Signs of Toxic Relationships (Friends/Family/Romantic)

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With all my talk of setting boundaries with toxic people in my previous post. Maybe you might be wondering, are some of the people in my life toxic? So here are some MAJOR RED FLAGS!


(Note: this list is not exhaustive… there may be many more red flags/warning signs… these are just some of the major ones I know of.)

  • They purposely cause guilt
  • There is an imbalance of talk time (example they always doing the talking and you do none or occasionally the reverse)
  • Your words are used against you.
  • They are allowed to vent but you cannot. (Their issues are valid, but they say you are being unreasonable, or should just get over your issues.)
  • They never reach out, non-responsive, use the silent treatment. (or they only ever reach out for their needs)
  • They constantly tell you that you need to change.
  • They act as though major attributes of your personality are new and troublesome
  • You feel on edge with them like you are waiting for the other shoe to drop or that they will turn or twist your words.
  • When you leave their presence you constantly feel drained.
  • You feel dirty, fat, ugly, because how they talk to you or about you… or what they focus on in the conversation.
  • They mock you, make fun of you, make jokes at your expense… (This is very important to note, if they do this but you cannot do it back to them in any way, and what they are saying is very hurtful but you feel like you have to “laugh along” or otherwise be subject to more ridicule, and/or be told to “lighten up” because it was “only a joke”. This is bullying.)
  • They expect you to drop everything for them but would not do the same for you.
  • They are never happy for you. They put down/belittle your achievements.
  • They spread rumors about you or discredit you.
  • They take advantage of you for food, money, time, help, etc. As in they will take and take and take from you and not only will never offer help in return but will refuse to help when asked.
  • They expect you to do all the work planning an event but expect the credit. Or they overstep any of your plans and constantly take over. (All or nothing kind of attitude.)
  • They act as though they know you better than you know yourself, will tell you how to live your life because they know best for you, especially in a way that is very judgmental and/or is attached to major life choices and those choices do not feel organic to you or your life or your views at all.
  • They habitually lie.
  • They purposefully make you feel dumb.
  • They threaten to end the friendship or relationship. They make threats in general.
  • You dread seeing them or hearing from them. (But also become scared if you don’t hear from them or see them for awhile… because of potential repercussions or conditioning.)
  • You can’t do anything right.
  • They expect you to fix all their problems. Close friends will help each other, vent to each other, and so on. However, if they do no work to help themselves but always expect you to fix their problems… that’s not good. Or in general they expect you to take care of them (especially when they can do so themselves).
  • You don’t feel like yourself around them.
  • They call you derogatory names.
  • They withhold affection (whether this is a simple hello or sexy-times with your partner) as punishment. Their love/friendship is VERY conditional… you must meet their demands in order to receive basic respect or love.
  • They demand affection. If you are a type of person that doesn’t like to hug but they force you to hug them. They touch you in ways that you don’t want to be touched. They do not respect this as a boundary. Or if you are in a romantic relationship and your partner demands sex/sexual acts when you are not feeling in the mood or not feeling right.
  • They touch you in aggression. They purposely pinch, grab, slap, choke, kick, punch you (or any kind of harmful touch).
  • They make you feel like you are crazy, negating your memories or acting differently such as one moment they hit you or belittle you the next they shower you with gifts and affection and act as though you were crazy for thinking they would ever hurt you.
  • They purposely try to embarrass you or belittle you.
  • They continually and unprompted bring up a past singular event (especially an embarrassing or emotional one) and act as though that defines you all the time, and possibly use this to prove they “know better” than you or are “smarter” than you.
  • They are an abuser of a substance… they use narcotics, or they can’t go a minute without a drink and drink excessively… they are always on something and not because the doctor prescribed it or because they have a medical condition for it. (Although this is a different form of toxic than all the others above it can still cause a lot of trouble in your life.)

BIG WARNING SIGN: stating or asserting your boundaries leads to drama, they never respect your boundaries, purposely test/do not respect your boundaries.

