You and I are in for an awkward, yet enlightening conversation. Identifying toxic traits in a loved one is never easy. But to acknowledge the problem is the first step towards solving it. I’m here to help you identify the 13 traits of a toxic boyfriend and 3 steps you can take to deal with it.
Since the subject of unhealthy relationships is complex and the solutions are challenging in nature, I reached out to one of the best in the field – Dr Aman Bhonsle (PhD). He has weighed in with a few dynamite insights as well as witty observations from his practice as a relationship psychotherapist.
Let’s get the red carpet rolling for these red flags, aka toxic traits in a boyfriend…
13 Traits Of A Highly Toxic Boyfriend
Hold the phone for just one minute. The word ‘toxic’ has become a household staple. Every person out there has their own idea of what constitutes ‘toxic behavior’. This subjectivity is risky, because anything and everything can be pegged as toxic.
For the purpose of our conversation, let us understand that ‘toxic’ means any behavior or action that can be physically or emotionally detrimental to others around us. If someone’s conduct has a negative impact on us, they are showcasing toxic traits.
A person who likes pineapple on pizza is not toxic, but a person that gaslights and manipulates us certainly is. Dating an individual who displays such behavior can take a toll on us. Here are 13 signs of a toxic boyfriend that will give you a fresh perspective about your partner.
Keep an eye out for the truth bombs I’m about to drop. Let’s delve deeper into the toxic traits of a boyfriend so you can answer the question – “Is he a toxic boyfriend?”
1. Sexist and he knows it
Does your boyfriend ‘allow’ you to do things? Is he aware of the fact that you don’t need his permission? Does he censor what you wear and where you go? Then why, my dear woman, are you tolerating this misogyny?
A sexist partner automatically means an unequal relationship. There is an imbalance of power because he is an entitled person who disregards women. A dynamic between two people must ALWAYS be on equal footing.
I urge you to remember that sexism is not just derogatory remarks, but also discriminatory compliments like “You’re not like other women” or “You drive pretty well for a woman,” or “You’re so wife material.” These are all examples of ‘benevolent sexism’.
Related Reading: How To Watch Out For The Relationship Red Flags – Expert Tells You
2. He bull(y)dozes your opinions
Dr Bhonsle puts it best when he says, “A bully is the most toxic person to be around. He never lets you be your own person, and walks all over your authenticity.”
A toxic boyfriend always wants to have his own way. Compromise is an alien concept to him. If you want to have Chinese for dinner and he wants pizza, guess what – it’s pizza for dinner. This is the case with most decisions of your relationship.
This is exactly why you should consider ending toxic relationships. A relationship should be a healthy balance between what two people want. Being cognizant of your partner’s wishes and opinions is a must-have relationship quality. Toxicity is imposing your will on your partner.
3. It’s never him, it’s the world
The ability to take accountability is perhaps the most underrated trait in people. You know what I find attractive in a man? His ability to own up to his mistakes, because this is a must-have relationship quality. A person who places blame on everything external, is an unhealthy human being.
Say you and your boyfriend are on a drive. He runs a red light, and is pulled over by the cops. It’s clearly his fault that he’s gotten a ticket, but he begins to rant about the unfairness of the situation. The light switched halfway, and I had already crossed over. This is a crystal-clear example of his incapacity to just say, “my bad.”
An individual like this will project his issues, never introspect, and will definitely not see your side of things. When someone is too invested in making sure they’re always right, they can never actually be the right person to date.
4. And he’s a two-timer
Cheating is the worst thing one can put their partner through, because being cheated on causes feelings of inadequacy. Flirting with other women, or checking them out are also noxious (not to mention sexist) behaviors.
“He’ll keep telling you that it’s all innocent, and he’s just ‘having some fun’. Why does he need to have fun at the expense of your feelings and respect?” Dr. Bhonsle hits the mark again!
If you’ve been making excuses for your boyfriend’s two-timing tendencies, please understand that he’s not being half as considerate as you are. If he puts himself first and you also put him first – girl, what about you?
Related Reading: How To Catch A Cheating Partner – 9 Tricks To Help You
5. Critic of the year
He doesn’t JUST criticize you, he thinks his criticism is of supreme importance. If it were up to him, he would start a blog commenting on your decisions. Let’s remember what Benjamin Disraeli wrote, “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
Dating a toxic partner often feels like being put under a microscope. You can do nothing right. No matter how hard you try, they will succeed in finding faults. Needless to say, this is a claustrophobic environment to live in, and a warning sign of a toxic relationship.
