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

11 Hidden and Subtle Toxic Behaviors in Relationships

These subtle toxic behaviors in relationships can appear benign, unintentionally, as coincidences, but also as clumsiness, our partner’s personal pain, and even as protection for us. They are the most dangerous because they are very difficult to detect.

A beautiful woman thinking How To Make a Man Fall In Love With Her

To be completely sure that any of the below is happening to you, you must first meet these conditions:

  1. You must not be emotional when observing situations and what your partner (friend, family member, boss, etc.) is doing.
  2. To know what to look for, you must first determine what you’re seeking. For example, if you’re looking to see if someone is emotionally blackmailing you, you should be focused on what the signs of blackmailing are for you.
  3. You should allocate time for this. Three months is an optimal period to check if such things are really happening.
  4. Consider that your partner might be doing certain things not because they’re evil but because it’s some mechanism of theirs coming from who knows where (feelings of inferiority, past hurts, childhood habits, etc.).
  5. Consider whether you might be starting from some emotional state yourself. Perhaps you’re misjudging the situation. Try to calm down and think about it rationally. Consider it, but don’t rely too much on it, as it could blind you to seeing signs of covert manipulation in a toxic relationship.
Man and woman in toxic relationship

How to protect yourself from toxicity in relationships

These are the hidden signs of toxic behaviors relationship:


Your partner always blames you.

Here we have three instances:

  1. You feel guilty all the time. It’s your feeling, not your partner’s impact.
  2. Your partner constantly blames you because he or she is manipulative
  3. Your partner constantly blames you because he or she is immature

Your personal guilt may come from some of your previous sources (from a family where you felt guilty). Special attention must be paid to this because we can easily project onto our partner that our guilt comes from them. We try to find in their look or words that they are trying to arouse guilt in us, and that is not actually true. It’s like we’re concentrating on seeing proof of love, aggression, etc. . If we keep looking for something, sooner or later we will see it.

Sad man from toxic relationship

But if your partner always blames you because he or she is manipulative, it can come from a narcissistic personality trying to control you with guilt or humiliate you.

Another option is apparently partner immaturity, which can appear benign. However, mature relationships and agreements can’t be achieved with immature people.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Toxic Relationships

Consequences, if you find that your partner always blames you for some of these reasons:

  1. You’re always busy defending and explaining yourself. All your energy goes into this. There is no energy left for anything else.
  2. Your partner sees themselves as a victim. Which means you are their tyrant. Which means that they present you to themselves, to you, and to the world as evil. Tyrants must change. Also, you get a completely distorted image of yourself
  3. He or she doesn’t take responsibility. So, you will always be responsible for everything.
  4. Of course, sadistic tendencies can also be found there. Enjoying the fact that you make excuses, don’t know how to explain the situation and go crazy about everything.

Let me tell you: Adults are exactly where they want to be (in free relationships).

No one is anyone’s victim. The real victims are disenfranchised people. Adults who have the free will to stay or leave a relationship are in it because they want to be there. They have some reasons why they stay there (fear, need for aggression, etc.), which I will also write about.

So a good question to ask yourself is: If I’m such a tyrant and do the wrong thing all the time, why are you still with me? You’re not that selfless. We know that. And you are not here for me, but for yourself. What do you get out of this relationship of ours when you consider me like that and you leave?

Also, an important lesson: No one can be guilty all the time because it is death to your ego (not vanity, but Freud’s ego). Our ego cannot bear that we are always wrong and has to fight against it, because if it doesn’t fight, it will be destroyed.

Woman in toxic relationship

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Your partner makes you scared and worried all the time

Not necessarily about them, but about life.

If the person does not try to relax and encourage you but instead imposes a feeling of fear on you, it’s a sign of toxic behavior in a relationship. For example, if a person convinces you to be afraid and worried instead of comforting you and giving you a more positive perspective, maybe it’s manipulation or a neurotic person who transfers their neuroses onto you.

Manipulation, of course, serves to keep you in fear so that person can control you. The neuroses are beyond the person’s control and are genuine. They are often the person’s biggest problem, so he or she has to talk to others about them. They have to convince others that this fear is true (because otherwise they are crazy, right?) and work through that problem with other people. The goal is to convince people that they are right to be so scared.

And if you believe their truth (that the world is terrible), you will become neurotic.

Woman Successfully Overcome toxic relationship

My recommendation is not to stay in relationships with people who keep you worried and scared (even if it’s their characteristic and not necessarily directed against you, but that’s just how they are—neurotics).

Living in constant fear will change your personality and your life. The final derivation of fears is anxiety, and from it come other disorders: depression, psychoses, paranoia, hypochondria, etc.

