There are plenty of early warning signs that your relationship is in trouble—lying and cheating, for example—and you’ll want to pay attention to them. But when you discover early warning signs that your relationship is toxic, it’s time to pull out all the stops to protect yourself. Because if you get embroiled in a toxic relationship, your life can become a misery.

Marriage Counseling, Realtionship, Couples

Here are some warning signs that indicate your relationship could become toxic:


Exposing Your Dirty Little Secrets. You expect to tell your partner your deep thoughts and share intimacies. That’s at the crux of a relationship. But when your partner shares your private information with others, that’s a betrayal of your trust. The worst is when he throws you under the bus to tell a demeaning story about you, say, at a cocktail party. That sort of behavior can only bring you grief and it’s unlikely to be a one-time thing. Likewise, cheating is certainly a betrayal of the worst kind. So is lying. More subtle forms of betrayal include undermining your efforts, or deliberately leaving you out of a situation you ought to be included in.


Acting Over-the-Top. When your partner is super intense, it’s exhausting. But the implications are worse than that. If your partner is obsessed by you, it may be flattering at first, but if it continues, obsessive behavior may make you feel you’re being smothered. Constant demands of togetherness leave you with little time on your own to do what you need to do. Pretty soon your life is not your own. Early signs that your partner may be heading in this direction is if he comes on too strong, too fast.


Green with Jealousy. A little jealousy is normal, and when your partner expresses jealousy, it may even be flattering. But jealousy to the point of possessiveness is not good. When your partner is threatened every time you text someone or hang out with friends, you’ve got trouble. This behavior can escalate to your partner stalking you—in person and online. Ultimately, your partner controls who you spend time with and what you do, and if you don’t comply, he becomes angry. He’ll excuse his behavior by saying he’s only protecting you, or restricting you for your own good, or because he loves you so much. Don’t buy it.


Using Control That’s Out-of-Control. Super control freaks are not always easy to spot because they’re masters at manipulation. They try to get you to make decisions you wouldn’t ordinarily make, to take actions you wouldn’t ordinarily do, and even to make you feel emotions you might not ordinarily feel. They are clever at manipulating you. Sometimes they’re so adept at this that you don’t even notice you’re being used. But if you feel uncomfortable doing something, listen to yourself. Your judgement is being clouded. You are doing something you don’t really want to do at the behest of your partner.


Making You Feel Bad About Yourself. No one is allowed to do this. Yet it happens all the time when your partner needs to make himself feel more powerful or better than you. So he belittles you and makes you feel small. Perhaps he criticizes you in a constant drip of disapproval. Maybe he’ll make fun of you in a way that hurts your feelings. Often, he disguises these episodes as jokes. And what is wrong with you that you can’t take a joke? The effect, long-term, can make you lose confidence in yourself, which is what he wants so you can become more dependent on him.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: