7 Tips for Spotting Toxic Relationships by Looking at Ourselves.

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I’ve had my share of toxic relationships in the past and I can say that the pattern is similar to that of a labyrinth.

These relationships are simply a maze and finding a way out is a difficult task.

For me, I felt stuck in a loop, repeating history, repeating myself. Finding an exit turned into an impossible mission, an unattainable miracle.

As a result, I oscillated between feelings of hostility and feelings of love. At times, the relationship seemed healthy, while at other times it was utterly unhealthy. And so, I kept swinging with the wretched diversity of events and transformed into a person with loads of mixed emotions.

I understand how hard it is to accept that the relationship we are in is toxic. I hid the true aspects of my relationship from my family and friends because I knew they would tell me it was unhealthy. I kept the sorrowful situation to myself as I wasn’t ready to accept its destructive pattern.

Attachment and habit can bind us to our partner to the extent of ignoring or excusing our own feelings. And sometimes, we are simply incapable of conceptualizing our partner or our relationship.

There are plenty of signs, from blaming to blackmailing, that prove the devastating pattern of our toxic relationship. Maybe we’re dealing with threats, manipulative behaviors or overreacting, but that doesn’t make it easy to accept these destructive behaviors, let alone always see them.

Thankfully, there are signs that can more clearly help us spot the nature of our relationships, and these signs reside within us. While we have become accustomed to looking outward to decode our partner or relationship, it is much easier to look inward and decode ourselves.

This practice has consistently helped me realize the true nature of any relationship in my life. When I look inward with awareness, I can perceive my thoughts, my feelings and where I stand.

When we start with ourselves, we can proceed with everything else.

Perhaps, spotting toxic relationships can be as simple as examining what’s inside us, instead of someone else. If any of the following feel relevant to you, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship:

1. You feel drained.
We are made of energy. Everything around us is energy. If we have the ability to attune to everything around us, including ourselves, we will be able to spot who sucks our energy.

If you are in a toxic relationship, you will feel a lack of energy around your partner even if everything seems okay between you. You will feel especially drained after arguments.

Draining each other of energy affects your ability to work, go out or immerse yourself in any activity, no matter how small. Sometimes the thought of our partner being in our lives is enough to suck energy from our system.

2. You are unhappy.
Let’s agree to agree on this one: love shouldn’t in any way make us feel miserable. Relationships that are generally healthy, sustain happiness even during difficult times. On the other hand, toxic relationships consistently leave us unhappy.

No matter what is occurring in the relationship—good or bad—we never find ourselves joyous. Misery buckles up and drives with us almost everywhere.

We can see our unhappiness in photos and in the mirror. Our friends and family tell us that we’ve changed as we wear a fake smile and insist we are fine.

3. Something feels wrong.
Being in a toxic relationship is similar to completing a puzzle yet feeling like there’s still a piece missing.

Even in the happiest situations and when nothing seems to be wrong, we feel there’s something off. We try our best to spot the one problem that is constantly causing us doubt, but because there’s more than one issue, we doubt the original problem itself.

It feels like we never reach gratification in toxic relationships. There is a constant battle inside ourselves that we try to silence, but fail every single time.

4. Your gut is telling you to leave.
To be in an unhealthy partnership turns us into a person split in half—one half tells us to stay and the other tells us to leave.

However, the part that is telling you to leave is not stemming from your mind or your heart. It is your gut, your intuition. Although you are incapable of seeing the future, you have a strong feeling that the future is either not there or full of misery.

I rely a great deal on my gut because I think it is the truest voice that speaks to us. It is neither a thought nor an emotion. It is simply an energy that tries to communicate with us.

5. Everything your partner does gets on your nerves.
Relationships aren’t perfect all the time and are definitely prone to face issues that can cause us to become enraged.

However, there is a difference between losing our temper once in a while and getting angry most of the time. In a toxic relationship everything your partner does will get on your nerves.

Perhaps this is because we’ve already absorbed so much negativity that we are full to the brim. Therefore, any associated event or emotion will be a chance for us to unleash what’s inside of us.

