11 Signs of a Highly Toxic Partner


Thinking you have a toxic partner? Maybe they give you a long, drawn-out sob story that always ends the same; you have to go along with what they wanted in the first place.

You may come across blatantly annoying people, but a toxic partner is not always easy to spot. They never reveal their intentions beforehand because they don’t want people to discover them. Some would call them masters of disguise who can blend into a crowd without difficulty.

Toxic partners aren’t necessarily like the evil villain in a movie. Those are easy to spot. They don’t want to dominate the world with their powers of destruction. Instead, they walk around with the rest of us mortals with a distinct lack of empathy for people.

You couldn’t quite describe them as psychopaths or sociopaths. Instead, they betray and use people without even thinking about how much it hurts the person.

And when you have one so close to you, such as a family member or a partner, it makes their actions even worse.

Do you have a toxic partner? Here are some signs of a significant other who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

1. Toxic Partners Need Constant Validation

Not only do toxic partners need constant validation, they demand it from you. If you have friends or family members who require attention all the damn time, you understand just how exhausting it can be. Imagine if it was your partner. Now, imagine if it was a live-in partner or a spouse.

Building someone up 24/7 is an extremely tiring chore and is incredibly draining. Plenty of people need attention, but it becomes a toxic trait when that validation comes at the expense of your energy. It’s harmful when they put you down to make themselves feel better.

If your partner exhibits these characteristics with others, it’s only going to be a matter of time before that negative energy turns in your direction, so beware.

Please don’t misunderstand; we all need encouragement and validation sometimes, especially when we get into a difficult headspace. But there is a difference with those who require verification and approval almost every single moment of the day.

Although some people have mental health matters that create a need for attention, that’s not the case for toxic partners. For them, it’s more about thriving off constant praise to feed their ego. That regular need for recognition is a solid toxic trait that can hurt you and others as they seek additional validation.

2. Toxic Partners Give You the Guilt Trip

Does it always feel like your partner is trying to provoke you into an argument? They always ‘devils advocate’ you no matter what the topic is. Regardless of what you say, they must point out the extreme opposite.

Your partner may be toxic if you are guilt-tripped regularly over small things like what to eat for dinner or which movie to watch.

They’ll guilt trip you all through their sob story or bring up a past argument as a tactic to emotionally manipulate and, in some cases, abuse.

Stop brushing aside those guilt-tripping incidents, even if they started from minor issues. Any guilt trip is still a manipulation tactic, and many toxic individuals frequently use them to get what they want.

They can make the manipulation appear as if they’re joking, which makes it more challenging to detect their agenda.

It’s never appropriate to attempt to influence decisions when you drag up the past or leverage your own sympathies, even if passed off as a joke. Unfortunately, when they get away with it and keep getting away with it, they’ll be able to find a new source of guilt to continue their toxic behavior.

3. Toxic Partners Lack Empathy

Empathy, or the ability to place yourself in someone else’s position, is a vital human trait that allows people to understand (or at the very least commiserate with someone else’s feelings.) People who don’t show empathy are often described as sociopaths.

This may be an extreme overreaction, but those who don’t empathize are considered toxic and will likely end up hurting your feelings intentionally or unintentionally.

If you constantly explain to your partner why they should care about another person, it’s a massive red flag that your partner has possible future toxic behavior patterns.

Studies show that some disabilities, like autism, can make understanding and practicing empathy harder. But that’s a different scenario than willfully refusing to empathize or even try.

If you’re dating someone who struggles to understand why a person feels the way they do or adamantly refuses to consider other people’s perspectives, that’s toxic behavior. It’s concerning behavior when they outright dismiss the calls for empathy.

Even with differing opinions, non-toxic people can consider someone else’s viewpoint. However, toxic people refuse to see the situation from another side because they are unwilling and don’t care.

4. What Boundaries?

All relationships need boundaries, but toxic partners ignore yours, whether friendship, romantic or even workplace. Boundaries are a healthy way to be sure you keep yourself safe while communicating your expectation to your loved ones.

