21 Toxic Girlfriend Signs Not Easy To Spot – It’s Her, Not You

August 22, 2023 | | Expert Validated By
Updated On | August 22, 2023
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Do you always feel as if you’re perennially falling short, being made to feel like you’re good for nothing, stuck in a relationship that feels like a one-way street? It may be time to pay attention to some not-so-obvious toxic girlfriend signs. Of course, it always helps to be aware of your part in making a relationship thrive or deteriorate. But sometimes, the fault may, in fact, lie with the other person. Spotting the red flags of toxicity in your girlfriend may not come easy.

Dating a toxic woman can be an emotionally draining and scarring experience. The tricky part is toxicity doesn’t always manifest as glaring anomalies like abusive tendencies, obsessive behavior, or excessive jealousy. What is a toxic girlfriend then? What defines toxicity in a relationship? You may wonder. Sometimes, seemingly harmless or routine behaviors can be indicators of a toxic person.

That’s why it’s crucial to be mindful and aware of signs of a toxic person in your life, especially when these don’t manifest as screaming red flags but as subtle, gnawing undercurrents in your relationship. To help you do that, we’re here to shed light on toxic female behavior in relationships with insights from counselor Ridhi Golechha (Masters in Psychology), who is a food psychologist and specializes in counseling for loveless marriages, breakups, and other relationship issues.

21 Toxic Girlfriend Signs Not Easy To Spot – It’s Her, Not You

As far as relationships go, there are few things more damaging than ending up with a partner who brings toxicity to the equation. Given that there is no handbook or crash course on how to be the ideal boyfriend or girlfriend, we all tap into our lived or perceived experiences to navigate the maze of relationships. 

If these experiences are far from ideal or healthy, toxicity in a relationship can take hold. Often, it becomes so deeply entrenched that we’re unable to see the warning signs of a toxic relationship even when they’re staring us in the face. You may continue dating a toxic woman without even realizing yet. But when your relationship is far from the healthy equation it’s supposed to be, that “something’s off” feeling can be hard to shake off. That “something’s off” feeling, more often than not, is the first sign of a toxic relationship. 

The process of undoing this damage begins with learning to spot and call out toxic behavior. The first step in this direction is learning about the signs of a toxic person in your life. In these signs may lie the answer to your question, “How do I know if my GF is toxic?” So, if you constantly feel pushed to a corner in your relationship, keep an eye out for these 21 not-so-obvious toxic girlfriend signs: 

Related Reading: 12 Signs You Have A Selfish Girlfriend

1. All give, no take 

Is my girlfriend toxic, you ask? It’s time to pay attention to what you and your partner bring to the table. Ridhi says one of the first signs your girlfriend is toxic is that the relationship feels like a one-way street. “You need to ask yourself, “Does she reciprocate my efforts?” If it’s only you doing all the hard work and she is just taking but never giving, it can drain you out.”

Your girlfriend may have unreasonably high expectations of things you’re supposed to do for her and the relationship. But perpetually fails to meet the standards she has set for you. One of the telling traits of a toxic girlfriend is that she doesn’t play by the rules she applies to you. This characteristic toxic female behavior can throw your relationship into a constant state of flux and unpleasantness.

2. Lack of honesty 

warning signs of a toxic relationship
Lying between romantic partners is never a good sign

Honesty is an important component of any healthy relationship. However, a toxic girlfriend can never be completely transparent. When caught in a tight spot, she may use the ‘harmless, white lies’ defense to wriggle out of the situation. Let’s say, she may tell you she has to work on a weekend to get out of hanging out with your friends. And then, may go out shopping with her girl gang. If caught, she may say that she lied because she didn’t want to fight. 

Whatever her justification, know that lying between romantic partners is never a good sign. It inevitably snowballs into more problematic patterns that take a toll on you. Lies and dishonesty, no matter how harmless it seems, are among the most telling signs of a toxic person in a relationship. Don’t turn a blind eye to these.

Related Reading: 11 Signs Of Dishonesty In A Relationship

3. Little misses feel like the end of the world 

She asked you to pick the dry cleaning and you forgot. She wanted to go to a particular restaurant for a Valentine’s Day date but you couldn’t make a reservation in time. And now, it’s sold out. She wanted Tiramisu for dessert and you got her a chocolate ganache. 