6. You stop looking after yourself.
Toxic relationships can drain us to the extent of forgetting ourselves.

We stop loving ourselves, stop pursuing our goals. We blame ourselves, think too much and become reclusive. We reminisce about the times we were strong, healthy and beautiful.

We become the state of mind that we are in. It’s like we become toxic ourselves thoroughly dismissing who we truly are and what we truly deserve.

7. You’re reading this
This might be the easiest and quickest way to see if you are in a toxic relationship.

In my case, I tried so hard to seek help that I read almost everything related to relationships. I needed a sign, an answer to my doubts.

If you find yourself consistently clicking on similar links or pursuing relationship books, you are clearly looking for guidance.

Although it is unquestionably arduous to remove the blindfold from our eyes, we have no other choice but to face reality and accept that we are indeed in a toxic relationship.

Before we fear losing our partner, we must fear losing ourselves. A partner can be replaced by a better one, but a self can never be replaced. Once it’s lost, it will be gone forever.

Don’t take yourself for granted. If it feels wrong, that means it is.

Trust your gut and love yourself enough to not accept this type of relationship.

Good luck.


Author: Elyane Youssef

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Charlie Foster/Unsplash



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Elyane Youssef

Elyane S. Youssef is an extraterrestrial who was given birth by Earthlings. While living on planet Earth, she fell in love with art, books, nature, writing, photography, traveling, and…pizza. Elyane finds her joy in backpacking and bonding with locals. To see the faces she interacts with on her travels, you can follow Face of the World on Instagram. Besides getting on and off planes, she is in a serious relationship with words and hopes to inspire as many people as possible through them. Once her mission is accomplished on Earth, she will return to her planet to rejoin her extraterrestrial brothers and sisters. In case you’re wondering, yes, she is still willingly obsessed with Frida Kahlo. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also check out her macrame art on Instagram.

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anonymous Mar 16, 2016 11:43am

This is so beautifully written and to the point, which is so easy to identify with when it is right for you, and it came to me at just the right time, after 29 years and a truly sleepless night! I am starting by printing it out and getting my yellow highlighter out (we all absorb these things differently!) before the very next step of finding a therapist for ME for starters…doing it slow and right this time. But again, wonderful vision in your writing. Thank YOu.

anonymous Mar 15, 2016 12:52pm

I agree with most of the things you said, except for the part where you said once the self is lost, it is gone forever.’ The self can never be lost. We can lose touch with the SENSE of self, how we identify ourselves, the personality structure. But with patience, trust, unconditional self-love, focused effort in going deep inside ourselves and working on our different shadows, and finding the right tools that work for us to release the trauma held in the self and re-integrate the experiences in a positive way, we can re-build our sense of self again, write a new story for ourselves, this time in a more authentic way that is aligned with our higher purpose and through this, find new ways in identifying with ourselves. I know this because I have been through this myself. Peace & blessings.

anonymous Mar 14, 2016 4:44pm

Thank you for writing this. My toxic relationship ended long ago but I need reminders like this because I miss the good parts of him. I remember those, but somehow forget how dealing with him was so draining that I couldn't even function. When things were good they were good. But when we weren't communicating or getting along it was paralyzing. Not worth it.

anonymous Mar 14, 2016 12:09pm

Great. It’s settled, I know it’s a toxic relationship. And I’m caught up in that revolving door of emotions. How do I get out without getting sucked back in?! I’ve ended it so many times, but somehow end up back with him. I feel hopeless to escape.

anonymous Mar 8, 2016 12:39am

Thank you. #7 especially got to me. And yet here I am, waiting for her to reply to my texts.

anonymous Feb 28, 2016 1:43am

Succinct, non patronising, pure writing. Thank you, Elyane

anonymous Feb 24, 2016 9:46am

relationships for men in western culture have become toxic period almost my definition. Men have no reproductive rights, no parental rights (women get default custody most the time), and are being ravaged on average by no fault divorce, life time alimony, and child support. I would say do not get married through the state anymore, and unless children are agreed on and planned for by both parties, do not have sex, basically. Men are getting trapped into parenthood when they aren't even prepared for it, or want it, but women have the babies anyway. Not good for children, or the parents.

