Written by: John Kenny, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
It is important that, as men, we recognize the signs of an unhealthy or even toxic relationship.
There is a lot out there in the world that can help women become aware of these things, because in general, men are seen as being the toxic partner. But as a man who has been in toxic relationships, we need to be aware of the signs. We should know what to do if we are in them and how they can impact our emotional, mental and physical health.
In the past, I may have been seen as the one with the problem (and I did have them), but it was my partner's behavior that was leading me to react in unreasonable and overly emotional ways. Although I need to own this as it is my behavior, it is vital to understand what triggers me so that I can remain in a healthy space and not react to the relationship I am in.
A healthy relationship won’t feel draining, a hard work, or like you are on an emotional tight rope. If you find that your energy has dipped since you met the person you are with (who has constant issues) or you feel wound up or on edge a lot of the time, this list will help you to reflect and know what to be aware of now and in the future.
1. Being around them is hard work.
When you are in a healthy relationship, then you should be enjoying each other’s company. It should feel pleasant to be around them and, frankly, an easy place to be. If this is not the case, then it’s a sign that you’re with someone draining.
Here are 3 things to consider:
a) You treasure your alone time. Does being alone for the weekend put a smile on your face? Do you feel excited looking forward to a day you’ll get away from your partner? This is a huge red flag. Your brain is rejoicing from a break from the person who is emotionally exhausting you.
b) You need to recover after being together. Spending time with your partner makes you feel very tired and need to recharge. If so, it’s a sign that your relationship is draining your energy. If you usually have no problem living daily life but suddenly need a long breather after seeing your partner, something isn’t right for you.
c) Conversations can be exhausting.
Talking to your partner should generally be a positive experience. Although you will occasionally disagree, if your conversations are frustrating, exhausting, argumentative, and generally negative, then this is draining you.
2. You are constantly in a negative mood.
Think about the moods that you have in general? Have you noticed that it is a bit blah? Is it hard to be positive? Do you feel a lack of joy and enthusiasm in your life?
Take a moment and reflect on your mental and emotional state. Are you truly as fine as you pretend to be? And if you are fine, what does that really mean? Using the word fine can mean that you are not okay!
Relationships that are draining your energy do not necessarily mean you’re always sad, angry, or in an awful mood. What they do typically cause is an absence of happiness or joy, leaving you feeling flat. You may even say things like I feel a bit depressed or I don’t have any energy.
3. Everything is about them.
This is a really big one for most of us. Relationships are about equality. If your partner dominates every aspect of your shared lives, you are in a toxic relationship.
Here are some examples:
You may feel like your partner is always dominating conversations and every single situation you find yourself in. They might speak loudly or cause a scene to draw attention in public, or they may talk over you or cut you off.
This can happen whether you’re talking in a group or it’s just the two of you. They seem to think their voice is more important than yours.
b) Constant problems come up, and none of them are yours!
When you bring up something troubling you, they might cut you off and insist that what they are dealing with is worse. For them, everything is more important than what you are going through, as it’s happening to them (notice the phrase to them – this is part of the victim mentality). They may also seem to be perpetually going through a rough time or feeling anxious. They are unable to step out of their own stuff.
c) They are always on your mind.
If you spend too much time fretting about your partner, they are draining your energy. You keep hearing their voice chastising you or can’t stop worrying about what they think about what you’re doing.
4. You walk around on eggshells.
When in a relationship, you should feel relaxed and free and as though you can share anything with your partner and be yourself.
If it’s reached the point where you have to constantly watch every move you make, you are in a toxic relationship.
For example, you may:
Feel nervous about talking about something because your partner might get angry.
Constantly watch everything you do to avoid upsetting them.
Worry that asking for something will cause them great distress.
Avoid certain subjects as your partner will react badly.
Fear that even the slightest misstep will get you into ‘trouble.’
5. You Feel Controlled.
In a healthy relationship, each person has their own agency and freedom. In an emotionally abusive one, you feel controlled all of the time.
Your life may feel like it is under a microscope and subject to constant criticism. You can’t be at ease with yourself and always think about who you need to be for them.
They may question you all of the time and make demands of you, such as:
Where you are meeting friends
How you spend money
Why are you going out
Ask why you need to text or call friends – ask you who it is – demand to see your phone.
Become jealous or seemingly overprotective for no reason
6. Your self-esteem is not very high.
If you’ve noticed a decline in your self-esteem/self-worth/self-confidence since you began your relationship, you need to recognize this and understand why it might be from your partner.
Unhealthy partners can criticize you frequently or take advantage of your insecurities (that they have likely shown you it is okay to share with them in the first place). Successes, give you backhanded compliments, or just be generally negative about things in your life.
These people are highly insecure and do these things to lift themselves. If your partner is upset when you decide to devote time to your improvement, this is a bad sign as they want to keep you in a certain space that suits them.
7. Your needs are ignored.
As a follow on the above, partners are there for each other, to listen to each other, raise each other, support and complement each other, meet each other’s needs when possible and reasonable.
If your partner seems to ignore what you want/need, say they will do something and never do, or generally ignore or dismiss what you say or what you want, then this is a bad place for you to be.
Your relationship is being built around what they want, and you will never feel fulfilled.
8. Arguments are the norm – and worse, you take the blame or responsibility!
Disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, but not regularly. If they have escalated to fights and arguments, then something is definitely not right.
Does your partner tend to instigate these and ignores your attempts to de-escalate the situation, or you just can’t be heard or get through your point of view across?
If you always seem to be at fault, your partner may be trying to shift blame as they can’t allow themselves to be in the wrong. They manipulate you to back down, accusing you of being aggressive or angry.
9. You just don’t know what to do.
All of the things that you do in your relationship just leave you feeling as though you can’t do anymore. No matter how much you give, it is never enough or is never right. The ninety-nine things you do great are always overshadowed by the hundredth, which is wrong and the only thing they focus on, forgetting the rest! Leaving you at a loss of how this is ever going to be okay.
10. Love is a rollercoaster.
Do you find that you can’t predict their behavior?
Are they full of love for you one minute and then ignore you or horrible the next? This on/off attraction may keep you interested based on what you expect from relationships or think you deserve based on what your subconscious is telling you. It keeps you guessing, and on tenterhooks, you may find it exciting but will drain you eventually. You can be okay with peace and calm, with the occasional issue, but it may not be what you are used to or allow for yourself.
It can lead to trauma bonding or be a sign of co-dependency – both extremely damaging.
If your relationship includes even a few of the 10 things I have listed, it shows your relationship is unhealthy for you. If you address these with your partner and are not interested in changing them, it’s time to let go and move on. You deserve better!
Be good to yourself.
John Kenny, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
John Kenny is The Relationship Guy - relationship coach, author of The P.E.O.P.L.E. Programme, documentary maker and speaker.
After living a life full of unsuccessful and toxic relationships, John has created Interpersonal Relationship Coaching (IRC) to help successful singles who struggle with intimate relationships of their own.
He has been in the field of personal development since 2004 and has helped thousands of clients to live the relationships and life that they choose, rather than the one they always have or feel they have to or should!
John will not only help you to understand why you think, feel and do as you do, but also the intricacies of deeper human behavior.