Typically, these slip-ups aren’t a big deal really. Not when you’re in a relationship with a toxic person. She will invariably throw a hissy fit, ruin your time together and make you feel like the biggest loser alive every time you fail to do something she wanted or “specifically asked for”.

These disproportionate reactions are among the worrying signs of a toxic girlfriend because they continue to grow stronger and more frequent if not dealt with at the right time and in the right way. The bottom line is that a toxic female will always make you feel like you’re not good enough. 

4. She keeps a relationship scorecard 

Keeping a relationship scorecard – that is when you keep tabs on the other person’s mistakes and never miss an opportunity to remind them of it – is among the classic toxic girlfriend signs. You didn’t show up for her friend’s birthday party six years ago when you had just started dating. She makes it a point to remind you of how terrible it made her feel every time you have a fight or disagreement. 

Rob finds himself at his wit’s ends because his girlfriend remembers every fight and argument they’ve had over the years, and makes it a point to list them all whenever a new disagreement emerges. He feels like they’re trapped in an endless conflict because old fights don’t get resolved and new ones keep piling on.

For Rob, it’s becoming harder to carry the baggage of his partner’s resentment and he’s beginning to recognize the signs of a toxic girlfriend in her. There is no doubt that having the same fights over and over again can get exhausting and take the joy out of a romantic partnership. If that’s how you feel about your relationship, you may well be dating a toxic woman.

Related Reading: Relationship Doubts – 21 Questions To Ask Yourself To Clear Your Head

5. She’s never wrong 

One of the most telling signs a girl is toxic is that admitting a mistake doesn’t come easy to her. Strike that. Admitting a mistake just doesn’t come to her at all. She may have hurt your feelings, overstepped relationship boundaries or made one of those genuine mistakes for which she holds you to ransom. 

Even so, words like “I’m sorry”, “I realize my mistake” or “I feel horrible about hurting you” simply do not roll off her tongue. Instead, she will find a way to justify her actions. And then hold her ground, no matter how hard you try to make her see the error of her ways. If you’ve been wondering what is a toxic relationship like, this tendency pretty much sums it up. In a toxic relationship, the scales are always tipped in the favor of the toxic partner. You are left grasping at straws.

This can truly put you at a loss for an answer to how to deal with a toxic girlfriend. Well, calling a spade a spade and standing your ground when you know you’re in the right is a good start point. Don’t give in and resort to appeasement just because you don’t want to lose her or risk another exhausting fight. Remember that this relationship doesn’t have a shot at survival unless she makes an effort to learn how to stop being a toxic girlfriend.  

6. You cannot have a life outside the relationship 

Toxic female behavior in relationships is characterized by clinginess. Your personal space and relationships outside your romantic partnership have taken a massive hit since you got together with her. One of the signs your girlfriend is manipulative is that she will use temper tantrums, coaxing, fights and appeasement to stop you from doing what you like. 

A night out with your friends? There is a temper tantrum awaiting you. Want to stay home and watch a game? She will sulk endlessly. Planning to spend Thanksgiving with your family? Prepare for some emotional blackmail and lots of tears. She’d be a clingy girlfriend at every step of the way. These are all tell-tale signs of a toxic person in a relationship, and it’d be in your best interest to see them for what they are.

These signs of a toxic woman in a relationship often start small and may even seem cute in the beginning when you’re too hopelessly smitten to see the red flags for what they are. However, slowly but surely, she will find a way to control every aspect of your life. If you often find yourself grappling with the question, “How do I know if my GF is toxic?”, maybe start paying attention to how much space and autonomy you have in your relationship. If both are lacking, you have your answer.

7. Your needs are never taken care of 

What is a toxic relationship? Ridhi says that when the needs of one partner – be it emotional, physical, social or financial – are constantly overlooked and compromised it’s the hallmark of toxicity in a relationship. Invalidating your feelings, needs, desires and expectations and then making you feel bad for having them in the first place are just some of the things toxic partners do.

“It’s a surefire relationship red flag if she doesn’t make you or your needs feel important. Such girlfriends will only put their needs forward without considering whether your friends, family, pet time, boys’ time are also important. Make sure to clarify your needs and stand up to them, even if she pulls a face or launches a full-blown attack,” she adds. 

8. She controls every aspect of your life 

This is one of those toxic girlfriend signs that can be extremely hard to recognize since it is done in the garb of love and affection. A toxic girlfriend will slowly but surely take over every aspect of your life. The clothes you wear, the diet you follow, the people you socialize with, the amount of alcohol you’re ‘allowed’, and even your career choices – it’s all duly reviewed and approved by her.

Aron had pulled an all-nighter working at a work presentation and was awfully groggy in the morning. All he wanted was a cup of steaming hot, freshly brewed coffee. “Babe, can I please have coffee instead of lemon and ginger tea this morning? I can barely keep my eyes open,” he found himself pleading with his girlfriend, surprised at his lack of control over his own life. “Is my girlfriend toxic?” he wondered for the first time.

His girlfriend begrudgingly agreed, but not before giving him a lecture on the harmful effect of caffeine dependency. If you find yourself obligated to seek her permission to do something you really want to, it’s undoubtedly one of the warning signs of a toxic girlfriend.  

Related Reading: Signs Your Partner Is A Control Freak

9. Different rules apply to you and her 

Like we said before, you can be pretty certain that you’re dating a toxic woman if she doesn’t play by the same rules she has put in place for you. If you’re looking for other warning signs of a toxic relationship, this one simply cannot be left out. Double standards about rules of engagement between a couple simply have no place in a healthy relationship

However, when you’re dating a toxic person, these double standards become the norm. For instance, she may forbid you from having female friends but her guy friends remain an active part of her life. Or your phone may be subjected to everyday scrutiny but hers is out of bounds.

One of the clearest signs of a toxic woman is that your life has changed beyond recognition since she has entered it but hers remains pretty much the way it was. If the burden of adjustments and compromises in the relationship falls squarely on you, you don’t even need to bother asking what is a toxic relationship. You’re in one.  

10. Withdrawing emotional support on purpose 

Among the typical toxic girlfriend signs is a tendency to withdraw emotional support when you most need it. You may want to lean on her after a bad day at work or to seek respite from a stressful situation in the family. Just when you most desire her loving presence, she will become emotionally withdrawn and distant.

Worse still, she will retort with a contemptuous “I told you so” – just one of the things toxic girlfriends say when it hurts the most. This is one of the unmistakable signs a girl is toxic and you mustn’t let it slide. Mutual emotional support is the bedrock of a romantic relationship. Quite honestly, the best part about having a partner. When that is missing, there is hardly much else left to go on for. 

11. She withholds intimacy as a form of punishment 

Say, you’ve done something to upset her, which happens more often than not when you’re in a relationship with a toxic person. Instead of sitting across from you and spelling out how your actions made her feel, she will become cold and withdrawn. These traits of a toxic girlfriend can make your relationship an unsettling experience rather than a loving, safe space.

Try asking her if something’s wrong, and you won’t get anything more than “It’s nothing” or “I’m fine”. These are typically the things toxic girlfriends say to stonewall you. But the intimacy, be it the bedroom or outside of it, will instantly vanish. Replaced with cold vibes. She will continue to withhold intimacy as a way of punishing you until you figure out what it was that you did wrong and apologize for it profusely. 

Related Reading: 21 Uncommon Romantic Gestures For Her

12. She thrives on criticizing you 

Of course, romantic partners are entitled to offer constructive criticism to one another. After all, no one is perfect. When you have your partner’s best interests at heart, telling them when they’re doing something wrong comes with the territory. However, there is a difference between constructive criticism and constant, unabated nagging.

The latter is purposefully spiteful and designed to put the other person down. What is a toxic girlfriend, you ask? Pay attention to her opinions of the not-so-nice aspects of your personality. If you notice relentless criticism of your weaknesses, peppered with generous amounts of scorn and resentment, it’s an unmistakable sign of toxicity.

13. You’re the only source of her happiness 

Contrary to what romantic fiction and pop culture will have you believe, that is not a good thing. In a wholesome relationship, partners complement and not complete each other. They’re two wholes that fit together perfectly and not two parts of a whole that need to fit in to feel complete.  

toxic person
She is the classic clingy girlfriend

However, toxic female behavior in relationships is as far removed from this healthy paradigm as possible. If she has made you the central focus of her life, you can count it as one of the toxic girlfriend signs. Sooner or later, she will start smothering you with love and attention. And of course, expect you to do the same.

Falling short on these relationship expectations is nothing less than betrayal in her eyes. Being smothered with love and affection to a point of suffocation is one of the signs of a toxic person in your life. The only way you can stop feeling stifled while still in a relationship with her is if she is willing to learn how to stop being a toxic girlfriend. But if signs of a toxic woman have taught us anything, the possibility of her seeing the error of her ways and making amends is about dinosaurs walking the earth again.

