Do you know what’s worse than dealing with negative thoughts? Dealing with a partner with negative energy in a negative relationship. Yes, that’s too many negatives, but that’s the point, too much negativity can be detrimental to a relationship. Unhealthy behaviors in relationships have a way of sucking the energy out of you, making everyday life seem like a struggle.
You feel drained being stuck in a relentless loop of toxicity, be it in the form of verbal abuse, emotional neglect, or just a sense of unfulfillment that you can’t seem to shake off. You wonder, “Are these behavioral patterns normal in a relationship? Do I truly deserve such humiliation?” Well, here’s a fact for you: You do deserve better and it’s time you get it.
That’s why, we turned to psychotherapist Dr. Chavi Bhargava Sharma (Masters in Psychology), who has vast experience in diverse spheres of mental health and wellness, including relationship counseling to help us spot the signs of a toxic relationship. She compares unhealthy relationships to spoiled food items, “Dating a negative person is like eating a dish that has turned bad. It might look good enough from the outside, but it will eventually leave you feeling sick.”
What Does A Negative Relationship Feel Like
How do you differentiate between positive and negative? You simply associate it with your feelings, right? If something makes you feel good, it is positive, and when you feel hurt or discontent, you know it’s not the right fit for you. It is the same with healthy and unhealthy relationships. But then, why are things more complicated on that front? What is a bad relationship?
This is because toxic traits in a relationship often hide in plain sight. When the cloud of romance engulfs you, your vision is too blurry with the thrill and excitement to see the negative qualities in a partner. But as time passes, if you feel like a romantic connection is pushing your existence, individuality, and happiness to the edge, you are likely in a negative partnership. Staying in a bad relationship can leave you with:
- Lack of self-worth
- Trust and commitment issues
- Feeling invalid and unappreciated
- Struggling to let your guard down
- Restlessness and relationship anxiety
- Difficulty in forming a healthy relationship with someone else in future
If you feel insecure or experience similar negative emotions quite often, label it as glaring relationship warning signs. Even if there is no domestic violence or it’s not a verbally abusive relationship, this is a red flag that points to toxic behavior and patterns. Recognizing it is the first step toward breaking free from negative relationship traits. But first, read on to understand the obvious signs you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
11 Signs That You Might Be In A Negative Relationship
“Am I in a toxic relationship?” Mary asked herself when her then-boyfriend, Andrew, asked her to marry him. They had only been dating for a few months and he popped the question all of a sudden. Being a close friend, Mary had discussed with me many serious issues and the constant negative thoughts about the relationship she was battling with.
Eventually, when he took this leap, she realized theirs was not a very healthy relationship that should lead to marriage and she said no to the proposal. Serious life mistake averted! But not everyone gets a last-moment wake-up call, like Mary, for breaking negative relationship patterns.
You may not notice or be in denial about being in a bad/abusive relationship. But the gaslighting, the name-calling, the lack of verbal communication and mutual respect, and the constant emotional unfulfillment are telling you something. All you need to do is to be brave enough to acknowledge the red flags and find the right words to describe negative relationships. So, before it’s too late, pay attention to the 11 signs of a negative relationship mentioned below and see where your relationship stands:
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Grow In A Relationship Every Day
1. Your partner doesn’t show any personal growth
If someone is stuck in a rut, it can be hard for them to see the bigger picture of what’s going on in their lives. They may treat their loved ones unfairly because of their small thinking and hold them back from being their best self. If that sounds like your partner, then you are probably in a relationship with a negative person who has no worthwhile goal in their life. There’s a chance your partner may be unaware of this problem. So,
- Try sharing your personal life goals with them and see if that gets them out of their laid-back attitude
- Encourage them to find their passion in life and pursue that
- Help your partner create short-term and long-term goals to stay motivated
If nothing seems to work, and you want to walk out, that’s okay. There’s only so much you can do as a supportive partner. But the price you pay for staying in a dead-end relationship where your personal growth gets stomped because of the other’s lack of potential is never worth holding on to.
2. Your partner has trouble making and keeping friends
Pessimistic people tend to repel others and often leave people around them emotionally exhausted. Nobody wants to be around a person that leaves them drained and desolate. If your partner finds it difficult to maintain friendships or other meaningful connections, then what you have on your hands is one of the classic negative relationship examples. Tell me, do you ever find yourself thinking, “Why does it feel like my relationship negativity is draining me?” Here’s why:
- People who are stuck in unpleasant relationships also end up losing their friendships
- The negativity from your relationship may begin to spill onto other important relationships in your life, pushing away those who matter the most
- Your partner might even be controlling enough to tell you who you can and can’t see or be rude to people close to you
- Ignoring these signs of a toxic partner can have serious repercussions for your personal life and mental well-being
Dr. Sharma says, “Negativity is one of the most harmful aspects of modern relationships. It is capable of destroying the strongest emotional bonds. Deterioration of friendships and other meaningful connections is often a sign that the person is suffering from a negative mindset.”