And if you notice very carefully, your boyfriend will not have the gall to take any criticism himself. He’ll get defensive like lightning. Interesting…toxic, but interesting.
So, how to deal with a toxic boyfriend who is the critic of the year? Should you start considering breaking up with a toxic boyfriend? Keep reading to find out.
6. Mom’s not a fan
Each person thinks that they know themselves best. Even you, with your toxic relationship, believe that you know what you’re doing. After all, how can someone else know what’s better for us?
Hmmm, the team of psychologists at Washington University disagree. Their study has revealed that people around us know our behavior patterns and tendencies better. They are objective in their assessment of us – no distortions in those perceptions!
Hence, if your family and friends are consistently dubious of your boyfriend, if your bestie and your mom keep telling you to ‘think things over,’ then you may have something to worry about. Ever so often, your well-wishers notice the signs of a toxic boyfriend before you do.
7. He’s hot and he’s cold
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Life is not a Katy Perry song” and I could not agree more. Consistency in behavior is an indicator of a healthy person. A toxic individual fluctuates between being affectionate, and then pulling away.
Maybe your boyfriend withdraws affection as a ‘punishment’. Maybe he ‘rewards’ you with love. The problem with this mechanism is his need to get you to act how he wants. He rewards what HE thinks is appropriate.
This flag is redder than Snow White’s apple. Do you even have to ask ‘is he a toxic boyfriend’?
“A good partner is someone who supports you even when they don’t understand what you’re all about.” Listen to Dr. Bhonsle, he’s met with enough couples to identify a toxic trait when he sees it.
Related Reading: Are You A Toxic Couple? Take This Test To Find Out
8. Abusive? Check
So, your boyfriend plays mind games and manipulates you while calling it ‘love’. He exerts his dominance by force, and you’re covering up the bruises. Is he a toxic boyfriend? YES.
Abuse can be emotional, or physical in nature, and has lasting consequences in both forms. An abusive partner literally decreases your lifespan with the amount of stress he generates in you.
My close friend, Molly, was dating a man who used subtle physical moves to ‘mark his authority’. He’d grab her hand just a little too tightly, squeeze her shoulder, or tower over her. Things like these go unnoticed, but pay attention to their intensity as well as frequency. Your toxic boyfriend is making your life hell.
9. He’s (control) freaky for you
Do you sometimes think you’re dating a censor board? This is one of the top signs of a toxic boyfriend who is overprotective. A partner who monitors everything you say or do, is not comfortable with your true self.
If he does not accept you for who you are, he’ll try and fashion you into a version he approves of. But we can’t customize our better halves – that’s just not how it works. So maybe your boyfriend needs a lesson or two in individuality.
Look at a relationship like a Venn diagram. The two individual circles are you and your partner. The common area where they intersect is your relationship. Is your individual circle being encroached upon? Just an eight-course meal for thought.
10. The wait is endless
A classic sign of a toxic boyfriend, is your constant hope that he’ll improve. Just some more time, you think. A month or more and he’ll get it together. I point you in the direction of Elizabeth Gilbert’s words: “You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughta be.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of optimism. But there’s also something called ‘unrealistic optimism,’ and that’s just being silly. You’ve given him plenty of opportunities to follow through on the promises he makes.
Flush those false hopes away, and scrutinize whether he’s made any real progress or not. Life is short, don’t pin your hopes on someone who doesn’t want to become a better person.
Dr. Bhonsle adds, “In my experience, dramatic transformations seldom happen. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you will change. Change is a conscious choice that we make. If the choice hasn’t been made yet, what are the chances it will be made in the future?”
11. Communication? What’s that?
I think the internet has enough articles that talk about the importance of communication in a relationship, so I won’t hash them out again. But I’ll tell you what constitutes unhealthy communication patterns.
Refusal to have difficult conversations, avoiding any topics of depth or substance (what the future holds, where the relationship stands or is heading, etc.), raising the volume during arguments, stooping down to personal attacks, holding grudges for prolonged periods, or being passive aggressive, are all signs of a toxic boyfriend.
You both just can’t stop fighting. This is a problem which can be worked on through relationship counselling. Provided your boyfriend is willing to do so…
12. You’re doing the heavy-lifting
No relationship can sustain itself on the efforts of one partner. It’s just not feasible. If you think that you’ve been trying to make things work for a while, with zero reciprocity from your boyfriend’s end, then your relationship is in quicksand.
