Are you in a toxic relationship? 5 questions to ask yourself

When you're in a positive relationship, you feel safe, respected, and supported. But how can you tell if your relationship is unhealthy or, worse, harmful? Ask these five questions.


1. Are negative patterns repeated?

Do you notice any negative behaviours or patterns in your relationship that cause stress or discomfort? Some examples of these behaviours are:

Constant criticism:

When you are consistently belittled or criticised, it can erode your self-esteem and create a hostile atmosphere.

Stonewalling or silent treatment:

Being shut down repeatedly or given silent treatment can interfere with respectful conversation and cause emotional distance.

Excessive control:

An overly controlling partner may dictate your choices, isolating you or restricting your independence.


A pattern of deflecting responsibility for mistakes onto the other person can create a toxic atmosphere and restrict the resolution of conflicts.

Remember, recognising negative patterns is the first step toward creating positive change in your relationship. You deserve a partnership built on respect and understanding.

2. Is communication healthy?

Do you find that communication between you and your partner is open, respectful, and effective? Or do you frequently experience misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication?

Similarly, consistently avoiding difficult conversations or only engaging in surface-level discussions could indicate that important issues still need to be addressed.

If arguments and disagreements escalate quickly and become more intense, it could be a sign that effective communication is breaking down. It's important to communicate respectfully and productively to avoid such situations.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. If you face challenges, know that overcoming communication obstacles can lead to a stronger and more fulfilling connection.

3. Do you feel controlled or manipulated?

A healthy relationship is characterised by mutual respect and autonomy for both partners. However, the dynamics can be significantly impacted when manipulation and control become the norm. To determine if there are signs of control or manipulation in your relationship, you might want to consider the following:

Isolation tactics:

A controlling partner may attempt to isolate from friends and family, creating an unhealthy dependency. This tactic can limit the individual's support system and hinder their ability to seek help.

Constant monitoring:

Excessive monitoring of a partner's activities, such as checking their phone and emails or tracking their movements, is a clear sign of controlling behaviour. Trust is a fundamental aspect of a healthy relationship, and constant surveillance erodes that trust.

Dictating choices:

Controlling individuals often try to dictate their partner's choices and decisions, ranging from simple everyday matters to significant life decisions. This can lead to a loss of personal agency and contribute to feelings of powerlessness.

Emotional blackmail:

Manipulative behaviour may involve emotional blackmail, where one partner uses guilt, shame, or threats to get their way. This can create a toxic atmosphere of fear and coercion.

Your well-being matters. If you're recognising signs of control or manipulation, acknowledging it is a significant step towards reclaiming your autonomy and finding a healthier relationship.

4. Is the relationship impacting your mental health?

Toxic relationships are often characterised by constant tension, conflict, and uncertainty, leading to increased stress and anxiety. When involved in such relationships, you may find yourself constantly on edge, anticipating negative interactions or reactions from your partner. The negative behaviours, criticism, and manipulation present in toxic relationships can significantly undermine an individual's self-esteem and self-worth, creating a pervasive sense of inadequacy and impacting mental well-being. Constant belittling or control tactics can contribute to low self-esteem and self-worth.

Being in a toxic relationship can take a significant emotional toll on a person and can lead to symptoms of depression. It can result in persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emotional exhaustion. Toxic relationships can be cyclical in nature, making it challenging for individuals to break free from negative thought patterns. This can ultimately contribute to a decline in mental health.

Your mental health is important. Identifying how your relationships affect you emotionally is crucial to creating a nurturing environment for your well-being and happiness.

5. Are your boundaries respected?

Do you feel your partner respects your established boundaries, and do you feel comfortable enforcing them consistently? 

If your partner frequently ignores or dismisses your attempts to communicate your needs or express discomfort, this may indicate a lack of respect for your boundaries. If they intentionally and repeatedly breach your established boundaries, it can be a sign that they are not respecting your limits. Further, if your partner becomes defensive, deflects blame onto you, or minimises your feelings when you assert your boundaries, it suggests a lack of respect for your needs.

Establishing and enforcing boundaries is a sign of self-respect. If you find your boundaries need to be consistently respected, remember that asserting your needs is a powerful act of self-care.

In a positive relationship, open communication, mutual respect, trust, support, and shared values are the keys to success. These five signs create a foundation for partners to grow, thrive, and find joy in each other's company.

If you are questioning whether your relationship is toxic, and if you answered any of these questions with a "yes" or even an "I think so", please know that you don't have to deal with it alone. You deserve better. Reach out to the people around you for support. Counselling can help you resolve relationship issues. I work with people like you who want to build solid and healthy relationships. Find out more about me here to see how we can work together.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

If this sounds like you and you'd like to learn more, contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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