Jaime Castillo, LCSW
5 Toxic Traits in Relationships
Updated: Apr 24
In the new modern world of dating, we find ourselves taking more chances connecting with others through social media or dating apps. Technology has made finding a partner quick and convenient, but unfortunately our “matches” don’t come with warning labels about their potentially toxic behaviors. Since our emotions are often high in a new relationship (hello, butterflies) it can be easy to overlook early red flags that could turn into serious trouble later. Our goal for this post is to empower you to know what toxic behaviors to look for early in a relationship, so you can sit back, relax, and never wish you had swiped left.
1.) Love Bombing
When you’re in a new relationship, it’s totally normal for your partner to dote on you. Healthy doting may look like your partner frequently telling you how beautiful or handsome you are, how lucky he or she is to have found you, or wanting to spend a lot of time with you. If the doting starts to feel over-the-top, it could be a sign of love bombing, a behavior that could later lead to emotional or physical abuse.
Love bombing always happens early on in the relationship, and could include your partner buying you expensive or lavish gifts or vacations, telling you they are in love with you after days of knowing you, telling you that you complete them or that they couldn’t live without you, or planning a future together. The important thing to know about love bombing is that the behaviors don’t match the stage of the relationship. There’s no harm in your partner of 5 years planning a future with you, but if you’ve been dating for 3 days and your partner wants to whisk you away to Tahiti to marry you, we suggest pumping the brakes.
2.) Wanting You All to Themselves
Toxic partners often isolate you from your family and friends. The tricky thing about this is that in a new relationship, it is relatively normal to want to spend a lot of time with your partner. So how do we differentiate between a fresh fling and a potentially toxic relationship?
You may ask yourself: Does your partner seem comfortable with you having separate friends, separate hobbies, or attending events without him or her? Having unique interests, relationships and ideas that are not shared with your partner is a sign of a healthy relationship, and a secure partner will encourage it. If your partner gets uncomfortable or angry when you do things without him or her, it could be an early sign of codependence.
3.) Walking on Egg Shells
What is the level of predictability in your partner? Can you predict with some certainty what kind of mood they might be in at the end of the day, or does it seem volatile and impossible to anticipate? Do you find yourself able to speak freely, or do you limit what you say to avoid confrontation with your partner?
Unpredictability can spark feelings of uncertainty and fear, causing you to feel like you are walking on egg shells. If you find yourself constantly guessing and tip toeing around in your relationship, it could be a sign of unhealthy power and control dynamics.
4.) Violation of Emotional Rights and Boundaries
There’s no doubt that your feelings may be hurt from time to time in your relationship, as partners often disagree and sometimes say things they don’t mean. While arguments are normal, if your partner causes you to feel like you are always to blame or makes false accusations against you repeatedly, it may suggest your partner is using emotions as a weapon against you.
Some common forms of emotional abuse include withholding affection or communication (stonewalling), causing you to question your own sense of reality by convincing you that things you know happened didn’t really happen (gaslighting), and criticism or put downs, especially in front of other people.
5.) Violation of Physical Rights
Every human being has a right to exercise agency and control over their own body, and this shouldn’t change when you’re in a relationship. How does your partner respond when you’re “not in the mood?” You should always have a say in when, where, and how you have sex. If your partner makes you feel like they have an inherent right to your body just because you are in a relationship with them, it could suggest a lack of respect and independence. Inside or outside of the bedroom, you should never be threatened with physical harm or violence, under any circumstances.
If you feel unsafe in your relationship and want support, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or text CONNECT to 741741.