3. Communication problems
Poor communication between two partners is one of the biggest unhealthy relationship signs and is bound to trigger many problems. The lack of communication can stem from many different things. But no matter what the origin is, it can create negativity in the relationship.
If your partner avoids conversations to resolve conflict, if they stonewall you for days on end, if they make you feel unheard like a nonexistent entity and mostly react to your words instead of responding, we say it’s bad news. You can’t survive in a relationship on one-sided efforts if your partner shows no interest or puts in no effort in keeping the bond alive.
4. You start avoiding your partner
One of the signs of a negative relationship is that you begin to avoid spending time together. Maybe because your partner’s words trigger you emotionally or they seem like a distant soul you can hardly relate to any longer. Naturally, coffee with a colleague in the office cafeteria seems more entertaining to you than a date night with your spouse.
And it’s not that a part of you doesn’t wonder, “How to fix a toxic relationship?” But being with your partner feels like a punishment, which makes you lose all motivation to work toward damage control and making the relationship healthier. It’s the truth behind almost every abusive relationship. We strongly recommend a zero-tolerance policy against physically hurtful relationships. However, if walking away is not an option, a relationship therapist can help equip you with healthy coping mechanisms.
5. You constantly feel bad about yourself
You should feel free to be your true self around your partner. Your partner should not only bring out the best in you but also help you become the kind of person you aspire to be. However, when you are in a relationship with a negative person, it affects your overall demeanor. It could be because they keep putting you down or make you feel as if you are not good enough. So, here’s what happens in a toxic relationship:
- You hide certain aspects of your life from your partner. For instance, the news of a promotion because they might be threatened
- You can’t enjoy the things you like when you’re with them, whether it’s listening to rock music, talking loudly, or even swearing now and again
- Dating a negative person can make it hard to believe in yourself
- You second guess every decision you make, your potential, your judgment, and even the qualities you have always admired about yourself
- “Do I deserve this? I am probably over-expecting” – that’s the kind of thought process you get as a result of dealing with the toxic behavior of a partner for too long
Related Reading: How To Love Yourself – 21 Self Love Tips
6. Things are always tense
A good relationship is both rewarding and fun. Both partners enjoy being together and feel comfortable with each other. If that’s not how you feel in yours and are always walking on eggshells around your partner, it’s one of the classic negative relationship examples. Suppose you try to do something nice for them – perhaps you cook them a meal and all they do is criticize your cooking – then it’s a wake-up call for you to identify the toxic traits in a relationship.
Dr. Sharma says, “Every couple has issues, but if small disagreements always escalate into huge fights, this is a sign that something more serious is going on. Healthy relationships are not built around constant conflict. They need cooperation and compromise to flourish. Not a clashing of heads, opinions, and egos. Constant fights are a reason enough to end the relationship and get some much-needed peace of mind for yourself.”
7. You don’t listen to each other
We have already discussed how good communication is essential to any healthy relationship. And communication is not about saying your piece and not listening to what the other person has to say. That way you will never be able to build emotional intimacy with your partner let alone figure out how to address unresolved relationship issues.
However, if you find yourself unable to deal with the barrage of negativity that comes out of your partner’s mouth, then the relationship is damaged. If you find that you rarely listen to what your partner has to say or they rarely listen to what you have to say, this could be an issue worth looking into to get a reality check on the state of your relationship.
8. You have trust issues
Having a hard time trusting your partner is a stumbling block that can shake the foundation of any relationship. These trust issues may exist in a relationship from the get-go (owing to the emotional baggage of either partner) or may evolve over time as the relationship goes through its ups and downs. Lying, cheating, and dishonesty in a relationship, for example, can be common triggers for trust issues, which manifest as:
- Inability to believe what they tell you
- Feeling the need to verify their stories
- Not being able to commit to the relationship fully
- The urge to sneakily check what’s going on in their life – checking their phone, for instance
- Feeling agitated when they are out of your sight
- Fear of abandonment and jealousy on many occasions
9. Your partner tries to control you
Our reader, Tania from Oakland, shares her story with us, “I once dated a guy who was particularly bossy in nature. Even though I did all the work, he would ramp around the house dictating to me how to do the dishes, what I can and can’t wear at a family dinner, criticizing every little thing about my life and lashing out at the minor inconvenience. To this day, I feel grateful that I had the gut to get out of that mentally abusive relationship.”