However, one major flaw in most toxic people is a lack of respect for anyone else’s boundaries but their own. Suppose your partner is regularly violating your limits. In that case, they’re demonstrating a lack of respect for you as an individual and a sign that they are maliciously toxic.

You may figure that tolerating their violation of your boundaries will make like easier for you. It may initially, but eventually, your partner will likely violate more significant limitations in the future.

Boundaries aren’t the same for every relationship. They vary from person to person and depend on behaviors, personal values, traditions, and more. What matters is that each boundary is appropriately communicated and agreed upon.

For example, if you tell your partner not to call you after ten on the weeknights because you work early shifts, the expectation has been set.

If they turn around and call you on Tuesday night at ten-thirty and then get mad at you because you didn’t answer, that’s a violation of your boundaries and is considered toxic behavior.

5. Toxic Partners are Always a Victim

One major characteristic of toxic individuals is the inability to apologize for their bad behavior and the consequences. Why? Because it’s never their fault. Ever!

They avoid responsibility by continuously playing the victim in every situation, even the ones they create.

For example, your partner hurts your feelings, and you point that out to them. Instead of sympathizing with how you feel, they turn it around and point the finger back at you by painting you as the aggressor of the situation. They may go as far as admitting to what they said, but according to their reasoning, they only said it in retaliation to what you said first.

Toxic people love to play the victim, but it can be harmful in the long run because it’s very close to gaslighting, which is considered abusive behavior.

Unfortunately, some people can become defensive when called out for their problematic behavior, whether it’s hurting someone’s feelings or more dangerous behavior like making racist or misogynistic comments.

When they become defensive, it often shifts into attempting to turn the situation around and paint the person who was hurt as the aggressor. If your feelings are constantly hurt, but you’re the one that’s regularly in the doghouse, you are likely dealing with a toxic individual.

The victim mentality is a challenging behavior to change since merely discussing the topic of the action elicits more of their “I’m the victim” reaction. Sadly, you may have to cut your losses regarding this toxic individual.

6. You’re Left Feeling Exhausted after Being with Them

Did you ever have a friend that left you feeling drained after every encounter with them? It didn’t matter if it was on the phone, in person, or via text. Every time you talked to them, you felt like your spirit had left your body.

Some people refer to people like this as “energy vampires” because they suck every bit of ‘fuel’ out of them.

Healthy relationships should feel good and fulfilling. Of course, you’ll have disagreements and arguments, but the overall relationship should be in a healthy space that makes you feel better when you’re in it.

But a relationship that leaves you feeling drained or exhausted is the exact opposite, and it is worth finding out if their toxic behavior is the root cause. Someone who needs constant validation, gaslights you, or is jealous of everything you do can make anyone feel drained.

So if anything about your relationship feels like it’s depleting your energy, it’s worth it to figure out if toxicity is the cause of those negative emotions.

7. Toxic Partners are Rude to Service Workers

Watch them at a restaurant when they think no one is looking. Does your partner talk down to the server to their face? Do they talk about them when they walk away? Do they put on a superior attitude toward service workers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have a toxic person on your hands.

They may put on their best behavior when you’re around, but eventually, someone will tick them off, and then the truth will come out, so watch how they interact with service workers like wait staff or baristas. They’re often incredibly cold or outright abusive to workers they see as their servants.

Consider how you’d like to be treated in one of those service positions and watch to see if their behavior matches. This is critical to watch on a first date because you’ll want to know if your date exhibits toxic behavior before investing too much time and energy.

Do they refuse to make eye contact with the wait staff? Do they demand things without adding a please or thank you? Do they make cringe comments to and about attractive staff? Do they speak to them condescendingly?

If there’s any attitude toward a service worker that makes you feel uneasy, take note because that’s a major red flag that this person will eventually make you uncomfortable.

