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Is your relationship toxic?

Is your relationship toxic?
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What is a toxic relationship? It’s when you and your partner engage in behaviour that is emotionally and sometimes physically damaging to one another on a frequent basis. Keep in mind that it takes two people to make a relationship toxic.

You have a major superiority complex

You have a major superiority complex
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Having a superiority complex could be a sign of a toxic relationship waiting to happen. Contemptuous people destroy relationships because they see their partner as inferior. Rolling your eyes, curling your lip in disgust, or using a sarcastic tone with your partner are just a few telltale signs of a toxic relationship. “Contempt is degrading,” says Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, developer of A Psychological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT). “It says, ‘You’re an idiot.’” In fact, University of Michigan researchers surveyed 373 newlywed couples and found that couples who screamed at one another, showed contempt, or withdrew themselves from conflict within the first year of marriage were more likely to divorce.

Learn the 14 things you should never say to your spouse. 

You’re a master manipulator

You’re a master manipulator
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If you find that you’re always trying to manipulate things it could be a sign of a toxic relationship. It’s no secret that compulsively lying to your partner is detrimental to the success of your relationship, but gaslighting takes it to a whole other level of destruction. Gaslighting is when you accuse your loved one of being crazy or paranoid to keep them off your trail of lies in a toxic relationship. “It’s a triple threat when you withhold information, lie about it, then gaslight your partner and make them think it’s them,” says Dr Tatkin. “They’re damaging the relationship irreparably.”

Here are the 12 subtle signs that you have a cheating spouse. 

You’re a Debbie Downer

You’re a Debbie Downer
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People who are insecure tend to sabotage a perfectly healthy relationship by over-analysing every kiss and word or harbour irrational fears that their partner wants to break up. If you or your partner has these thoughts it could be a sign of a toxic relationship. Studies suggest that individuals with low self-esteem may be more likely to expect rejection from their partner and avoid behaviours that risk rejection, like telling their partner how they truly feel, than individuals with high self-esteem. If you show these signs of a toxic relationship, it may be best to take a break from the relationship to work on yourself, unless your partner is willing to help you work through your self-doubts. “The key to change this is to surround yourself with positive people who care for you and value you,” says Sadie Leder-Elder, PhD. “Spend your time with friends and family and not new relationships.” Do something that makes you feel good about yourself like a new exercise class or volunteering at your local animal shelter.

You’re always threatening to break up

You’re always threatening to break up
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No one likes to waste their time and energy arguing, but you can’t draw the break-up card every time things get tough. If you do, that’s a sign of a toxic relationship. Threats of taking a break or ending the relationship aren’t going to solve anything and are signs of a toxic relationship. “People use threats as a way to get their partner in line,” says Dr Tatkin. “People should never threaten the relationship unless they intend to get out. It’s only valid if you mean it and do it, otherwise it just damages the safety and security of the relationship.” Instead of using threats to get your way, walk away to cool down and think rationally before you start spouting off erratic thoughts that you may regret later.

You may think these relationship habits are loving, but they are actually doing damage. 

You’re hot-headed

You’re hot-headed
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You may find it doesn’t take much to get your blood boiling and that could be a sign of a toxic relationship. One wrong move and suddenly you snap and blurt nasty remarks you don’t mean. “You continue to have these cycles of anger, remorse, shame and provoked anger without understanding,” says Sari Cooper, a licensed clinical social worker. “You have to look at yourself and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’” Dr Cooper suggests journalling when you feel your anger emerging to figure out the cause or “taking your temperature” on a scale of 0 to 10. If you know you fly off the handle at a 9, try to figure out how you feel at a 2 and then pinpoint what aggravated you to bring yourself down to a calmer state. When you reach a 6 or a 7, take a time out to gather your thoughts and emotions. If you don’t, you may skyrocket to that dreaded 9.

Of course, some arguments within healthy relationships are quite typical. Here are 13 normal fights that even happy couples have. 

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You never fix problems

You never fix problems
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If you neglect to nip problems in the bud, they’re just going to fester and blow up in your face down the road, which can cause your partner to resent you. Something in our brain called the negativity bias may be to blame for this resentment because our brains are more likely to remember the negative aspect of things, according to Dr Tatkin. In fact, research has shown that adults tend to use negative stimuli more than positive information to help them learn, form first impressions of others, and make sense of their experiences. This may be because the amygdala, the emotional processing centre of your brain, tends to be slightly more attuned to negative emotions because they’re often a bit more intense than positive ones. “If you never apologise or admit that you’re wrong and make things right, your partner will accrue a host of negative memories related to being unfairness and injustice,” says Dr Tatkin. “That will break the relationship.”

You’re addicted to social media

You’re addicted to social media
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We’re constantly on Facebook and Instagram snapping selfies and posting statuses without a single thought about the consequences. But studies show that engaging in social media can create ambiguity in the relationship, which can cause jealousy and spiral into signs of a toxic relationship. That may be because you’re posting scandalous selfies, neglecting to post about your relationship, or flirting with exes and random strangers on the Internet. “Letting technology get the best of you can make you accidentally be the toxic one in your relationship,” says Dr Leder-Elder. “Your desire for other people to validate you may cause unnecessary jealousy in your relationship.” It’s best to sit down and talk with your partner about how social media could play a role in the success of your relationship.

You’re losing friends and relationships quickly

You’re losing friends and relationships quickly
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If you find that you’re only spending time with your significant other and your other relationships have fizzled, it’s probably a sign of a toxic relationship. Take a step back and look at who surrounds you. Do you have family and friends or have you burned a lot of bridges? If so, you may want to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re the problem. “A lot of people who are engaging in these bad behaviours don’t realise that they’re bad behaviours,” says Rachel Sussman, a licensed clinical social worker and marriage/family therapist. “You can’t come up with a game plan if you don’t know what’s wrong.” Try calling a friend or an ex to ask where things went wrong so you can see the error of your ways.

Here are 14 secrets to making friendships that last forever, according to lifelong friends. 

You only think about yourself

You only think about yourself
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Narcissists are extremely self-serving and feel no remorse when they hurt others, which makes them difficult to be around. “You’re only aware of what your partner does to you and not aware of what you do to them,” says Dr Tatkin. Narcissism is a behaviour that’s difficult to overcome, but it can be done if you identify that you’ve treated others unkindly and are self-serving in relationships. The first step to changing any behaviour is recognising you have a problem and finding ways to resolve it.

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– The Reader’s Digest team