MENTAL HEALTH SIDE NOTE: When it comes to distance, not reaching out, and venting…. Well some of the scenarios can be caused by a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. But know that you are not this person’s keeper, of course be there for people but they shouldn’t take advantage nor should they be your problem and let them drag you down. You can assist them in finding help but unless you are a licensed therapist, doctor, or this person is your legal responsibility, it is not your job to take care of these people. (Especially if you have tried to help them get medical assistance and they refuse any assistance and put you in the role of their keeper/medical professional.)

Mental Health Relationship Know the Difference:

  • There is a BIG difference between
    • A) person who is a bit of a shut in “Eeyore” type that is thankful you asked them to come along but ultimately doesn’t reach out    (okay!)
    • B) person who expects you to reach out and holds it against you when you have a life outside of them but ultimately never contacts you.  (toxic!!!!)
  • There is a BIG difference between
    • A) the person who is struggling with depression and anxiety and asks for your company in times of need (okay!)
    • B) the person who says if you don’t hang out with them they will kill themselves as a guilt-inducing weapon.  (toxic!!!!)
  • There is a BIG Difference between
    • A) You Feeling drained because you had a long day dealing with your own issues after hanging out with someone (okay!)
    • B) You Feeling drained after spending time with someone and you are not sure why or because you feel on edge around them or have to be someone you are not for this person (toxic!!!)
  • There is a BIG difference between
    • A) You feel dumb around a certain person because they are so much more knowledgeable since they have degrees in something you do not however they never hold that against you and do their best not to bring it up (okay-ish! I mean you should analyze this I mean you aren’t dumb you just aren’t as well versed in something… people are allowed to have different areas of expertise)
    • B) You feel dumb because a certain person puts you down, says you are dumb, or they are more knowledgeable and constantly hold it against you and/or act as though you can never be as knowledgeable as they are in a “I know better” way  (toxic!!!)
  • There is a BIG difference between
    • A) a person who cares about you is worried about you and any excessive habits you have picked up such as drinking to much, not eating at all, constantly being on social media without a break, not taking care of your health at all, or spending money that you don’t have and spending beyond your means (okay… but ultimately it is up to you to change major bad habits that could ruin your life, they are just reaching out because they care but if all they ever talk about is that… there may be a problem, but it might not be with them?)
    • B) a person telling you need to change who are, what you like, and that you need to fit into what they like (toxic!!!)


FRIENDSHIP/ACQUAINTANCE  SIDE NOTE:  Also know there are all different types of friends & acquaintances … there are the friendships that you can tell the most nitty-gritty details of your intimate life, and then some who you meet over coffee and only discuss certain topics. (And everywhere in between…) NOW, no matter the relationship you deserve to have your boundaries respected, you deserve not to be used, you deserve healthy relationships… The warning signs above pertain to all personal relationships.


If they are someone that is reasonable and you can have a discussion with them about the certain behaviors, you can set boundaries that will be respected, and can take some space from them to figure things out then that’s what to do. You may need to limit time with them as you make these changes.  HOWEVER if they are truly toxic, your best bet would be to break-up and cut them out of your life… this could be a friend, a romantic partner, or even a family member.  Sometimes it’s more complicated than that which is why I have included the many resources below and highly recommend the two books listed in resources below and reaffirming your boundaries. (For more information on setting boundaries see my previous post.)

Hopefully all of your relationships are healthy and this list was just a future awareness sort of thing. Or you may now be on the path of healing by stepping away from some toxic people in your life. No matter what remember that, YOU GOT THIS!



Business relationships:

Toxic Friendships:

Toxic Romantic Relationships:

Toxic Family Relationships:

Toxicity in Any type of relationship: 


Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend::::Published October 20th 1992 by Zondervan ISBN: 9780310585909    (A good book about boundaries but very religiously Christian… so if you aren’t of that faith it can be a little heavy handed. I found that a lot of examples were useful.)

How to Break Up With Anyone: Letting Go of Friends, Family, and Everyone In-Between by Jamye Waxman::::Published September 22nd 2015 by Seal Press ISBN: 9781580055970    (And just in case you want to start the break up process with someone toxic)

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