Are you being let down without even knowing it?
When you first meet people, they’re on their best behavior. They’ll agree with you, even if they really don’t. It can take up to two years before you see the real person. That’s why it’s important to take things slowly in romantic relationships and friendships. Until you get to know the real person, don’t get married to—or go into a long-term business with—him or her.
If you’re both pretending when it comes to your feelings and opinions, and being falsely polite and insincere, there’s no real relationship.
These are 26 signs of toxic relationships that are the most common. You should be able to recognize them and then know where to go from there.
By pointing out these harsh relationship patterns, we’re not judging the individuals involved. This isn’t about judging another person; it’s about being aware of the dynamics within the relationship.
1. He’s always interrupting you.
The person who continually interrupts you doesn’t really care what you have to say. Interrupters are people who are anxious to hear the sound of their own voice, and who are convinced that they provide the most interesting and accurate conversation.
How this relationship affects you: You begin to talk really fast to get your words in before they can be interrupted. You start to feel anxious whenever the interrupter initiates conversation with you.
How to handle this: Stop someone the first time he or she interrupts them and say Excuse me, I wasn’t finished talking in a very calm and peaceful way. If you touch the person’s arm while saying this sentence, the impact is even stronger. You’re helping the other person become aware of a habit that’s likely blocking him or her in all other relationships.
2. And correcting what you say.
Correcting is similar to interrupting, except worse. People who are prone to this behavior not only interrupt you, but also “correct” what you’ve been saying. They may point out errors in your grammar or pronunciation, like your old English teacher. Or they may tell you much more about the topic you’re discussing.
How this relationship affects you: You walk on eggshells, worried about the next mistake you’ll make. If you live with one, it will affect your self-esteem. You may doubt your own intelligence, and give your power away to the other person, because you believe that you can’t do anything right.
How to handle this: You must handle these situations head-on. By giving candid feedback to the corrector, you help him or her develop better relationships. The next time this person corrects you, take a deep breath, and say: “Sometimes I feel that you’re more my teacher than my friend. And while I appreciate you adding to my body of knowledge, I’d prefer to have conversations where it’s just us sharing our feelings instead of you trying to teach me.”
3. She likes to one-up you.
People who one-up others have done everything better than you, on a larger scale, and they want to tell you about it! Any story that you relate will be scarcely digested before it is regurgitated in a more grandiose version—starring them.
How this relationship affects you: Your body exhibits signs of tension and resentment. You feel unheard and unappreciated. In this sort of relationship, you feel lonely because it’s a one-sided conversation at all times. You also feel disappointed that the other person won’t share in your excitement or other emotions concerning the experiences you’re relaying.
How to handle this: Such people have no idea that they’re upsetting, annoying, or pushing others away with their superiority complex. They’re extremely lonely and wonder why people aren’t impressed with their accomplishments. They believe that if people are impressed, they’ll be loved and valued. Once you understand the depth of such a person’s loneliness and desperation to be loved, you can go from there.
4. And is clingy and needy.
Clingy people are insecure individuals who latch onto whoever will acknowledge their existence by giving them attention. As a caring person, you can sense that such people need love. The problem is that they’re a bottomless pit of neediness, which neither you nor anyone else can fill.
How this relationship affects you: This person has you looking over your shoulder constantly in an effort to avoid him or her. You start to feel guilty because you know that this person enjoys your company and feels he or she needs you, even though in a spiritual sense no one needs anyone as their Source.
How to handle this: It’s important for you to always tell the truth with love. So you’ll need to summon the courage to tell this person that you’re quite busy with projects and need more space. This insecure person will likely feel wounded and take your words personally, but you can’t put your whole life on hold to coddle someone.
5. Then there’s stalking.
Stalkers take the needy and clingy behavior to a whole new, and sometimes dangerous, level. Almost always, this is an ex-lover who won’t let go. He or she shows up at work, your home, or your friends’ homes, calls you, and incessantly begs you to return to the relationship. Very often, these pleas are accompanied by promises that he or she has really changed this time. If you don’t comply with the person’s wishes, the behavior may escalate to abuse or threats.
How this relationship affects you: For some people, having a stalker is a misguided boost to their self-esteem. But make no mistake, stalkers don’t love you. They want to own and control you, which is the opposite of true love. If the stalker is telling you that his or her life is ruined without you, or threatening to commit suicide if you don’t come back, you may be racked with guilt and worry.
How to handle this: Don’t give this person the satisfaction of any form of reaction. Any reply that you offer encourages him or her to continue stalking you. Have the stalker’s number blocked from your phone, or change yours if you have to. Block him or her on your e-mail and social-media sites. Have no contact with the person whatsoever. If there’s any history of violence, contact authorities and file for a restraining order. Don’t take threats lightly. Vow that in any future relationships where there’s signs of extreme jealousy, controlling behaviors, or stalking, you’ll run the other way.
6. She’s a pro at making you feel guilty.
Guilt-trippers are practically professionals at getting their way through manipulating other people. They won’t take no for an answer. They have a well-rehearsed bag of tricks they use to cajole others and get what they want. They might cry, threaten to hurt themselves, say that no one loves them, or remind you of the times that they helped you.
How this relationship affects you: You feel resentful or even enraged that you’re being pushed against your will, but you feel you have no choice but to comply with the guilt-tripper’s wishes. If you feel yourself being pushed to help someone through guilt or implied obligation, this is a sign that you’re being manipulated.
How to handle this: By facing this situation directly, you will accelerate your spiritual growth. Guilt-trippers aren’t accustomed to hearing “no,” but it’s good for their spiritual growth to have that experience. So, by telling this person no and sticking to it, without guilt or excuses, you’re giving the guilt-tripper the opportunity to have a spiritual-growth experience of his or her own. The guilt-tripper will either find another victim to harass or will realize that these methods aren’t healthy or effective.
7. And seems addicted to being angry.
“Angerholics” are addicted to being angry. They get mad at the smallest and slightest provocation, and must immediately announce that they’re angry. Such a person has a short fuse and a hot temper. He or she may inflict emotional, verbal, or even physical pain on others. Angerholics always have a justification for why they’re angry, and rarely take responsibility themselves.
How this relationship affects you: If you dislike conflict, you’re highly sensitive to the energy of anger. You therefore walk on eggshells around angry people. You do everything you can possibly think of to appease them. You may even take the blame for their anger, especially if they’re yelling that it’s all your fault.
How to handle this: Release the fantasy that you’ll find the winning combination that will finally make them happy and peaceful. Stop bending over backward and twisting yourself into knots in order to please such a person. This is a relationship that you may need to leave or distance yourself from, unless the person commits to intense therapy.
8. You can’t count on him.
Unreliable people promise to help you, but forget to follow through. They miss appointments with you, are never on time for your get-togethers, and can’t be counted on to honor their commitments.
How this relationship affects you: For the person with low self-esteem, this relationship leaves you feeling unloved and not valued. You start to think that this is your fault, and that if only you were “better,” then this person would be more reliable. For those with high self-esteem, you realize that this is an unreliable person, and it’s not your fault. Therefore, this relationship may make you angry and prone to complain about your unreliable friend.
How to handle this: With the unreliable person, you must set firm and clear boundaries. The next time the person makes an appointment with you, explain that your time is valuable and that if he or she is not there within 15 minutes of the appointed time, you’ll need to leave. You must set boundaries with the person ahead of time, or you may end up feeling like a victim—which you’re not.
9. She’s totally nosy.
Busybodies entertain themselves by putting their noses into everyone else’s business. They boost their own insecurities by taking pride in knowing the intimate details of everyone’s lives—which they will share as the latest gossip. They may even create drama among people in their circle, just so that they have more entertainment to watch unfold. That particular behavior pattern is known as the pot-stirrer. They often use subterfuge and deceitful tactics to get you to admit personal details to them, which they’ll then immediately blab to others about.
How this relationship affects you: This type of relationship may confuse you, unless you’re in touch with your feelings and trust them. If you’re new to this sort of behavior, you may mistake prying questions as being a sign that someone actually cares.
How to handle this: If you have the feeling that someone doesn’t care about you and your life but is just pressing for details to entertain him- or herself as if you’re a reality show, trust that feeling. Stop feeding the shark! Don’t share any further information about your life. When you’re asked intimate questions, the direct and honest answer is “I’d rather not discuss this.” If you say this enough times to nosy people, they’ll move on to another target. Or, in the best-case scenario, they’ll wake up and discontinue their dysfunctional and hurtful behavior.
10. And frequently grumpy.
Grumpy people are frequently in a foul mood, either due to physical pain, because of hangovers from addictions, or because they blame everyone for their unhappiness. In extreme cases, grumpiness can lead to psychological or verbal abuse.
How this relationship affects you: It’s never fun to be around a grumpy person, especially if you take it personally and blame yourself. If this individual starts name-calling or attacks you verbally, your self-esteem will be wounded and depression can set in.
How to handle this: No matter what reason a person has for grumpiness, he or she is still not allowed to violate your deal-breaker boundaries. There’s never an excuse to abuse someone with unkind words. So, state your boundaries clearly and then make no exceptions. If the person continues to violate them, you must leave or distance yourself.
