12 Telling Signs You’re Trapped in a Toxic Relationship


  • Toxic behavior can come in many different forms and often builds up over time.
  • A few areas of toxic behavior to be aware of include purposeful humiliation, unreasonable jealousy, and controlling behavior.
  • Seek the help of a professional therapist or support group if you find yourself trapped in a toxic relationship.

One of the things that hurts most about a toxic relationship is realizing that you were tricked into it. Most toxic relationships don’t start out being toxic. Commonly, they begin just like any other relationship or may seem too good to be true, but slowly, your partner may begin to subtly blame you for things beyond your control or pick at your faults.

The trauma suffered in a toxic relationship gradually ramps up. It slowly drains you of self-worth and alienates your support system, leaving you feeling trapped and miserable before you even realize the signs. Regardless of if you’re being mistreated emotionally, verbally, or physically, it can be difficult to comprehend that someone you love, and who claims to love you, could victimize you. And sometimes, your partner may not even realize what they’re doing is wrong. Here are 12 sneaky signs that you’re trapped in a toxic relationship.


Healthline describes humiliation as a form of a toxic relationship that may start out with subtle jabs or insults in private and then become full blown yelling and embarrassment in public. It doesn’t take much for a toxic partner to get angry for the smallest of reasons and convince you that you’re the guilty party.

This type of humiliation is meant to make you submissive and to control you in front of others if they know that their public outbursts will make you subservient to their wants and needs.


Verbal Insults

It’s not uncommon for you or your partner to lose your cool in an argument occasionally, but that never excuses name calling or foul language. Verbal insults can range from insulting your looks, your intelligence, or your worth, and it doesn’t always include foul language.

The main purpose of verbal insults is to wear down your self-esteem so that you’re compliant and reliant on your partner—and no one else. Be sure to be aware of this.


Physical Force

A partner applying physical force typically doesn’t occur out of the blue. According to HelpGuide, toxic partners often begin subtly with an intimidating stance, a hand raised, or a grab at your arm. This may eventually graduate to harsher physical force as time goes on.

Toxic partners know that it takes time to break their spouse or partner down so they think they deserve the action. If you’re in this situation, contact support immediately whether that be the police, a support group, or a family member.

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Controlling Behavior

Healthline explains that a controlling partner may aim to alienate you from everyone else in your life other than them. That way, your friends or family won’t recognize the signs of toxicity or come to your aid.

Most toxic partners want you to be totally dependent on them and no one else. At first this may appear that your partner is just really invested in your life and your decisions, but it will slowly spiral into them being in total control.

Unpredictable Mood Swings

Extreme mood swings are common for a toxic partner and can be staggering. For instance, they can go from pleasant and romantic to a fit of total rage in a matter of seconds.

This extremely unpredictable behavior is typically aimed at a submissive partner who they know won’t challenge them. If you notice that your partner tends to have extreme mood swings, this may be an early sign of a toxic partner to be aware of.

Picking at Faults

Does your partner treat you like a child? Most toxic partners who use verbal insults as their prime tool will treat you like a misbehaved child, yelling and disciplining you as they demean and point out your every fault. However, if you try to correct them, get ready for a seriously defensive and angry backlash.

If you’ve noticed this trait in your partner, it may be time to reconsider the relationship or seek help if things have escalated to an unsafe level.


Alienating Your Friends and Family

A toxic partner knows that they won’t get away with mistreating you if you have supportive friends and family in the picture to challenge their behavior. That’s why they may slowly try to convince you that others don’t appreciate you or value your relationship. Soon, you will lose all sense of yourself and only have them for support. What better way to control your every behavior, right?

Be sure to be aware of this tendency in your relationship to avoid being put in this position at all costs.

Placement of Blame

It’s common if you choose to stay with a toxic partner that you may be blamed for everything that goes wrong in their lives. A toxic lover will never accept personal blame for anything. They are masters at turning things around on their spouses so they never assume any guilt.

Try to be self-aware in these situations and take a look at the bigger picture. Are you really at fault in this situation? If you believe you’ve become victim to this type of manipulation, it’s best to seek outside support.


Toxic partners are skilled at manipulation—so much so that they actually convince their partners that their physical or verbal outbursts are the result of misbehavior on your part. The aim is to make you doubt yourself and your self-worth as a good person.

That’s why most victims of manipulation continue to excuse or forgive their partner’s cruel behavior. If you suspect your partner is manipulating you, it may be helpful to seek the help of a therapist to give an outside opinion on the situation and provide guidance.

Calculated Outbursts

It’s common for toxic partners to only act this way when you are in private. They will often try to convince you that they have no control over their outbursts, but ask yourself why they never lose their cool in front of others or in public.

This is often because their outbursts are calculated and strategic to try to manipulate you. If you notice this behavior in your partner, it may be time to seek outside support.


Belittling your Accomplishments

It’s common for toxic partners to belittle your accomplishments by poking at your self-worth and making you feel unconfident. This is a strategy to make you question your intelligence and capabilities while also wearing down your mental health.

Pay attention to how your partner reacts when you share your accomplishments. A supportive partner will be happy for you, but one with toxic tendencies may brush off the achievement or even try to take responsibility for your success.

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Envy or Jealousy

Unreasonable envy or jealousy is another trait to be aware of when it comes to a toxic partner. They may accuse you of being unfaithful or flirting or act jealous when you spend time with family or friends.

Extreme jealousy is a sign of insecurity or a lack of trust, but your toxic partner may try to place the blame on you and make you question your decisions. Be aware of this situation in your relationship, since toxic partners will often frame unhealthy jealousy as an act of love.

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Dr. Gerald Morris

Dr. Gerald Morris

Gerald Morris, MD is a family medicine/internal medicine physician with over 20 years expertise in the medical arena. Dr. Morris has spent time as a clinician, clinical research coordinator/manager, medical writer, and instructor. He is a proponent of patient education as a tool in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions.