”
Want to write? “You spend too much time writing. You want to avoid talking about us.”
Want to hang out with friends or family? “You care more about them than you do about me.”
Toxic partner wants you physically and mentally there 24/7. You have to be on standby for them. In essence, you’re on call for the rest of your life.
Now when you ask to spend time with them, “You’re crowding/trying to control me”. When you organise something, allocate time together, “We always have to do what you want to do”.
Understand that the toxic partner does not want you all to themselves. They just don’t want you getting on without them.
3 That’s a nice memory, would be a shame if someone were to twist it completely
Memory is such a strange thing. You think what you remember is the truth when in actual fact, it can be easily manipulated. What’s really strange is watching a memory get warped and reshaped in front of your eyes.
Let’s talk about what happened in Brussels.
Start of the year, Toxic Partner and I took a day trip to Brussels with a couple she knew from work. The trip was pretty uneventful. I mean, it’s Brussels, after all.
At the end of the day, we were walking back to the train station. I was walking and talking to the other girl. Toxic Partner was talking to the guy. Now, this was January. It was cold, wet and miserable. Again, it’s Brussels. Those cute cobbles were slick with rainwater. The girl almost went on her hoop several times. I didn’t want to have to miss the train to take her to the hospital. I mean, hospitals are grim at the best of times.
Could you imagine a hospital… in Brussels?
I offered my arm to her as support. She linked arms with me, and we walked along the road until the cobbles stopped and her footing became more sure. At the time, I thought nothing of it. Several months later, I found myself having to think about it again.
What’s funny is my memory of this event is clear. It was a short linking of arms. A few steps ahead of the other two, it got her across wet cobbles while at the same time helped her keep pace with me. I did not want to miss the train. Again, Brussels. In June, one of our early arguments, Toxic Partner, brought up Brussels and the Scandalous Case of the Linked Arms. Only events were slightly different in her telling. Toxic Partner told me that I had grabbed this girl, dragged her off into the night. Worse, I left Toxic Partner alone in the dark.
As I said, she was with the guy, and we were never more than a few paces ahead. The twisted memory then became a series of even more bizarre accusations culminating in “Do you grab onto women’s tits back in Belfast?”
I genuinely was so caught off guard by these escalating accusations that I was on the backfoot. I would rationalise her behaviour as “Wow, I must have really fucked up for her to be this upset. How could I be so ignorant as not to consider her feelings like that. The fact that I consider this normal is a sign that I’m horrible.”
Looking back, this was all a means of control. Toxic Partner would go way over the top because she needed me to accept her premise. She would present me with two alternatives, neither of which were good. One was just less extreme than the other. So I opted for the lesser evil every time.
If you feel like you’re having your reality altered, it may be a sign you’re with a Toxic Partner.
2 Toxic partner has an all-access pass to you.
A toxic partner is kinda like Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984. It’s not enough that you simply are going out with them. No, they feel entitled to every part of you, mind and body.
You’ll have to recount detailed dark memories. Then, psychoanalyse yourself for them and explain where you failed in previous relationships.
Why did you not marry your previous partner? Who dumped who? That kind of thing.
Understand that this is not a two-way street. If you ask similar questions, you have to realise that you are being intrusive. At the same time, if you don’t ask any questions, you will be accused of not being interested. So you will have to ask questions and pitch them perfectly every time. Unless you want a falling out or an argument.
What’s wrong with peace, love and understanding?
Now you may think the whole point of them asking you to reveal every part of yourself is to understand you better. Oh, my sweet summer child, how wrong you are.
No, this is what I refer to as ammo stockpiling. These deep emotional wounds will be reopened when Toxic Partner is feeling angry. Or bored or, you know, just for giggles.
What happens when you want to share your inner world with them when you’re ready rather than when it suits them? You’ll be punished, of course.
Towards the end of the relationship, that short week in our flat, I was so miserable. Let me be honest with you here. I was having dark thoughts. There was part of me that was visualising finding ways to hang myself. Part of me thought, if she found me dead, then she might understand how unhappy I was; maybe then, she would listen. The failure in my logic of course being was that you cannot speak to someone who is dead unless you’re a medium (even then).
Anyway, those thoughts would pop in there from time to time. Finally, I told Toxic Partner I was having these dark thoughts. Her response? “I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a doctor. Why would you put pressure on me like that?”
Yes, why would I indeed? How selfish of me.
Toxic Partner wants you to open up to them mentally whenever they feel like, what about physical?
After a day of being told you’re inadequate, deficient, and a horrible person, you know what comes next? You guessed it, you will be expected to perform at a moment’s notice. If you’re a man, you always want sex, and so get to it. If you’re a woman, you don’t want people to think you’re a frigid, right?
It’s galling spending hours soaking up emotional abuse then expected to perform physically.
“You don’t seem to find me sexy”, she would say.
“You’re so inconsiderate you aren’t even going to touch me.”
My personal favourite “You won’t even fuck your hot girlfriend”. (Referring to yourself in the third person might be a sign too).
When Toxic Partner would say these things to me, the last thing on my mind was sex. I had never felt so unsexy before. I’m not going to go into detail, obviously. I mean, my parents read this, for goodness sake. Sometimes it would happen, sometimes it would not. Whether it did or didn’t, I always felt dirty and used—a dildo with a person attached (lol).
Your body and your mind are your own. People will try and pressure you into cutting off parts of yourself.
Don’t do it.
Some people care, but there are some who will ask you to dissect yourself. Not because they want to see what’s inside but because they want to see if you’ll do it for them.
Needless to say, abuse in a relationship is a big no-no. Be it verbal, emotional or physical, abuse is a bad sign. If you read my previous post (LINK), you already know that there was verbal and emotional abuse. In fact, several times, I had to say to her, “Could you please stop calling me a cunt every time?” She would say, “I only call you a cunt because there’s no other way to put it.” If I wasn’t so frigging miserable, I would have found it funny. Don’t feel bad for laughing. I probably would. Once or twice I called her a bitch because, by her own standard, there was no other way to put it. I know it was wrong of me to do that. She never let that go. What a bitch.
Anyway, I want to talk more about the physical side of abuse. You know Toxic Partner got physical. I was thumped, choked, grabbed and shoved. Of course, I would excuse the behaviour. “She was under stress from work” . “I was winding her up,” and ” I brought it on myself” .
One time she slapped me right across the face with all her strength. I took it, she almost instantly turned on the waterworks. Me, being a sucker, immediately forgave her. I have a couple of regrets in my relationship with Toxic Partner. Forgiving her immediately and telling her it was forgotten about was probably one of the biggest. Now, most people, when you forgive them, won’t do it again. For someone as damaged as Toxic Partner? All she heard was, “You have gotten away with this, with no consequences”.
Toxic Partner knew it looked bad that all the hitting was coming one way, so she did her best to balance the scales. One night, I forget what happened, but she kept putting her hands on me. I asked her to stop. Toxic Partner saw her opportunity and ignored me. I asked her again, she kept putting her hands on me. I removed her hands, they went back on, I removed them again, they went back on. Finally, I took her hand off and kept it off. She put her other hand on me. I took her second hand off and held them both off with one of my hands. Toxic Partner told me I gripped her too tight.
Over the next couple of days, this, in conjunction with memory twisting went from, “you held me too tight.” to “You hurt me”. This turned into “You bruised me” (There were no marks) to “You were going to hit me.” to “You hit me” to “You hit all your girlfriends.” to “You beat women”.
Going to be honest, that accusation scared me and made me feel ashamed. Even though we both know no hitting took place, I was deathly afraid of her telling people that I hit her. It was her word against mine. When it comes to these accusations, people bring the basic logic of “Why would someone lie about this?” Completely discounting that people lie all the time. With toxic partners lying is the norm. Well, now it’s over. There’s nothing to hide. She would hit me, and I forgave her. When I stopped her from putting hands on me, she managed to turn it into a big song and dance that went on for a couple of days. She would keep bringing it up too.
No one is entitled to see the inner workings of your mind or of your soul. No one is allowed to hit you. Once they do either of these things, toxic partners’ sense of entitlement will only grow. As soon as that happens, take it from someone who has been through it…
There you have it. I am by no means an expert, and this list is by no means extensive. If you encounter these, it may be nothing, or it may be a sign that things are in deep trouble and you’re with a toxic partner.
Value yourself above all others. Do not be like me and hang in there thinking that things will get better.
Life is too short.
If you encounter any of the above, it might be time to end things.
Hope you enjoyed giving this a read. Thank you for taking the time. Have a great day, whatever you’re up to.
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