    anonymous Mar 14, 2016 4:41pm

    How exactly does a man get "trapped into parenthood"? Wouldn't you realize that you didn't put a condom on?

anonymous Feb 23, 2016 11:24am

I needed to see this a year ago. But even if I had, I wasn't ready to leave. I'm out of it, yet my heart & body still ache for her.
Never thought I would still feel this way toward someone who treated me so poorly, like there's a sliver of hope she may completely change how she shows up in a relationship–but I know in my gut that's not going to happen, or at least not with me. She wasn't ready to be fully present and hold up her end, and that's okay…still hurts like hell, but it is what it is. I can't change her or the past.

So what's left? Acceptance and self-love…

    anonymous Feb 26, 2016 5:12am

    Ezz, I'm right there with you! I left my man of many, many years last Valentines Day. I did not want to leave. It went against every fiber of my being. Something about your post hit home. That sliver of hope you hold onto… it doesn't exist. You can not change the way she shows up in a relationship. Yours or anyone else's. The only thing you have that kind of control over is change within yourself. Each one of us has their own unique threshold or tolerance for what they are willing to do or not do for love. I reached mine last year after 27 years of being with a man I adored."Hurts like hell' doesn't come close. Acceptance and self-love… Yes. That's where we're at. Yes, it's the only thing left. And, yes, I'm working real hard on that. Still my heart aches.. My mind will not rest the constant thoughts of him roaming about in every corner, leaving room for nothing else. Acceptance and self-love, Acceptance and self-love… yeah. that should work. how again? Time for more reading. Best of luck to you. I have to get this whole acceptance and self-love thang down before I can make a single move. Sabrina ~

anonymous Feb 22, 2016 3:34am

The articel has just opened my eyes . Many thanks to Elyane and to Emily as her comments are so valuable.

anonymous Feb 21, 2016 11:56pm

Emily L.
I hate you feel this way, i always thought the beauty of a woman lasts forever.. Wishing you some happiness.. 🙂

anonymous Feb 21, 2016 11:51pm

Emily L..

I hate that you feel that way.. I always thought beauty lasts forever especially with a woman.. Hoping you will find some happiness in your life

anonymous Feb 21, 2016 7:48pm

I felt like I wrote this.. I swear. It spoke directly to me and of course the messages keep coming. Our gut is indeed the truest message. Thank you so much.

    anonymous Feb 22, 2016 1:20am

    Thank you Jodi. I'm loving the solidarity here x

anonymous Feb 21, 2016 5:12pm

#7 is so important. That realization was a big part of the wakeup call that lead me here, mourning a broken relationship. I have to lend a dissenting voice to a few of your italics. I don't believe it is true that once you lose your self, ot is gone forever. There is always the chance to rediscover, reclaim, come back to ourselves, no matter how lost, no matter how far gone. I may only be saying so because I so badly want to be right about that point. As far as the preceding statement, that a lover can always be replaced with someone better, I can't bring myself to agree with that either. I feel that in many cases, mine especially, the window in which I could have asked to be truly wanted and loved has closed. I'm not so old, but I'm not so young either, nor am I anything much to look at. To even entertain the idea of someone falling in love with me makes me feel embarrassed and slightly delusional. It may have been part of what kept me in said toxic relationship for so long: the thought that I had used up all my chances, that men don't want women like me, and that I was looking at a lifetime as a punchline or a shameful one-night-stand. Some people can replace a lost lover with a better lover, but many of us cannot, and that has to be ok too. I may only be saying so because I so badly want to be wrong about that point.

    anonymous Feb 22, 2016 1:17am

    Hello Emily. I'm sorry to know you had to go through this. I have recently written an article about why we stay stuck in painful relationships and for some reason I feel like sharing it with you. May it be of help: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/02/painful-re

    I've been there before and your words sort of resonate with me. And so I tell you that yes, rediscover yourself, love yourself again because this is where it all begins; "ourselves". Rediscover yourself again in a way that you know what you deserve and what you worth and I'm most certain that you deserve a lot and you worth a lot. Please don't take yourself for granted and don't underestimate who you are. "Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change."