11. He always blames someone else.
Accusatory people constantly deflect their own feelings of guilt onto others. They never listen to reason, and they jump to conclusions. They’re very unpleasant to be around, because they’re always causing drama with their unfounded accusations and blaming.
How this relationship affects you: If you’re not attuned to accusers’ games, you may play right into their hands. If that’s the case, you’ll accept their blame and feel guilty and bad about yourself. If you have caught on, though, you’ll understand that you’re not at fault. And your reaction will be anger, hurt, or confusion. You might engage in blaming wars, where you both hurl accusations at each other in an unending battle.
How to handle this: This person is always looking for a fight, so virtually anything you say will be put into the blender of his or her mind and turned into something that’s completely different from what you’ve said. This person is usually out of touch with reality and only listens to his or her own ego’s twisted logic. Therefore, handle the situation directly but also realize the futility of argument.
12. She’s plays the victim or martyr.
Martyrs are perpetual victims and complainers. Their view of the world is that it’s “them” against “poor-little-me.” Probably for their whole lives, they’ve felt picked on and singled out. They’ve grown up to believe that they’re especially victimized by everyone and every system. These are usually people with very low energy, bordering on depression. They’re not looking for solutions—only acknowledgment and poor-baby sympathy.
How this relationship affects you: It’s draining to be around victim-martyrs, because they’re constantly talking about the deep dark hole in which they live. At first, you’ll be shocked by how much this person has been mistreated throughout his or her life. And you might lose sleep worrying about him or her surviving in this world. But after a while, you catch on that this person has an amazingly long string of bad luck, way beyond statistical chance. You also notice that this person rejects suggestions and advice. He or she will say, “Oh, I’ve already tried that, and here’s why it didn’t work.”
How to handle this: Since victim-martyrs look for rescuers, and then eventually start to resent their rescuers and persecute them, avoid investing a lot of time in this relationship. There are plenty of true victims who sincerely want help, and who desire to improve their lives. There’s no sense in wasting time on someone who only wants to complain. Don’t let victim-martyrs tell you how you are to help them.
13. He HAS to be in control.
Controlling people need to be in charge of everyone and everything. If they aren’t in charge, they’ll act out immaturely and angrily. They’ll pout and they’ll shout until everyone bends to their will. They’re terribly unpleasant to be around, and they have underlings instead of friends or loved ones.
How this relationship affects you: If this is a relationship that you feel like you can’t escape, you’ll feel perpetually anxious around this person, particularly if it’s someone who insists on your doing everything his or her way. These are usually people who have a hidden rulebook, and if you accidentally violate one of their rules, you’ll be punished either directly or in a passive-aggressive way on their part. This could lead to dangerous abuse.
How to handle this: As an assertive person, you have an obligation to your own self-esteem to be honest and direct with everyone about your feelings. Just don’t expect to change the other person by so doing. Keep your conversations with the controlling person as brief as possible, and spend your time with more pleasant and easier-to-get-along-with people instead.
14. She can’t take anything seriously.
This person jokes instead of listening to you and diverts every serious discussion with humor, and sometimes inappropriate humor.
How this relationship affects you: Perhaps you were initially attracted to this person’s sense of humor, but it’s gotten old now. Now you view him or her as immature, and incapable of sharing deep and serious discussions.
How to handle this: Everyone has a deep side and real feelings. Perpetual clowns defend themselves against deep-seated painful emotions by staying on the surface of life. Recognize that you have a style difference, and don’t try to change this person or yourself. Assertive people recognize that not everyone is like them or even compatible with them.
15. He’s crazy loud.
There will always be those who speak and laugh inordinately loudly. They’re the loudest people wherever they go. When you try to have an intimate discussion, these individuals shout all the details for everyone within earshot to hear. They were usually raised in a loud family where they had to fight for attention.
How this relationship affects you: If you’re highly sensitive to sounds, this person’s voice may be physically and energetically painful to you. If you’re in public together, you may feel embarrassed because his or her loud voice and laughter annoy other people. You, especially, may become annoyed because you’d like a softer and quieter relationship with this person.
How to handle this: Because loud people don’t realize the effect that they’re having or believe that it’s not that bad, they need a reality check. If you deeply care about such a person and want the relationship to continue, you’ll need to tell him or her the truth. Usually someone who’s loud has a tough exterior but a delicate interior. So you’ll need to be direct enough so the person hears you, but not so blunt that you’d crush his or her insecure core.
