What Are the Early Signs of a Toxic Relationship?

A couple deeply in love which may lead them to overlook early signs of a toxic relationship
Remove your rose-colored glasses, see your partner for who they are, and be wary of early signs of a toxic relationship.

When entering a new relationship, there’s one rule you always need to keep in mind:

Never ignore the red flags.

The first few months of dating can feel like a dream. You and your partner are all lovey-dovey, and your relationship seems perfect.

However, this bliss can sometimes blind you to the early warning signs of a toxic relationship.

You might find yourself making excuses for their behavior, attributing it to stress or hoping they’ll change over time. Or, perhaps you’re too focused on their positive qualities.

Regardless, you need to take off those rose-colored glasses and face reality.

Learn to identify the following early signs of a toxic relationship and save yourself from potential heartbreak.

They Try to Take Away Your Time

There’s nothing wrong if your partner always wants to spend time with you, as it’s normal to want to be with the person you love.

However, it becomes a concern when your partner reacts negatively to your requests for some alone time or time spent with other people.

For instance, they may guilt-trip you or get angry and persuade you not to go. Meanwhile, if they agree to let you have your own space, they might want you to be constantly available for them via chat or calls.

According to psychologists, such behavior points to possessiveness.

If you continue to comply, you may eventually find yourself in an oppressive relationship, wherein you’re stripped off of your independence.

They Make "Jokes" about You

There’s no harm in poking fun at each other once in a while. However, jokes are only funny if they are not meant to belittle you.

If your partner constantly points out your insecurities, flaws, and mistakes or shares them with others under the guise of a joke, they’re exhibiting toxic behavior.

Oftentimes, they might not be aware of this and are doing it to feel better about themselves or to hog attention in the room.

However, there are times when a partner is consciously doing things out of spite in a relationship, even if they know it will make you feel uncomfortable or humiliated.

They Ignore Your Boundaries

A woman stressed about her partner doing things out of spite in a relationship.
Are they doing things out of spite in a relationship? Mark that behavior as a red flag.

The boundaries you set are meant to make you feel safe. However, if your partner ignores them, consider this as one of the early signs of a toxic relationship.

Initially, they may test the waters by pushing your small boundaries.

For instance, they may refuse to stop tickling you, even if you already told them to knock it off. At first, you might dismiss it.

But over time, the things they do will escalate, and what initially seemed like harmless playfulness can feel disrespectful and invasive.

If you try to reassert your boundaries, they may try to downplay or dismiss your feelings.

Moreover, even if they don’t violate them, they may say things like, “You’re being too sensitive,” “I thought you were more open-minded,” or “Nobody else has a problem with this.”

These are the types of things toxic partners say to make you feel bad about prioritizing your safety over their desires.

They Easily Jump to Conclusions

Communication serves as the foundation of a relationship, allowing you and your partner to empathize and find a middle ground for your differences. Meanwhile, miscommunication fuels arguments within your relationship, and when left unresolved, it can easily break you apart.

One common example wherein miscommunication manifests is when your partner easily jumps to conclusions.

For instance, during an online conversation, it’s unavoidable that they may misinterpret your message. But instead of asking for clarification or more information, they try to assume what you really mean.

Oftentimes, this is fueled by negative emotions, such as jealousy and insecurity, which may cloud their judgment or lead them to form irrational thoughts.

They're Rushing Your Relationship

It’s alright to set goals with your partner early on in your relationship to establish whether you’re moving in the same direction in life.

However, it’s toxic behavior if they try to rush you into fulfilling those goals, especially if they know you’re not ready.

Initially, it might seem like they’re simply overflowing with love and want to show you how sincere and serious they are about the relationship.

But soon enough, it can make you feel overwhelmed and pressured as you’re suddenly not living life at your own pace.

They Solely Rely on You for Support

When entering a new relationship, it’s common for one or both partners to have unresolved issues from their past experiences.

While that is definitely not something to be frowned upon, your partner should be working on their personal growth for the sake of themselves and your relationship.

If you notice that your partner solely relies on you for support, and they aren’t actively seeking help or trying to improve themselves on their own, then take their behavior as one of the early warning signs of a toxic relationship.

Remember, even if you are in a relationship, you are not entirely responsible for your partner’s personal growth, as you also have your own issues to deal with.

If you continue to take on their issues, you’re stunting your own improvement and will eventually feel mentally and emotionally drained.

A relationship should be like two people balanced on a weighing scale, rather than one person bearing all the weight.

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Toxic vs Abusive Relationships

Now that you’re aware of the red flags which may indicate a toxic relationship, you may think that some of them are a form of abuse.

People often interchange the terms “toxic” and “abuse” because they’re both categorized under unhealthy relationships. Moreover, toxicity, when not managed early on, can lead to abusive behavior, hence the confusion.

However, there is a distinction between them.

To identify behavior that is toxic vs abusive, try to look at your partner’s intentions, their behavioral patterns, and their willingness to change.


If your partner is toxic, their behavior may usually be the result of unresolved issues in the past, and certain interactions with you may trigger memories of it. Hence, they retaliate and display the worst parts of themselves.

This response is more impulsive than intentional.

Meanwhile, an abusive partner deliberately causes you harm and tries to exercise control over you.

