Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

Is My Partner Toxic, Or Am I?

As a rule, toxic people do not question themselves, which means that you are probably not the toxic person in the relationship.

But of course, it is possible that you have a need for toxicity or that you are doing some things that make the relationship worse.

Man and woman in love

Many people come to me for consultations, wondering if they made a mistake with their partner (they even come fully convinced of it and full of guilt).

However, this is exactly how toxic people work: they convince the other party that they are to blame for the whole situation that is happening.

  • That’s why this article is a bit long, but if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, you can skip right to the end, where there’s a list of toxic relationship behaviors.

But what I want to tell you is that it is less likely that you are toxic if you are wondering about it. Just on the list of those signs of toxic behaviors, you can see that one of the signs is not taking responsibility. So if you are here, maybe you should read this article in a different context.

Who is the toxic person in the relationship?

In order to understand the whole situation, you must first understand this dynamic.

In toxic relationships, there’s always a shared dynamic, or, as they say, “it takes two to tango.”

How did this work? One partner feels the need to engage in toxic behavior; the other person participates in this. Let’s say one partner is more toxic towards others and the other towards himself.

Toxic behaviors (or Freudian aggression):

  • open aggression,
  • passive aggression,
  • the role of the victim,
  • leaving and returning to the relationship,
  • humiliation,
  • trapping the other person in the relationship, etc.

You can read more about toxic behaviors here. But in order to maintain this dynamic, both partners need to participate, each with their own needs.

Why do I say needs. Because people who are in such relationships are satisfying their needs in such a relationship. One for aggression against others, and the other for aggression against oneself.

Indian couple

Both the one and the other needs (to be aggressive towards others and to receive aggression) arose sometime earlier. Possibly in childhood.

It is possible that the person copied a model of behavior from someone and is now aggressive, or that they were subjected to aggression that they got used to and now they need it.

The bottom line is that there is a shared dynamic here and that both partners satisfy the needs of the other party.

In the event that only one person is toxic and the other does not need or cannot withstand that toxicity, the relationship cannot survive. So, if you are in a toxic relationship, it can be said that you are toxic in some way. Either to yourself or to another person.

  • I’ve had many clients in my practice who accepted and participated only in toxic relationships. It’s wrong to say they wanted it because it doesn’t happen at a conscious level but rather at a subconscious one. These people were unhappy because of it, but they pursued such relationships.
Man and woman breaking up

I must also emphasize that toxic relationships often involve serious manipulation of emotions, thoughts, actions, psychological states, etc.

A person who has a greater need for a particular dynamic provokes the other person until they become their victim or tyrant.

For example, someone has a strong need to be a victim for some unknown subconscious reasons. He will provoke the other person until he becomes a tyrant

  • I remember a case of a woman who psychologically provoked her otherwise peaceful husband until he hit her. After many conversations, she admitted to me that it turns her on. The underlying reason was that she felt guilty and needed to be punished. She had the impression that her father was punishing her. Yes, our mind is a complex place.

Either way, if you’re in a toxic relationship, you’re not there by accident.

An openly aggressive / toxic behavior

This is the simplest type of toxicity and the easiest to recognize. As I said, the person probably learned such behavior somewhere or realized that this behavior brings them some benefits. She or he shouts, insults, blackmails, threatens, intimidates, etc., and thus keeps the partner in a subordinate position.

Man and woman

In this dynamic, the only problem is that partners often ask themselves: Did I cause it somehow?
If it is a part of one’s character, it is not at all necessary to provoke it. Those qualities simply have to come out of the person, and he or she has the need to shout or insult others from time to time.

Covert aggressive / toxic behavior

We tend to traditionally assert that toxic people lean towards open aggression. Aggressive and openly toxic behaviors are easy to recognize, and the recommendation is always to steer clear of them. However, passive aggression is equally toxic. In passive aggression, for example, there’s the role of the victim, silence treatment, disdain, etc.

You can read more about hidden toxicity and how to recognize it here.

Although we tend to sympathize with victims, to think that someone who’s silent is hurt and offended, you must understand that such individuals often control others with their behavior and keep them close. Thus, we recognize this as toxic behavior.