One-sided efforts can only go so far. Chances are that you’ll lose yourself in the process of trying to save your relationship. God, toxic boyfriends make life hell. This is precisely why you ought to consider ending toxic relationships.
Neglecting the bond you share and not doing the work it needs, is a sign of indifference, or worse, inconsideration. Is he a toxic boyfriend? I think so. Is ending this toxic relationship a good idea? 10/10 yes.
Related Reading: 6 Signs You Are In A One-Sided Relationship
13. ‘T’ for trust issues
The ultimate toxic trait is his inability to place his trust in you. He’s insecure, and jealous. Allow me to fling a cliché your way – trust is the foundation of every relationship.
Moreover, he can’t be fully honest with you about his own self. He never shows you his vulnerable side and, as a result, your relationship lacks depth. In order for a relationship to work, you have to know each other’s flaws and strengths. With this kind of a dynamic in play, even you’ll end up having a tough time trusting him.
I came across this brilliant quote by Ashley Lorenzana last week: “The easiest way to gain someone’s trust is to deserve it. This should be pretty easy, assuming you’re just being you and being real. Minimal effort too.”
How many of these signs of a toxic boyfriend did you check? I think I can easily predict your next question – how to deal with a toxic boyfriend? Dr. Bhonsle and I have the answers you need. Let’s proceed to the three steps you can take when you’re in the toxic boyfriend pickle.
3 Steps You Can Take If You Have A Toxic Boyfriend
Figuring out how to deal with a toxic boyfriend is not that complex. It is challenging, but simple. Dr. Bhonsle has broken it down in three steps you can take. Even if you intend on breaking up with a toxic boyfriend, these steps are integral to comprehend.
Getting right to the point, Dr. Bhonsle says that the first step is always introspection. “You need to question your own standards (or their non-existence) when you find yourself in a toxic relationship. Are you usually attracted to these kinds of men? Is there a repetition here?”
Elaborating on the behavior patterns we all fall back into, he talks about recurring ‘themes’ in our lives. “Are certain themes repeating themselves? Emotional themes, relationship themes, career-related themes? Can you spot them happening? And if you can, why don’t you ask yourself the ‘why’ behind them. WHY am I prone to these themes? WHY do I attract (and am attracted to) a certain sort of men?”
You need to take some time off and sit with yourself. Evaluate if you’re low on self-esteem, if you are seeking validation externally. Why are you comfortable being a doormat? Do you possess certain self-sabotaging behaviors? Work on rebuilding your sense of self-worth and dignity.
2. Seek help
After your conversation with yourself, decide if you need to seek professional help. Learning to become more assertive and standing up for yourself take time to master and get a grip on. You have to unlearn and re-learn.
“Therapy helps you understand better. You can see for yourself what holds you back. A pattern recognized, is a pattern quarter solved.” Dr. Bhonsle also explains how relationship problems with a toxic partner are resolved when we start working on ourselves.
“The world is cruel and people are inconsiderate. It’s deeply unfortunate that they are, but that’s the way it is. You have to stand up for yourself because no one else will.”
You can also go in for relationship counselling with your boyfriend to heal a toxic relationship, but that comes after you’ve decided whether you want to continue things with him or not. Do you want to get rid of your toxic boyfriend? This leads us to our next step – risk assessment.
Related Reading: Fixing a Toxic Relationship – 21 Ways To Heal TOGETHER
The final thing to do is evaluate if the relationship is worth your time and efforts. Dr. Bhonsle says, “We pay for everything with time. It’s the most precious currency in the world. Decide if the relationship, and by extension your boyfriend, deserves this currency of yours.”
You’re saying that the toxic boyfriend is making life hell, but still dating him. What do you have to lose if you continue this relationship? Is the risk very great? If the answer to this is a yes, then leave your toxic partner and prioritize yourself. “Look out for the relationship by all means. But also look out for yourself.” If ending a toxic relationship is the wise choice (albeit a painful one), we should not hesitate to make it.
This boils down to the question of whether you see a happy and healthy future with them. Is the long-term viable? Do you want to get rid of the toxic boyfriend?
So many questions only you can answer.
I have a feeling that you’ve got a lot on your mind after reading this. Make yourself a cup of coffee, or two, and have a good thinking session. I trust you to make a good decision, and you’re equipped with all the info you need! My very best wishes to you – adieu!