If these clues ring true with you, it may be time to say goodbye.
Our desire for lasting connections with others is the psychological cement of human society. But these connections can also be a breeding ground for trouble. While friendships and family relationships present their own problems, making a romantic relationship work beyond the “honeymoon” phase can be exceedingly hard (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019). If your relationship isn’t salvageable, trying to rescue it is at best a waste of time and at worst a serious threat to your mental and physical health. Spotting the red flags early can save you time and trouble, and your sanity. Read on for 5 signs that your relationship is too toxic to hold on to.
1. When it comes to the big issues, your expectations are miles apart. We enter into romantic relationships with different ideas about issues ranging from which restaurants to go to and how often to visit one another to how we’ll split the bill and whether to stay in or go out on weekend nights. When your differences concern small issues, the odds are that you will work them out. But this is not always an option when it comes to the big issues, such as your political views, your views of gender equality in relationships, your views about monogamy, and your preferences regarding marriage, pets, kids, and where to live, to mention just a few (Ben-Ze’ev, 2011). If you are miles apart when it comes to the big issues, then you are probably not a good match. Indeed, your relationship is most likely already on the wrong track.
2. Your or your partner’s relationship expectations are outright grotesque. Needless to say, not all of our expectations are reasonable. Some are outright grotesque. Expecting your partner to pick up the bill every single time you guys go out for dinner, even though you both make good money, is preposterous. So is expecting your partner to stop spending nights out with friends, or insisting that they join you in clearly immoral pursuits or activities that make them feel uncomfortable. If you are the one with unreasonable relationship expectations, you can expect an impending breakup. If, on the other hand, it’s your partner whose expectations are grotesque, get out while you still can.
3. You don’t have a mutual and sufficiently strong desire to promote each other’s interests. In healthy romantic relationships, both parties have a mutual, strong desire to promote each other’s interests (Ben-Ze’ev, 2011). This means that both of you are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of doing what’s best for the other person. For example, when your partner is sick and really needs you around, you cancel your night out with friends, even though you have been looking forward to it for weeks. It’s a two-way street, of course. If one of you is unwilling to make any sacrifices for the sake of the other, then you really ought to call it quits.
4. You don’t trust your partner, or your partner doesn’t trust you. Mutual trust is a must. Real trust isn’t restricted to a specific situation or event (Brogaard, 2020). Trusting that your partner will show up at the cafe where you agreed to meet after work but not trusting him or her in a lot of other respects is not real trust. Real trust is unrestricted. This is not to say that you should trust someone who is not trustworthy. Rather, in a healthy relationship, each person earns the trust of the other. If there is a trust issue in your relationship, then either one or both of you is not trustworthy, or one or both of you have a problem trusting others, even trustworthy others, perhaps because of past betrayal. If you are the one with the trust or trustworthiness issues, you have a lot of work to do. If your partner is the one failing in the trust department, then this is not a relationship you should want to stay in.
5. You don’t respect your partner, or your partner doesn’t respect you. Disrespect is the number-one killer of relationships (Brogaard, 2020). So, if you and your partner don’t have mutual respect for each other, your relationship is in a grim state and probably won’t continue, but more importantly, it shouldn’t. To disrespect another person is to look down on them, to take them to be inferior to yourself. A relationship that builds on this kind of asymmetry in perceived status is seriously toxic. Whether you are the one who lacks respect for your partner, or your partner lacks respect for you, do the right thing and end the relationship.
Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2011). “The Nature and Morality of Romantic Compromises,” in C. Bagnoli (Ed.), Morality and the Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 95-114.
Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change over Time, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.
Brogaard, B. (2020). Hatred: Understanding Our Most Dangerous Emotion, Oxford University Press.