Man and woman

Also, don’t forget that the victim has a need for their tyrant (to be able to remain in the role of the victim). Although we feel sorry for them, if they are free, adult people, it means that they are there of their own free will.

The need for toxicity is treatable, and if you find yourself in such a dynamic, be sure to turn to a professional to help you recognize where that need is coming from.

The third option: Person feels like a victim and behaves like a tyrant.

One of the hardest things to recognize is when someone has been a victim all their life, and because of that, they tyrannize another person. The victim always has the feeling that they are somehow mistreated. Even when they turn into tyrants. They usually turn into tyrants because they can no longer bear the thankless role they find themselves in.

A person can feel attacked all the time and claim, without lying, that he or she is defending themselves. And this can be a completely honest state of mind. However, because the person is completely focused on their pain and hurt and is only concerned with their feeling that they are being abused, they are completely oblivious to the fact that they are now abusing another person.

How To Recognize Hidden Toxicity in Relationships?

  • An example of this (again from my practice): In her early years, the girl’s father insulted her. When she grew up, she interpreted everything as an insult because of traumas from childhood. Because of this, she claimed that her partners were insulting her even when it wasn’t happening. And in that way, she hurt them by convincing them that they were bad people.
Man and woman breaking up

This is an example of when the inner feeling and the outer behavior are oppositely different. A person feels like a victim but has actually become a tyrant.

This cannot be solved until the person recognizes themselves and this dynamic.

Therefore, toxic relationships are characterized by:

  • Both partners participating in them, each in their own way
  • Manipulation of emotional and psychological state
  • A person can be openly toxic (more easily recognizable)
  • Person can also be covertly toxic (more difficult to recognize)
  • A person can feel like a victim and act like a tyrant

Each of these variants aims to establish control over the partner. In extreme cases, the intention behind this is psychopathic and an attempt to destroy the other person.

Narcissistic individuals are most prone to toxic behavior.

They play three famous roles (Karpman’s triangle): victim, tyrant, and rescuer, so their toxicity is difficult to grasp.

Indian couple

Usually, the dynamics start with the rescuer (the person gives something needed to the other person, helps them, supports them, gives them gifts, etc.), then it transitions into the role of the tyrant, and when the other person can no longer endure the tyranny, it transitions into the role of the victim.

The rescuer’s first role is to bind the other person to them, so it must be considered toxic because it’s manipulative behavior. The role of the bully does not need to be explained, and the role of the victim is also toxic because it serves to keep the person in the relationship. Because of this, toxicity is difficult to grasp because it doesn’t always look the same and isn’t necessarily aggressive. It’s covert in two roles and overt in one.

Try to concentrate on whether one of you is in these roles.

Different sources of toxic dynamics in relationships

Signs of a toxic personality

  1. Manipulative behavior: a person does everything to reach their goal.
  2. Constant negativity: the person acts as if others are responsible and need to improve their mood.
  3. Lack of empathy: there is no attempt to understand the other person.
  4. Controlling tendencies: a person wants to manage someone else’s life and make decisions about it.
  5. Chronic lying or deceitfulness: the intention is to achieve one’s goals at any cost.
  6. Inability to take responsibility for their actions: a very weak personality who is just trying to get by. Aggression is also possible.
  7. Jealousy or possessiveness: the intention is control over another person and their life.
  8. Frequent gaslighting or emotional manipulation: disinterestedness and humiliation of another person
  9. Difficulty respecting boundaries: narcissistic or even sadistic tendencies
  10. Pessimism and cynicism: background is an attempt to make the other person afraid or listless.
  11. Emotional volatility or outbursts: intimidation and keeping another person stressed
  12. Chronic criticism or belittling of others: concealment of self and aggression towards another person.
  13. Passive-aggressive behavior: fear of actively confronting a person, so aggression is manifested passively.
  14. Entitlement mentality: try to convince the person that they owe us something
  15. Self-centeredness or narcissism: egocentricity and the belief that we are more valuable than others.
Man and woman are fighting

If you recognize some of these signs in yourself or your partner, one of you is toxic and the other is participating.


Read more articles about toxicity in relationships:

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Toxic Relationships

How to Protect Yourself From Toxicity In Relationships

How To Heal From the Toxicity In Relationship: 5 Steps

11 Hidden and Subtle Toxic Behaviors in Relationships

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