Behavioral Patterns

A couple not knowing how to properly communicate, displaying early warning signs of a toxic relationship.
Healthy communication or constant misunderstandings? Recognize whether you’re showing early warning signs of a toxic relationship.

Your partner’s toxic behavior may come and go.

For instance, if you ask to spend time with others, they might guilt-trip you or get angry if it involves hanging out with someone they are jealous of or have disagreements with. However, they’re generally okay with you hanging out with your family and close friends.

Meanwhile, an abusive relationship follows a consistent pattern.

In the same situation, they may first fuel minor arguments about how you’re not fulfilling their needs in the relationship. But then it may escalate to shouting at you, threatening you so you won’t leave, or even physically causing you harm.

While they may show remorse afterward, the same pattern repeats if a similar situation arises.

Willingness to Change

Can toxic people change?

In a toxic relationship, it is possible for you to talk things out with your partner and work on the issues together.

While there may be challenges, change is possible as they become increasingly aware of their triggers, behaviors, and their effects.

However, in an abusive relationship, change is highly unlikely. Instead, the abuse may only intensify the more you try to bring up the issues.

As a result, you’ll be walking on eggshells around your partner, fearing the consequences of angering them or finding it difficult to leave, as they’ve already gained much control over you.

How to Escape from a Toxic Relationship

Escaping a toxic relationship can be difficult. Even though you’re aware of your unhappiness and your partner’s toxic behaviors, you may still feel compelled to stay.

However, here are some ways on how to escape from a toxic relationship.

Let Go of False Hope

A man trying to cause intentional harm, which differentiates his actions from toxic vs abusive
Toxic vs abusive. Know the difference to protect yourself from harm.

As mentioned, toxic people can indeed change. However, don’t expect this to happen overnight.

Ask yourself whether you have the energy, as well as the mental and emotional stability to help your partner work through their issues.

If not, prioritize yourself and let go of the false hope that you alone can change them. Sometimes, they need to help themselves, or someone else in their life can help them.

It’s okay to focus on your well-being after doing your part in the relationship.

Remember the Costs

Your partner’s toxic behavior may have caused irreversible effects, such as the inability to trust and emotional distress.

Whenever you feel the need to stay, try to remember what the toxic relationship has cost you.

This way, you’ll be able to choose yourself and your happiness first.

Recognize and Address the Part of You That Wants to Stay

Ask yourself, “Why do I stay in a toxic relationship?”

According to the science behind toxic relationships, people often stay because they need their partner.

For instance, you may fear being alone, so you’d rather stay in the relationship than risk not finding someone else.

You may also choose to stay because you’ve normalized their toxic behavior. If you grew up in a conflict-ridden household, you might not see anything wrong with the way you’re being treated and believe you can live with it.

Or, you may be staying because you simply cannot ignore your partner.

You may be the type who only feels whole when you’re being loved, leading you to feel obliged to be with them through thick and thin, despite the costs.

Understand your reasons for staying and try to address them.

Prioritize Healing from Toxic Relationships

After leaving your toxic relationship, cut off all contact with your ex to avoid getting back together with them.

Focus on your healing.

However, you may ask, “How do I heal from a toxic relationship?”

First, try to seek help from your support system. They can validate your emotions and guide you on how to move on. If you’ve lost connection with them due to being in a toxic relationship, try to rebuild it by reaching out and making amends.

Then, with their help, try to rediscover yourself by identifying your needs, goals, and new boundaries.

A woman stuck with a toxic partner
Why stay? Understand your reasons based on the science behind toxic relationships and confront them.

Forming healthy relationships after a toxic one is an ideal way to get back on track and focus on your life goals.

These relationships don’t have to be romantic, as long as you surround yourself with people who can positively impact your life.

How to Fix a Toxic Relationship

If your partner is willing to change their toxic behaviors and you feel mentally and emotionally stable enough to help them, you can try to fix your relationship.

To do that, both of you need to learn to see things from each other’s perspectives. This way, you can empathize and understand each other better.

Moreover, as you address past issues, avoid dwelling on negative feelings. Instead, look at the issues objectively to find resolutions and strengthen your relationship.

You can also turn to couples counseling.

When in doubt, you might ask, “Can counseling help a toxic relationship? Won’t it be just a waste of time and money?”

Rest assured that it’s not. Going to couples counseling can help you see things from a third-person perspective and create solutions to your issues.

Moreover, it’s helpful to have someone who isn’t part of your family or friend group to mediate between you and your partner, so you won’t feel judged for your behavior and relationship status.

Unhealthy Relationship Checklist

A man forming healthy relationships after a toxic one
What’s next after your escape? Form healthy relationships after a toxic one.

As you go through the red flags in this unhealthy relationship checklist, what have you discovered about your relationship?

Are you in a healthy relationship with your partner, or have you realized that they’re displaying toxic behavior?

If it’s the latter, decide whether you want to leave or stay. As mentioned, if you decide to leave, take your time to heal.

Later on, if you’re ready to form healthy relationships, consider reaching out to our Costa Rica matchmakers.

They can introduce you to compatible partners who are more than capable of building a healthy and fulfilling relationship with you. Moreover, these individuals are genuinely seeking someone with whom they can form a serious relationship, potentially leading to marriage.

That being said, you’ll have more opportunities to build lasting connections with like-minded women. You’ll find that they will cherish your relationship as long as you treat them with the same care and respect.

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