14. Trust is on shaky ground 

Well, at least at her end. She feels the need to secretly check your phone, verify your whereabouts from others, and question and cross-question you about who you were with, where and why. If you’re looking for signs your girlfriend is toxic, it helps to pay attention to the element of trust in the relationship. A toxic female will find it very hard to trust you and you will find her constantly suspecting and accusing you of things like cheating and lying.

Ridhi says, “Check if she trusts you. If you’re constantly having to prove yourself, that’s a sign she has insecurities that need to be worked on. If left unaddressed, the partner of the insecure girlfriend often starts believing they have to keep proving their loyalty and worth. This creates a toxic cycle. Getting help from an expert can help.”

Related Reading: Should I Break Up With My Girlfriend? 12 Signs You Should

15. Privacy? What privacy? 

Jerad and Kylie decided to live together after six months of being in an exclusive relationship. Cohabitating instantly took out the element of personal space from Jerad’s life. Kylie was all kinds of intrusive – she’d go through his emails, eavesdrop on his conversations with friends and family, expect him to spend every free moment of his time in her company.

Jared had not seen any signs of a toxic girlfriend in Kylie when they were dating but as soon as they started living together, the red flags became too potent to be ignored. After about three months of trying to make it work, Jared just couldn’t do it anymore. Over dinner, he told Kylie politely but firmly, “This is turning out to be a toxic relationship that is sucking the last ounce of peace and joy from my life. I cannot be with you anymore.” Kylie was too stunned to respond and Jared saw this as the perfect opportunity to make an exit from the house and the relationship.

Always remember: just because you’re in a relationship does not mean that you start living your life like conjoined twins. Wherever you go, she follows. And vice versa. When you’re in a relationship with a toxic person, this joint-at-the-hip feeling becomes your reality. You cannot have a conversation with a friend in private. Lock a drawer containing some personal effects. Make a plan even for one evening without involving her. Over time, this can leave you feeling smothered, and a sense of resentment in the relationship begins to seep in. 

16. She always gets her way 

Do you ever feel as if your relationship has a “my way or the highway” feel to it? Well, it’s time to see it for what it is – one of the glaring signs your girlfriend is manipulative and toxic. She plays all sorts of mind games to always get what she wants. Be it something as small as deciding what to get for dinner or life-altering decisions like taking the next step in the relationship, her will always prevails. 

As a result, you feel unheard and invisible in the relationship. As if you’re being strung along in a direction you don’t necessarily like. Learning how to deal with a toxic girlfriend becomes all the more difficult with such relationship dynamics because her domineering personality leaves you disarmed. You may put your foot down and say ‘no’ but your voice doesn’t get heard.

17. Oh, the mood swings! 

It’s one thing for your girlfriend to act unreasonably or not be completely in control of her reactions when she is PMS-ing or undergoing a hormonal flux. As her partner, you may have – or will – learn to spot and deal with these fleeting phases. However, a toxic girlfriend takes mood swings to a whole new level.

With her, the hissy fits or meltdowns are not triggered by a sudden spate or drop in hormones. It’s just her baseline behavior. The moment you do something that she doesn’t approve of or appreciate, she slips into a foul mood. And you end up feeling the need to walk on eggshells around her when she is in one of her moods. 

Over time, this negativity can lead to stress and anxiety in the partner at the receiving end. The toxic female behavior in relationships can slowly but surely take a toll on your mental health as well. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative to spot the toxic girlfriend signs early on and prioritize self-preservation.  

Related Reading: 51 Deep Relationship Questions To Ask For A Better Love Life

18. She can’t function without you 

She may criticize you, fight with you but she cannot function without you. Being a clingy girlfriend is one of those signs of toxicity in a relationship that many people fail to recognize. It is often confused as a display of affection. “Don’t ever leave me, I’ll die without you” or “Don’t ever think about leaving me like this again or I’ll kill you” – threats like these are things toxic girlfriends say casually.

When said in a playful tone with puppy eyes, these may sound endearing. Perhaps, she is operating from a place of affection and love for you. Even so, the need to always have you around is not healthy. Ultimately, it leads to your circle of people shrinking to just one, leaving you feeling immensely isolated and suffocated. If you’ve been wondering what is a toxic relationship, this lack of breathing space and excessive neediness are textbook examples of it.