16. She has some type of addiction.
This is a person who is addicted to a mood-altering substance such as alcohol; prescription or street drugs, including marijuana; or even socially acceptable chemicals such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, or chocolate. His or her personality changes as a result of using or not using this substance. He or she may be aggressive or lazy; have mood swings; or be jittery, anxious, or argumentative.
How this relationship affects you: Codependent people tend to be anxious, filled with guilt, shame, and remorse. They often turn to their own addictions, particularly food such as sugar or white flour, as a way of stuffing down their own feelings. They want to leave the relationship, but they feel afraid and guilty. If they do leave, they often go right into another addictive relationship until they do deep analysis of their reasons for choosing an addict.
How to handle this: If you have had even one relationship with an addict and you still harbor hurt and pain over this, or if you are currently in a relationship with an addict who is still using and abusing his or her chemical of choice, you need support. The free 12-step groups called Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon are wonderful forums for getting strength, support, and sanity. You can find Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon meetings internationally by searching for them on the web, as well as free online virtual meetings.
17. And a distinct lack of boundaries.
A person who doesn’t respect any boundaries has no sense of personal space. This individual will often “borrow” your possessions without asking, and then won’t take good care of them or won’t ever return them to you. He or she will also disrespect your emotional boundaries by offering you unsolicited advice, judgments, and opinions.
How this relationship affects you: You’ll feel a lack of control when this person is around, and you’ll want to run far away and never see him or her again. If you must have a no-boundaries individual in your life because he or she is your relative or has some other close tie, this type of person can be crazy-making. You’ll be frustrated whenever you must spend time with him or her. Such people can be lovable and show you that they really care, but the way in which they do so is disrespectful.
How to handle this: Since this behavior style was likely learned in childhood, it’s unlikely that this person is going to change much in adulthood. The best you can do is to be honest and repeat yourself about your parameters and boundaries. This person usually will hear repeated directness, even if he or she doesn’t agree with what’s being said.
18. He’s a name-caller.
Name-callers are verbally abusive, and frequently pepper their conversation with profanities. Sometimes they pretend that they’re doing this as a joke and insist that people who get offended don’t have a sense of humor. “I was just kidding!” they’ll say defensively. Other times name-callers hurl these insults and epithets with the energy of anger behind their words.
How this relationship affects you: Name-calling can hurt even more deeply than physical abuse, especially for someone who has a sensitive, trusting, open heart. The wounds from verbal abuse can last a lifetime and result in low self-esteem or addictions, which are used to cover emotional pain.
How to handle this: Verbal abuse is never okay in any circumstance. If the person calls you a name one time during a heated argument and then sincerely apologizes and doesn’t repeat the behavior, this relationship may heal. However, if the verbally abusive behavior continues, you need to seek help and support from a trusted person, counselor, or support group. The sooner you receive help and support, the greater your likelihood of coming through this experience strong and healthy.
19. And completely inconsiderate.
Rude people are always texting when you’re trying to have a conversation with them, take another call when you’re on the phone with them, and look at other people instead of you when you’re talking.
How this relationship affects you: If you’re related to the rude person, you might feel emotional pain that his or her behavior signals a lack of love or respect for you. If the rude person is a friend or romantic interest, you may have fantasies about telling him or her off or leaving the relationship.
How to handle this: Although you might argue that there’s nothing you can do to change a rude individual, this is a perfect example of the fact that you are honest for the sake of honesty, and not to change the other person. You’ll gain in personal strength and confidence by having an assertive and frank conversation about how you deserve and need respect and attention from the people in your life.
20. You are betrayed over and over again.
A betrayer breaks your heart and your trust by engaging in hurtful behaviors such as infidelity, flirting with others, lying to you, or exercising extremely poor judgment.
How this relationship affects you: Since the foundation of relationships is trust, discovering betrayal is devastating. It makes you question yourself and your reality.
How to handle this: For most people, betrayal is a deal-breaker. If it happens one time, and you feel the relationship is worth salvaging, you can both become closer as you analyze and work on the reasons why the betrayal occurred. Know that you deserve relationships with people who honor commitments because they have high self-esteem and know that doing the right thing is part of taking care of themselves and the relationship.
21. She talks smack behind everyone’s back.
A gossiper talks trash about everyone, and perhaps you have participated in that gossip with this person in the past. But then you discover that this “friend” is also gossiping about you behind your back.
How this relationship affects you: You’re surprised or even shocked that this person, who complains about everyone, is now complaining about you. You believed that you two were a united team who mutually found fault with others. You’re left with feelings of disbelief and betrayal, and wonder how your judgment could be so off as to trust him or her.
