Two Asian woman gossiping at a coffee shop.

No one is exempt from having to navigate toxic relationships. As long as people have different values and goals, there will always be an imbalance between individuals. These relationships –founded on conflict and control –can keep you from reaching your full potential. If you suspect you’re in one, read on for the signs and the types to watch out for.

Signs of Toxic Relationships

How do you differentiate toxic relationships from those that have regular struggles? What’s the difference between healthy arguments and harmful ones? Toxic behavior has many manifestations, but there are four major signs, according to Dr. John Gottman, author and founder of The Gottman Institute.

Criticism –Sometimes, can be supportive and helpful in the other person’s growth. But in a toxic relationship, it’s generalized rather than addressing a specific issue, and can escalate into character assassination.

Contempt – Contempt can manifest as aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior. These are that can include mocking, sarcasm, eye-rolling, scoffing, or sighing.

Defensiveness – When someone is criticized frequently, they can resort to defensive behaviors or even attack the other person preemptively.

Stonewalling – According to Gottman, stonewalling is the final sign that a relationship is in trouble. This is when one or both parties tune out or act busy just to avoid talking or addressing issues. It’s usually a response to the first three behaviors.

Toxic People That May Be Holding You Back

If you’re in a toxic relationship, you may feel trapped and unable to be your own person. Your sense of self, including any dreams or you may have had, can take the back seat or completely fade away. It may keep you from evolving or make you delulu and think you’re right where you need to be. Are you in a relationship with any of these characters?

The Love Bomber

Love bombing is influencing another’s behavior by using excessive flattery and affection, especially at the beginning of a relationship, notes a . The research notes that this practice is more common in narcissists with low who want to have the upper hand in the relationship.

A person who is being love-bombed may feel special, even “chosen.” When the attention is taken away, they may feel the need to surrender control to avoid being abandoned. This is common in romantic relationships, but it can occur between a job recruiter and a desperate job seeker. 

The Bully

According to the , bullying is the ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships. A bully can be an individual or a group that repeatedly causes another person social and/or psychological harm. They can perform these acts online or in real life, which is why they can be quite difficult to differentiate from regular disagreements or fights.

This toxic relationship can diminish your self-esteem and make you feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious, notes the American Psychological Association. If you have someone in your circle who is constantly humiliating you or using their power to get their way, start establishing boundaries. When you feel ready, you can stand up to them or turn to someone you trust for support.

Turning to self-care also helps . Stay on top of your and brush your teeth regularly with closeup Gel Toothpaste with Antibacterial Zinc Menthol. With regular use, it removes 99.9% of bacteria and keeps your breath fresh for up to 12 hours.

The Gaslighter

A gaslighter distorts your reality and forces you to question your judgment and doubt your own experiences. This is someone who minimizes your feelings, always finds a way to blame you, and discredits you in front of others. Gaslighting can occur at home, in the workplace, or within romantic relationships. You may even gaslight yourself by thinking things like, “I’m just being too sensitive,” or “I’m making a big deal out of nothing.” 

can result in anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At work, it can make you question your performance, tiptoe around your co-workers and managers, or feel excluded.

The Freeloader

Being in a relationship with a freeloader may not be as bad as being bullied or gas-lit, but it’s still toxic. For some reason, an adult relies on you for financial support, and you feel like you must comply. Although they don’t have the upper hand in terms of power, a freeloader can use the same manipulative tactics as the characters above. They may use your history as leverage and make you feel guilty.

It may seem easy to break free from this relationship, especially if they are close friends and family. You don’t really dislike them, but you don't want to tolerate them. So, what do you do? Communicate your expectations and be firm (but not hostile) when you say“no.” You’ll feel a lot lighter and even empowered once you do.

Toxic relationships can occur in various intensities. Putting your foot down early on can save you a lot of trouble, but if you can’t, turn to people you trust or talk to a professional for tailored advice.