Toxic relationship: Forsome time, the term has often been used to describe a partner’s pattern of behavior in intimate, dysfunctional relationships. But it is also a diagnosis that is quickly made when love is broken or threatens to break. But how do you really recognize a toxic relationship and is there still a chance to save it? Darling + Sweetheart clarifies.


    • What is a toxic relationship?
    • 10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship
    • What are the causes of a toxic relationship?
    • Narcissism as a cause of a toxic relationship
    • Can you save a toxic relationship?


When Larissa meets Christian, the sky is full of violins. They spend every free minute together. When you see them, it’s usually only in a double pack. Even with their first apartment together, things can’t go fast enough for both of them – everything just seems perfect.

After about a year of dating, Larissa contacts us completely distraught and at the end of her strength. Because Christian suddenly shows a completely different side, often criticizes his girlfriend and seems almost choleric when things don’t go his way. The young woman herself doesn’t remember when she started to give up on herself and when she was actually really happy. All she knows is that something has to change.

Does Larissa’s story sound familiar? You may be wondering why they have been feeling so unhappy in your relationship for some time, how it could have come to this point after the initial great infatuation, and whether it still makes sense to hold on to the relationship?

To answer all these questions, let’s start from the beginning:

What is a toxic relationship?

This question is not easy to answer, because there is no such thing as a typical toxic relationship – however, there are certain behavioral patterns and feelings that make a partnership “toxic”. What a single person perceives as toxic in their relationship can be very different.

We would like to point out that toxic relationships can affect all forms of interpersonal relationships. Also relationships with parents, colleagues or friends. They are characterized by a lack of equality and genuine attachment and intimacy. In our blog post, however, we will shed light on toxic couple relationships in particular.

However, if you are wondering if you may be in a toxic relationship, you should not ignore the following warning signs:

10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Is my relationship toxic? The checklist will show you if your partnership has patterns of a destructive relationship.

  • Lately, you’ve been feeling bad more often than well.
  • Whether things are “going well” in the relationship depends a lot on your behavior; in order to be fully accepted by your partner, you have to bend over backwards and cannot be yourself.
  • Physical complaints such as sleep disorders, headaches, palpitations, gastrointestinal problems or even skin rashes occur.
  • You feel like your life has lost its lightness.
  • Your partner isolates you from friends or family and tries to control you. This is also often the case when jealousy plays an additional role in the relationship.
  • You withdraw in shame because people close to you have often told you that your partner is not good for you.
  • You will be asked more and more whether you are not feeling well. Often, outsiders notice the signs faster than those affected themselves.
  • The toxic person in the relationship has extreme emotional swings. One moment you are showered with expressions of love, the next you are put down for no reason.
  • The relationship costs you more effort than it gives you satisfaction.
  • Your gut feeling clearly signals to you that something is wrong, but you still stay because you feel responsible either for your counterpart or yourself.

A toxic love, as in Larissa’s case, often begins very passionately. The true face of the partner only reveals itself over time. The hope that it could be as beautiful as it was at the beginning makes many hold on to the relationship. If you ignore the fact that you are doing more badly than well in the relationship for a long time, you will suffer mental or physical damage. At this point, at the latest, you should rethink the partnership.

What are the causes of a toxic relationship?

It always takes two to make a toxic relationship! The causes are that two people with certain characteristics meet. Toxic people consciously choose their partners. They need someone who has low self-esteem that they can mold in their favor or who won’t resist.

! If you have determined that your relationship could be poisoned, it is also important to question your own attitude. Why did I choose this man or woman?

Causes often arise in childhood

In any case, it can make sense to deal with one’s own past or the relationship patterns that one has experienced in the family or previous partnerships. This is because we humans tend to repeat well-known patterns. For example, if as a child you were used to experiencing love from your parents only when you put your own needs in the background, you may find yourself repeating this behavior in later love relationships and having difficulty standing up for yourself and setting boundaries.

Toxic partners have also usually experienced an emotional lack in childhood and cover up their own inner weakness and insecurity in adulthood through power behavior. They constantly focus on their own needs, while those of their significant others are ignored.

In many toxic relationships, one of the two partners has narcissistic tendencies. But the relationship with an addicted or depressed person can also be toxic.

Narcissism as a common pattern in toxic relationships

“Such a narcissist!” Behind the terminology, which is sometimes quickly said, there is much more: People with a pronounced narcissistically accentuated personality (today we no longer speak of personality disorder) are the main cause of toxic relationships. On the outside, they look good-looking, charming and engaging. But inside, these people are often consumed by self-doubt. Their greatest fear is that someone might succeed in taking a look behind the scenes: because no one is supposed to reveal their low self-worth.

Sounds unattractive at first, but narcissists are excellent at captivating their counterpart with charm and “lovebombing” (many expressions of love, gifts, compliments right at the beginning of the dating phase) and gaining control over the person as quickly as possible. If the “victim” has fallen in love, criticism and blame are the order of the day instead of compliments. If the partner then threatens to leave, narcissists are not stingy with their charm as they were at the beginning of the relationship – which triggers happiness hormones in the partner again and makes them addicted to the narcissistic person. It is not uncommon for this hot-cold behavior to lead to codependency.

Can you save a toxic relationship?

Whether such unhealthy relationship patterns can be resolved cannot be answered in general. However, there are some prerequisites that increase the likelihood that the relationship can be healed and turned for the better.

  • Both partners must be willing to work on the relationship.

  • The certainty that love will be reciprocated by both sides.

  • The realization that the partnership is “toxic” and something needs to change.

  • The willingness to take responsibility for oneself and the relationship and, if necessary, to seek professional support such as couples therapy.

When it’s better to end a toxic relationship:

  • Your body and soul keep sending you clear signals that you’re finished.

  • Your partner is not insightful and does not want to work on the relationship. It remains only words that are not followed by deeds.

If you are dealing with narcissism, you need to know that this personality disorder is not curablepsychologists agree on this case. Due to the weakened self-esteem of the dependent partner, in most cases this also requires professional support to detach.

Since a toxic relationship is characterized by the fact that one or both of the two partners live in codependency on each other, it is of course easier said than done to get out of such a relationship, to get help or to work on it.

We at Liebling + Schatz are happy to accompany you in emotionally processing a toxic relationship and its consequences for your relationship or yourself. In our years of practical work, we have to deal with this again and again. If you would like our support, contact us!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

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