Toxic Relationships: Signs Of A Toxic Relationship & How To Deal With Them

In 2018, Oxford Dictionary chose their word of the year:


Which was pretty apt as it seems like the word (especially recently) has been thrown around like hands in an abusive relationship.

Someone does something you don’t agree with? Toxic. Something doesn’t match up with your ideas? Toxic. McDonald’s cashier forgot to include your order with fries? Toxic.

And don’t start with the prevalence of cancel culture that makes every past mistake you’ve ever made completely “toxic” and unredeemable.

Seemingly, the word ‘toxic’ has become so overused & oversimplified that it has become actually quite toxic.

This isn’t a think piece to rant about the word but to also examine how its liberal usage of the word has made it become a scapegoat excuse to exit relationships that might be unhealthy but aren’t by definition toxic. Which really doesn’t help victims in real abusive and toxic relationships.

So let’s take a look at what makes a relationship toxic & how to handle it (without necessarily leaving).

What Makes a Relationship Truly Toxic?

Toxic relationships are tricky to detect akin to poisonous unscented radiation filling up the air without us realizing. When we talk about relationships that are bad for us, it’s pretty easy to spot the obvious ones: ones that are physically abusive, ones that leave noticeable damage & scars but really the most toxic relationships are the ones that get to our emotions. It leaves us with very little to no self-esteem and energy because of how draining it is.

Healthy relationships don’t do that: they should add to our lives and definitely not subtract to it.

So be aware and let’s determine the subtle personalities of a toxic relationship poisoning while slowly working our way up the more obvious ones.  

Types of Toxic Relationships Personalities

1. The Bully

Who hasn’t dealt with a mean person in their life before? They call you names, make fun of your hobbies & interests and generally make you feel like big ol’ poop about who you are and what you do. But in terms of a relationship, your partner should never belittle you even if they don’t agree with your choices. There’s always a kinder & more empathetic way of helping you make the better decisions and it’s certainly not by chipping away at your self-esteem.

A Bully’s famous lines: “Why can’t you take a joke?” “You’re so sensitive” and my personal favourite: “I’m trying to make you into a better person.”

2. The Volcano

Just like volcanos found in an island, you never know when this one’s going to erupt and how badly… All humans get angry but the majority of us know how to deal with it or at least know it’s never meant to be taken it out on anyone else. Usually, if you’re with this type, you tend to tread carefully with every word & interaction you share with the Volcano, fearing a violent & sudden outburst.

A Volcano’s famous lines: “YOU made me react like this.” “If you didn’t do this or that, I wouldn’t have gotten so angry.” And “*Bunch of incomprehensible screaming, shouting & yelling*”

3. The Guilt Tripper

Ever felt coaxed into doing something you didn’t like out of the fear of disappointing someone or because they made you feel bad for not doing so? That’s a clear sign of guilt-tripper! Doing something you’re clearly not comfortable with isn’t a symbol of your comprising nature but rather a symbol of their non-respectful behaviour towards boundaries. Yes, in a relationship you will do things you don’t want to but an example is: Going to your partner’s friend wedding when you’d rather stay at home VS Isolating yourself from all your friends because your partner “just doesn’t like them”.

A Guilt Tripper’s famous lines: ”Do you know how much disappointment and devastation YOU’ve caused when YOU couldn’t do X for me? and “If you really loved me as you said, you’d do X for me (disregarding if it’s potentially harmful)

4. The Child

This isn’t just your typical clingy partner who might want to see or talk to you often. But rather someone who always puts the decision on you. Hey, it’s okay if you’re the more decisive one in the relationship but it starts turning toxic when your partners start putting the responsibility on you for each choice’s outcome.

A Child famous lines: “See because you picked to go Restaurant X, now we’re stuck waiting in line for an hour.” “Movie X was such a letdown, it’s because you chose it that we had to sit through such a bad movie.”

5. The Possession

When you’re treated more of an object and less of an actual human being, that’s when you become their possession. In the beginning, their jealousy & distrust might seem cute and even “romantic” but as time passes by, every step & move you take is observed and scrutinized. Suddenly a trip to the nearest convenience store renders you a bunch of accusations of cheating. Damn, I just wanted a Slurpee or hugging a childhood friend gets you called a whore. Really? We’re both straight females.

The Possession’s famous lines: “*based of no actual evidence* You’re a cheater/liar/insert suitable synonym” “You made eye-contact with the waiter while ordering, I know you’re going to cheat.” “You’re not allowed to have any friends of the opposite gender, I don’t trust you.”

After reading through the toxic personalities, do you recognize any in yourself and your partner? Fear not if you do because here at Woke, we’ve got just the list to help you out.

How to Deal with a Toxic Relationship

1. Talk to them.

Well, this strongly depends if your partner has some sort of self-awareness and won’t go into a fit of rage (referring to The Volcano) when you decide to bring this matter up. However, if that’s the case, we strongly advise you to just leave. A partner that can calmly discuss this matter with you is definitely a partner more viable to change. So really reflect on what kind of person they are and decide for yourself if it’s worth talking to them. Plus sometimes we don’t realize we’re toxic until someone points it out. So if you think your partner’s being unintentionally destructive, it might just be worth talking to them.

2. Seek help

What if YOU’RE the toxic one in the relationship? Hey good on you for realizing, that’s actually the first step in becoming better. The easiest way to do it is by asking trusted friends & family members for help such as keeping you accountable for your words & actions, ensuring they check up on your progress and making sure your behaviours do not escalate. 

The real end to it:

Realistically, all relationships need work and won’t be easy all the time. But again if it’s seriously hindering you from living life and instead of being an occasional issue (which is normal for all relationships) then we at Woke suggest leaving. Toxic relationships get to your self-esteem making it hard to leave your partner especially if you have codependency issues but please realize relationships make you yearn for the next day instead of making you dread it. If you find it hard to do it alone, seek a friend to be by your side as you take that first step or seek mental health services in Malaysia. It’ll be painful at first and you’d definitely feel regret but just know the feeling will pass and you’ll come out the opposite end much happier. 

Katricia Lum
Katricia Lum
Will write for iced blacks and Panadols. Also if I'm not hunched over my laptop trying to meet deadlines, I'm most definitely sleeping.







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