Trust us, you don’t need to look for further negative relationship traits when you have a control-freak partner. Run at the first sign and don’t look back! A better life’s waiting for you.
10. They make excuses for their behavior
Many people with a toxic mindset often have trouble taking responsibility for their actions. They refuse to see themselves in a negative light. If your partner does things that upset you but makes excuses instead of accepting their mistakes, then you are probably dating a negative person.
Constantly making excuses for their bad behavior is a sign that the person has no desire to make changes. These people find it difficult to confront their insecurities and work on them. If you are tired of your partner’s excuses, it is time you take a call about where the relationship should go from there.
11. Agonizing thoughts about the relationship
Never ignore your instincts when it comes to matters of the heart. If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts about the relationship, there might be a good reason behind it. When you spend a big chunk of your day around a toxic person, some of their negativity seeps into your mind as well. Naturally, your thought pattern gets affected.
Dr. Sharma says, “Overthinking thinking about relationships, health, finances and other aspects of your life can become a detrimental factor in your individual growth and well-being. It can feel like a giant boulder, weighing you down. Battling with constant negative thoughts about the relationship might be the final sign you need to change things for good.”
What To Do If You’re In A Negative Relationship
If you encounter any of the above signs in your relationship, don’t brush them off. While a few bad traits or some relationship issues may not seem like a big deal at first, over time they can have serious consequences, for your life as well as your mental health. We understand breaking negative relationship patterns is no child’s play but if you suspect that you might be in one, positively consider addressing the situation to improve your mental health:
Related Reading: Fixing a Toxic Relationship – 21 Ways To Heal TOGETHER
- Remember, people do change with the right kind of help, empathy, and encouragement and so can your partner
- You have to decide for yourself whether this person is worth fighting for given all the things you have to endure in the meantime
- Observe the presence of the toxic “accusations, blame, criticism and demand” tendencies in your relationship, and tackle them one at a time to break the pattern
- Understand when and how you are setting each other off
- Focus on constructive criticism and conflict resolution even if that means having a series of uncomfortable conversations
- You have to be more strong, more confident in your own skin, and more vocal to make yourself heard and acknowledged
- Make self-care a priority – take a break from all the yelling and go on a solo trip if that helps keep you sane
- Lean on your family members, friends, and loved ones for support. Don’t hide your struggles from them because you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or don’t want to be pitied. Those who love you will be there for you, sans-judgment
- If both you and your partner are committed to breaking this pattern, seek professional help to find a way forward. Therapy can help you make sense of your emotions and find a way forward. With a multitude of experienced, licensed therapists on Bonobology’s panel, help is only a click away
Dr. Sharma believes that unhealthy relationships can be turned around if the couple as a unit is willing to improve. “In case of long-standing marriages, especially if children are involved, the couple can and should improve their relationship with dedicated efforts”, she insists before adding, “If the relationship is in the initial stages, however, getting out of it might be the better alternative.”
- If you think, “The negativity in my relationship is draining me”, it is time to wake up
- Relationships are about growing together, being with a negative partner can hamper your growth
- We often tend to neglect the negative qualities in a partner until it is too late
- Try and observe the negative, toxic relationship patterns that you and your partner tend to show
- If you are constantly having negative thoughts about this relationship, then you are probably in one that’s pretty harmful to your mental and physical health
As you know, acknowledging the problem is the first step to starting the healing process. We say it’s progress already that you have come this far to get acquainted with all the traits of a negative relationship and find out ways to deal with it. Just realize that one bad relationship doesn’t mean the end of the world. No one can force you to stick to this relationship. So, anytime the negativity seems intolerable, find an exit route.
This article has been updated in June 2023.
Relationships are supposed to be fulfilling. They are supposed to amplify positivity and vitality in our lives. They should enable growth, induce joy and happiness, and fill you with a sense of belonging. Any relationship that does not do this is negative. If it makes you feel insecure, if it feels like it is withering your growth, or it makes you feel anxious and restless, it is a perceptible example of a toxic relationship.
Like darkness is an absence of light, negativity is simply an absence of positivity. It is a void that tends to feed and grow on everything positive around. So, if your partner is too negative, the relationship will start sucking you dry of all the joy and happiness. It is important that you figure this out early and take the necessary steps because we often don’t realize what’s what before it is too late.