It’s easy to blame your mate. But what if you’re the toxic one in your parnership? Elite Daily asked relationship expert Susan Winter how one would know if they’re the problem, and what can be done about it?
Do you feel like every single relationship you’ve been in has been toxic? No matter how beautifully things start, does the relationship become poisonous every time? It may just be that you are stuck in a pattern of picking the wrong people, and if that’s the case, it’s time to start doing the hard work of healing so that you break the cycle. But this repeated pattern of bad relationships may actually mean something else: You might be the problem. If you worry that’s the case, it’s time to start reading the signs you’re the toxic one in the relationship.
If you’ve avoided self-reflection before because you’re worried about what you might discover, don’t. Because recognizing your role in souring your relationships is the first step toward fixing your future relationships. “Awareness is the first step in making any sort of change,” says bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter, “Once we’re able to be honest with ourselves and admit our shortcomings, then we’re one step closer to our recovery of wholeness and emotional health.”
So here are some of the toxic things you may be doing to your partners, without even realizing it.
1. You Have Control Issues
I’m bossy, and yes, that can carry over into my relationships, but there is a difference between being a little bit bossy and being controlling. The difference is that being controlling is about exerting your power over someone one. Winter explains that, in relationships, being controlling changes the dynamic from being about loving someone to becoming about “conquest, or testing your desirability.” She continues, “Relationships are just one more way for you to feel your own sense of power.”
2. You Always Want Things To Be Your Way, No Matter What
We all want to get our way sometimes, and it’s important to have boundaries. The problem comes when you will do whatever it takes to get your way, even through manipulation or controlling behavior. If you find yourself feeling like your “relationships wouldn’t be any fun if the other person had their way, and certainly you would not be involved with anyone you could not control,” then Winter says you are exhibiting some major toxic behavior.
3. You Don’t Respect Their Privacy
We all get tempted to creep on our partner’s social media from time to time, but where it crosses the line is when you begin creeping on things they choose to keep private. This includes reading their email without permission or going through their phone secretly — or insisting that they let you do so at any time. If it’s a matter of trust, then that is something you need to resolve with your partner in a healthy way, through better communication, therapy, or by splitting up. If it’s about control and a sense of ownership of your SO, then that’s a sign of toxic behavior.
4. You Need Your Partner To Be The Person You Want Them To Be
It’s one thing to offer a partner advice on their life and choices, but it’s something else entirely to insist that they follow it. “Needing to control our partner’s identity, actions and thoughts is the opposite of love,” says Winter. “It’s about safety. It’s a one-sided obsession to guarantee conformity, which equals safety. It has nothing to do with love or intimacy.”
5. Your Needs Are The Only Ones That Matter
How tuned into your partner’s wants and needs are you? Are you even aware of them? Are they a priority for you? If you answered no to those questions, Winter says you may be self-obsessed, a big factor in toxic relationships. “Individuals who are self-obsessed rarely realize it. They cant.” she says. “Their only focus is their life, their issues, and their wants. Discovering this truth about us can be jarring, but it’s an important beginning on the road to intimacy and true partnership.”
6. You’re Emotionally Withholding
When your partner clearly needs a kind word or some affection, do you find yourself intentionally holding it back from them? This is called withholding, and it’s a form of emotional manipulation. It’s also toxic AF. The point of a relationship is to love and support one another. Without that basic foundation, your relationship is guaranteed to crumble quickly.
7. You Find Yourself Telling Your SO How They Should Feel
Winter warns that another subtler form of toxicity is editing your partner’s emotions. “We have no right to tell them what they should feel,” she says. “Doing so is indicative of control issues, and ones designed for our comfort.” Constantly undermining and invalidating your partner’s emotional responses is an extremely insidious form of gaslighting. They have a right to their emotions. If it is that uncomfortable for you to be around that, simply give them some space to process their feelings.
8. You Use Tears To Get Your Way
When things in the relationship are not going your way, or you’re on the losing end of an argument, do you use tears to tip the balance? Do you trot out the waterworks whenever you want your way? If so, that is not heathy — it’s straight up manipulation. Winter explains that this is basically weaponized guilt: “They begin to feel guilty, and panic due to the flood of emotions … This is an old trick, but make no mistake — it is a trick.”
9. When You Fight, You Can Be Emotionally Or Physically Abusive
Keep your hands to yourself. Under no circumstances is it OK to hit, slap, push, or throw things at your partner, nor should you ever stay with a partner who does that to you. The same goes for hurling harmful words. If you are cruel, nasty, and go for the jugular with your words, that is a form of verbal abuse. If your words are meant to hurt or control, that is toxic behavior.
10. Your Partner Feels Like They Are Always Walking On Eggshells With You
Have you ever had an SO say they never know who you are going to be on a given day? You may be guilty of using emotional outbursts to control them. “The up-and-down roller coaster of unpredictable emotions is a nightmare for your partner,” says Winter. “They feel as though they’re walking on eggshells. This is an intense form of control, as it emotionally hijacks your partner and puts them in auto response to your hysteria.” It’s one thing to have moments of heightened emotion, but if you find that doing so “works” to get your way, that’s where things take a turn toward the toxic.
Do many — or all — of these signs sound uncomfortably familiar? Then it’s time to take the next step and own that you might be part of the problem. Your next step, according to Winter, is to confirm what you suspect. “Ask your family, friends, and mate if they think you exhibit signs of being emotionally difficult,” she says. “This will be very hard to hear. To be fair to yourself, always consider the source. Listen only to those people you trust and who have your best interest at heart. If they say that they believe that you’re difficult, controlling, selfish, and manipulative, seek professional help.”
It’s never easy to learn that we’ve been causing harm to our relationships and partners, but just recognizing your role is the first big step to a better and brighter romantic future. Sure, it will take work, but a healthy, emotionally fulfilling relationship is worth all the effort.