How to handle this: As with all other relationship issues, assertive honesty is healthy for you, although it may or may not change the other person. Someone who gossips is usually addicted to the drama it brings. No more handing out juicy bits of information about your life. This means that you’ll have to be guarded around the person, which will ultimately distance you from him or her.
22. And never cares what’s going on in your life.
In a one-sided relationship, the other person only talks about him- or herself, and never asks how you’re doing. The minute you start talking about yourself, the other person leaves or ends the conversation, or pulls the topic back to themselves.
How this relationship affects you: You feel unimportant, as if you don’t matter. In this relationship, you’ll feel lonely, and “not good enough” to warrant the other person’s attention or affection. Until you catch on to the fact that this person is self-absorbed, you may chase after his or her attention and affection.
How to handle this: In most situations, there’s no possibility of relationship growth into a mutual friendship, because such people aren’t open to hearing any dialogue except for the part they contribute. In the ideal outcome, you have an assertive talk with the individual, telling him or her your honest feelings about how you value your relationship and you’d like it to continue under a new dynamic of equal sharing and equal listening. The point of being honest is that it’s healthy, not that it will change the other person.
23. Can you say “drama”!
With drama kings and queens, you spend hours on the phone, counseling them and giving them support; however, they never take your advice. Such people have one dramatic problem after another and only want to complain, without taking any steps to heal the situation.
How this relationship affects you: This relationship leaves you feeling drained of time . . . and patience. In the beginning, you’re flattered that this person is confiding in you. But soon, you catch on that the phone calls are never-ending sagas paralleling a daytime soap opera. That’s when you start to avoid his or her calls.
How to handle this: As an assertive person, you have to confront the situation directly. Avoiding phone calls is a passive way of handling this. Complaining about this person to others is a passive-aggressive way of handling it. The only healthy way to deal with drama queens and kings is to tell them that you’ll be holding them in your prayers and wishing them well, but you have a lot of responsibilities that you must spend your time on. And then stick to this.
24. You’re always taken advtange of.
Keep your wallet or purse close to you when you’re with opportunists, because they’re constantly trying to figure out how to get money, free gifts and lunches, and anything else that they can extract from you.
How this relationship affects you: Confused, frustrated, and drained is how you’ll feel around people who take advantage of you. They’re experts at manipulating others into feeling obligated to pay for everything. Even though you may promise yourself that this time will be different, once you’re with the user, your wallet starts to come out. You hear your mouth saying that you’ll help this person with this or that.
How to handle this: There are many games you could play in an effort to have a more balanced give-and-take relationship. However, remember that dysfunctional situations such as this one are opportunities to grow. So, once again, it’s a matter of making an appointment to talk with the person directly and honestly.
25. And given backhanded compliments.
Someone with a barbed tongue insults you, but not directly. What he or she says hurts, but you can’t directly pinpoint why. This person gives “left-handed compliments,” which are insults disguised as compliments. As an example: “You look so much better in that dress than the last time I saw you wearing it.” Huh? What does that mean?
How this relationship affects you: You’ll have an immediate physical reaction of pain when this person talks, because you can energetically sense that he or she is hostile. Yet you may feel confused, because your brain is trying to track the person’s words, and they just don’t add up or make sense. He or she may claim that “it’s just a joke” or “you’re too sensitive” if you say anything about his or her stinging words.
How to handle this: If someone repeatedly barbs you with left-handed compliments, it’s time to question whether this relationship can continue or not. If it’s a close relative, such as your mother or sister, you’ll always have that person in your life in some form. If this is the first time there has been a miscommunication, you can discuss and resolve the situation fairly rapidly. However, if this is a chronic pattern or if the person becomes defensive or dismissive of your feelings, it’s time to question or leave the relationship.
26. You never get a word in edgewise.
When you have a conversation with big talkers, it’s as if they never breathe. All they do is talk and talk and talk, and it’s never your turn. If you say anything, your words are immediately run over and crushed by their dialogue, which is really more of a monologue. When this person calls, you could set down the telephone receiver and walk away. The person would still keep talking, because he or she is not cued in to the other person.
How this relationship affects you: This type of relationship will leave you frustrated every time. Your needs of being heard and listened to aren’t being met. If this is a friend or distant relative, you’ll probably find yourself avoiding him or her, especially telephone calls, which can be very uncomfortable and time-consuming with this type of person.
How to handle this: Set the parameters at the beginning of each conversation by saying, “I only have fifteen minutes to talk before my next appointment,” and then adhere to this strictly. Say, “I’ve got to go, love you, ‘bye,” and then hang up. If you wait for the chronic talker to give you his or her blessing that the call is ending, it will never happen. He or she will always say, “Oh, and one more thing.” You must initiate and follow through with ending the call.