How to Know If You Are in a Toxic Relationship

Inside: How to know if you are in a toxic relationship using characteristics from the Bible as a guide. And if so, how to find freedom from a toxic relationship.

Do you know the signs of a toxic relationship? 

Many are sure they’d never get involved in a toxic relationship but single mothers are often the first to fall. While we don’t want to let that stop us from dating again, it’s good to know the warning signs of a toxic relationship. 

The earlier you can recognize you’re in a toxic relationship the easier it is to get out. 

A toxic relationship is, by definition a relationship with someone who is emotionally or psychologically and possibly physically damaging to the other person. 

A toxic relationship is usually one we think of with a significant other. But sadly, it can also include friends, co-workers, and even family. 

Some toxic relationships are ones we can escape, and some we have to learn how to protect ourselves as we live or work near the toxic person. Walking away for some may not be feasible. 

For this article, we’ll look at romantic relationships in which you have the power to walk away. 

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Signs you’re in a toxic relationship and need out now:

You Feel Crazy

You feel crazy when you’re around the other person.

This insane feeling is also known as “gaslighting.” For an excellent explanation of gaslighting, I suggest listening to this episode of The Complicated Heart. In summary, gaslighting leaves you feeling like:

  • You begin questioning everything you thought you understood and believed. 
  • The toxic person in your life asks you questions that make you doubt yourself.
  • You feel like everything is your fault. 

Do You Recognize Yourself?

If you look back at yourself before you knew this person, you don’t recognize yourself. And not in a good way. Ask yourself, is this who you want to be? Are you doing the things you love to do? Are you growing into the person you want to be?

Related: Top 13 Books To Read When Recovering From A Breakup

You’re Getting Shut Out

The toxic person in your life is shutting out other people and activities in your life. You find you have fewer friends, you don’t attend church or at least your church anymore, you stay home more. 

Secrets

You begin keeping secrets for this person, and you’re not sure why. 

A toxic person will often begin by asking you to keep secrets to control who you talk to and what you talk about. 

If your toxic partner finds they can control this about you, the door opens wider. 

Related: Dating as a Single Mom: 8 Things You Need to Know

You don’t tell anyone about the secrets you’re keeping or the uneasy feeling you have about your relationship. You may not even be sure why you aren’t saying anything, maybe it’s because you can’t put your finger on anything conclusive, but regardless you keep it to yourself.

toxic relationship

Your Relationship with God

You begin to feel cut off from God. A toxic person isn’t going to encourage you to have a relationship with God; much less prioritize your relationship with God over them. 

Finding Freedom from a Toxic Relationship

In the book, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People, by Gary L. Thomas, the author suggests looking at the Bible’s list of characteristics and holding your relationship up against them. 

As an example, we’ll use Galatians 5:19-23, which describes the fruit of the Spirit and the way of the flesh. We’ll examine this passage, and you can consider your relationship in light of Galatians to determine if your relationship is toxic.

Galatians 5:19-23 talks about the fruit of the Spirit and the way of the flesh. 

 The fruit of the Spirit is life, while the way of the flesh is death. Death doesn’t always mean physical life death. It can also mean the end of friendships, of a future, a career, or more.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23

Fruit of the spirit = life

Using the traits from the fruit of the Spirit ask yourself the following about your relationship to determine if it’s a relationship of the Spirit, of life:

  • Do you feel loved in your relationship?
  • Is there a sense of peace in your relationship?
  • Does your significant other have patience for you and you for them?
  • Is your significant other kind to other people, even those he dislikes? 
  • Is there honesty between the two of you?
  • Are you faithful to each other? 
  • Is your partner gentle with you?
  • Does your partner exhibit self-control?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

Galatians 5: 19-21

Fruit of the flesh = death

Using the characteristics listed in Galatians 5:19-21 ask yourself the questions below about your relationship to determine if it’s a relationship of the flesh, of death:

  • Is there sexual sin in your relationship? 
  • Is there indecency and indulgence in your relationship?
  • Does either of you look to the other as an idol instead of God? 
  • Do either of you worship a god other than Christ, or do you lack joint worship to God?
  • Is there hatredangerfighting, or jealousy in your relationship? 
  • Must you drink to feel comfortable around your partner?

What does it mean if I answered “yes” to a toxic relationship?

If you’ve answered yes to the majority of the acts of flesh questions, it may not necessarily mean you’re in a toxic relationship. 

You’ll need to ask yourself how many toxic traits are you bringing to the relationship? Is this a relationship that should be salvaged, does it honor Jesus? If there are children involved, it’s worth seeing a counselor or pastor. 

Leaving a toxic relationship

Support System

If you already know the answer is that you need to leave the relationship, be aware you will need support.

The toxic person in your life won’t make leaving easy on you.

You don’t owe the other person an explanation. The toxic person won’t be willing to listen to your reasoning unless it’s to get ammunition to use against you. 

Whether your support includes a counselor or close friends or both when you decide to exit the relationship, have your support nearby. 

Prayer

Don’t overlook the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit to guide you through your most difficult moments.

Self-care

Pay attention to your emotional, physical and spiritual needs when ending a toxic relationship. It’s vital you don’t neglect yourself and make yourself an easy target to fall back into your relationship.

How to Know If You Are in a Toxic Relationship