19. She says hurtful things to you 

Another one of the surefire toxic girlfriend signs is the need to resort to low blows and saying hurtful things during arguments. She doesn’t fight fair and deliberately attacks your vulnerabilities and weak spots to get you to yield. The harmful things toxic partners do can leave an indelible mark on your psyche, altering the way you conduct yourself in relationships.

During every fight, Karen would invariably tell her boyfriend, Nolan, that he was a loser. “Now, you’re telling me you can’t afford the cruise I had been looking forward to. Oh my God, Nolan, you’re such a loser! Why I chose you over Rick, I’d never know.” or “You call this a fancy brunch? This is barely edible. You’re a total loser, Nolan.” or “I can’t believe you I keep chasing after a loser like you, Nolan.”

Over time, a part of Nolan began believing that he was a good-for-nothing ‘loser’. This is not uncommon when you have a toxic person in your life. Since the use of hurtful words is not an exception but the norm, it can start affecting your self-esteem and sense of self in the long run. 

20. She resorts to ultimatums 

The simplest answer to the question, “How do I know if my GF is toxic?”, is that she always holds the threat of breaking up like a sword over your head. Do this or else. Don’t do that or else… This may leave you feeling as if a part of her wishes she were single. Or at least not in a relationship with you. Perhaps, that’s true, which is why she tends to resort to ultimatums whenever things go off the expected trajectory. 

Say, you have not been able to give her time owing to some work or other commitments. Rather than talk to you about it, she announces, “I can’t be in a relationship with a person who is perpetually absent.” Such threats are a way to hold you to ransom and get her way, and also one of the classic signs of a toxic girlfriend pulling all stops to manipulate you into doing her bidding.

Related Reading: 17 Signs A Guy Is Unhappy In His Relationship

21. She doesn’t appreciate you 

Appreciation and gratitude are two of the most underrated elements of a relationship. Often, as two partners become comfortable with each other, they begin to take a lot of small, little everyday things for granted. Even so, healthy couples consciously try to make each other feel appreciated and cherished by trying to steer clear of the ‘taken for granted’ trap. 

On the other hand, one of the tell-tale toxic girlfriend signs is a complete lack of appreciation. Even if you go above and beyond to make her feel special, it will either not be good enough for her or she will be convinced that this is the kind of treatment she is entitled to. 

Ridhi says, “Toxic relationships are addictive. They’re like a game where your partner will always want to be chased, you will please her, there is a sense of temporary endorphins and love high, (this is the part that keeps us stuck for more)… until the downward fall where you make one more mistake and they get upset. 

“Thus, the game gets repeated and you get habituated. To break out of this cycle, recognize the warning signs of a toxic relationship. And then, create your boundaries. Meeting and working with an expert can be immensely helpful in learning to deal with or walk away from a toxic person.” 

Identifying toxic female behavior in relationships for what it is and then learning to put yourself first is not an easy journey. Having a mental health expert by your side can help make it easier to navigate this tumultuous ride and emerge on the other side as unscathed as possible. If you’re looking for help, skilled and licensed counselors of Bonobology’s panel are here for you.  


1. What is a toxic girlfriend?

A toxic girlfriend is someone who makes you feel as if you’re perennially falling short, being made to feel like you’re good for nothing, stuck in a relationship that feels like a one-way street. 

2. How do I know if my girlfriend is toxic?

To be sure, you need to learn to identify some of the subtle signs of toxicity. Toxicity doesn’t always manifest as glaring anomalies like abusive tendencies, obsessive behavior or excessive jealousy. Sometimes, seemingly harmless or routine behaviors can be indicators of a toxic person.

3. Why is my girlfriend always controlling me? 

If your girlfriend is always trying to control you, it’s one of the tell-tale signs that you’re dating a toxic person. 

4. How do I spot the red flags in a relationship? 

Look for the way she treats you and the relationship. If it feels like she’s in the lead and you’re merely following – rather than being two equal partners – it is one of the biggest red flags of toxicity in a relationship. Lack of trust, constant criticism, constant fighting and bickering are some others. 

5. Can a toxic girlfriend love me?

She may love you but unless she learns to break her toxic patterns and you learn to stand up for yourself, you cannot build a healthy relationship. Your love for each other notwithstanding. 

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