8. Toxic Partners Refuse to Share Their Entire Life Story

Toxic people can spend hours getting to know every part of your life, but you will never know everything about them. The focus is always on you and not on them.

You’d think that would be a good thing, but it’s not. They only want to focus on you because they want to know more about you so they can manipulate and control you.

They understand that once a person knows your background, it’s simple to use and hurt you. People looking to use you want to know where your pressure points are so they can utilize them to their advantage.

The more they know about you, the more they understand your insecurities and where they originated. Learning all about you allows toxic partners to hit you where it hurts the most.

Unfortunately, once they have all the information they need, you’ll be in a vulnerable state and at their mercy. For them, knowledge is all about power, and toxic people never want to relinquish that power.

They refuse to level the playing field by divulging all the information to you that you did to them. Instead, they’ll hold on to their story and may even fabricate an entirely new life and hand it to you on a silver platter.

Additionally, they never tell people the same story. Each person gets a different version.

A genuine connection is with someone who feels comfortable enough to be vulnerable. It’s that vulnerability that helps you learn about and care for someone.

Instead, toxic people don’t want you to learn anything truthful about them because they want (and need) complete control.

9. Toxic Partners are Constantly on the Defensive

We’ve already mentioned playing the victim, which is a significant way of being defensive that toxic people use to control people and the situation.

However, it’s not the only way. If your partner is constantly questioning you by asking things like “What do you mean by that?” they may be showing toxic behavior.

A person always on the defensive is closed off and will never allow you, or anyone else, in for any intimacy. When you’re defensive, it can be a response to previous trauma, so it can be worth it for you to help them work through that.

However, no one is entitled to your emotional investment or time, so that’s a choice you’ll have to make.

Never allow people constantly on the defensive to take away your joy or gaslight you. Some stay defensive to avoid being accountable for their actions and often use other tactics like gaslighting to help them. Sadly, that behavior is considered toxic and has no place in a healthy relationship.

10. Toxic Partners Are Jealous of Everything

If you’re in love with someone or care about them, you should be happy with all the great things that come their way. Whether it’s a new car, a new job, or just that you’re now in a good place, your partner should be glad to see you so happy.

A toxic person doesn’t see it that way. They’re always displaying signs of jealousy of any good thing that happens to others, including you.

They also don’t want you to spend time with other people and get jealous when you do. This can be emotionally damaging because you can’t understand why they feel this way, and quite frankly, it hurts you that they do.

Don’t allow a jealous partner to suck the joy out of all the good things that are going on in your life. No one has the right to all your time and attention, including your significant other.

Loved ones should lift each other up. They shouldn’t discourage you from taking opportunities or celebrating your successes because they’re jealous of them.

Additionally, any partner who attempts to limit your contact with others because they’re jealous doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

It’s natural to feel some envy over something incredible that happens to someone else, but a devoted partner will put that jealousy aside and support you no matter what.

11. Toxic Partners are Only Around During the Good Times

Life isn’t all about getting from point A to point Z in a straight line. It’s filled with twists and curves that can derail you. The good news is if you have good people in your corner, you can get through it.

The bad news is that toxic people aren’t interested in hitting all those cliffhangers and potholes with you.

They’re not interested when you can’t give them the happy-go-lucky partner they’re used to. Instead, they want to join in on the ride when your life is on a high and bail out when things get too bumpy.

For instance, they’ll be around when you have money flowing in. However, they disappear as soon as the situation gets rough around the edges. Of course, you’ll hear from them again as soon as you’re back on top.

Final Thoughts

You may be with a toxic partner and not even realize it. So take a good hard look at this list. If you can cross off more than five traits, you may need to reconsider your situation. However, ending the relationship may not be necessary, but communication is.

Have an open and honest discussion with your partner. No one’s perfect, and if they’re trying to be better, maybe you can stick it out.

However, if they’re not interested in making you happy, it may be time to move on, and that’s OK, too. Good luck!

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