This form of toxic behavior in relationships can also manifest itself through constant worry about you (you know those worried looks).

This behavior (everything is dangerous!) sneaks into our lives because it’s hard to resist a partner who is scared and so believable. Such a partner can assure us that we should be afraid of opportunities, occasions, events, people, etc.

  • A client of mine had a partner who persuaded her that driving a car is risky, traveling is unpleasant, etc. The partner was not evil, but neurotic. However, later, we spent a year dealing with these fears. Until then, unfortunately, she had lost many life opportunities and joys.
Couple in toxic relationship

What is the best way to gain self-confidence?

Making decisions without considering your input

It could be that the partner is simply quick in their decisions, frivolous, has good intentions, etc. But if your partner navigates your life in such a way that he makes a decision and then you follow, it can be hidden manipulation.

Of course, if their decisions make your life look better, then there’s no point in getting upset. Maybe your partner’s decisions are reasonable, but you don’t want to accept them out of pride or stubbornness. In that case, try to understand yourself. But talk to your partner about including you in the decision-making system, or at least consult with you. Maybe it will relax you and make you feel more important.

But if they put you in danger, then this whole concept is no longer benign. When I say in danger, I mean changes in life that can cost you in the long run, the discomfort you experience, or more concrete things (gambling, embezzlement of money, relocation without your consent, a certain way of raising children, etc.)

A beautiful woman
  • If you are just fighting against your partner, consider yourself. Why does it bother you? Do you have to win at all costs? Even if it’s not the best of you? Are you that proud, vain, or stubborn? This is not a problem, but every time you choose the worse option, you are in a worse place for yourself.
    It’s like getting ready to run and choosing to start from a worse place (say, ten meters away). Ten by ten, and you’ll end up in a worse place than where you should have been.

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Withholding Information

If you find someone keeping useful information from you and influencing your life, it’s likely toxic behavior in a relationship. Practically, the person leads you to make mistakes and to behave in certain ways. Maybe the goal is to make you feel anxious or scared. Or to change your relationship with someone else. Whatever the background is, the goal is to manipulate your life and steer you in a certain direction.

There’s a slim chance they’re doing it to protect you, but you’ll find out quickly and prevent it in the future if it bothers you.

Hiding information is always problematic because a person is led to wrong conclusions that may comfort them in the short term but, in the long run, can destroy their life.
Example: A doctor who does not honestly tell a patient that he has cancer. An extreme but picturesque example.

Black Couple in toxic relationship

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Emotional blackmail to manipulate your actions

The person emotionally blackmailing another tries to control their decisions and actions using feelings of guilt, fear, or obligation toward them. They might threaten to end the relationship, issue ultimatums, withdraw love or attention, or deliberately induce feelings of guilt to get what they want. They used your fear of abandonment to control you.

Withdrawal of intimacy is also a typical form of manipulation. Intimacy means closeness, and you can literally interpret it as the termination of closeness.

If a person realizes that he or she can blackmail you endlessly, then he will do it endlessly. This pattern has to change because sooner or later you will only do things that this person wants, so that you don’t end up in a position where they leave you. Also, the more you practice this, the higher the stakes in the relationship, and you are more changed and ready to submit.

Blackmailing must not exist, because that means you are dealing with an immature or manipulative person. Instead of blackmail, use the deal as a means to achieve your goals.

Man thinking about his toxic relationship

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Manipulative Tactics

Sarcasm and mocking are more of a passive-aggressive type of conversation that aims to humiliate you and lower your self-esteem.

You have to stop this because I have a tendency to grow into something bigger. In addition, by humiliating you, the person destroys your confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. Person lowers you, both in their eyes and in yours.

Silent treatment is about emotional blackmail and punishment. It can come from sadism or pressure to do something the other person wants. Read more about the silent treatment here.

Belittlement of all your accomplishments and attempts. This behavior questions all your goals and views, leading you to stagnation, draining your energy, and destroying your confidence. If you become diminished, that person will always be better and more successful than you. That’s why you’re under her control. It’s hard to get your turn later when you’re already used to constantly diminishing yourself in front of her.

Woman in toxic relationship

Distortions of your memories and experiences—Gaslighting. It’s almost a sure sign you’re dealing with a toxic person. Your partner may deny things they’ve said or done, distort the truth, or make you question your reality. If you feel that you no longer know what’s true, right, or wrong and your perception of reality has changed, obviously the goal is to drive the person crazy and make you question your sanity. Once it succeeds, your opinion will no longer be sought. You will not insist on it either, because you will no longer know what reality is.

Check if you often ask yourself questions like: Is it normal that ___________? (add some of your questions).

The final sign is if you wait for that person to tell you what to think.

Of course, there’s a chance you’re dealing with someone who, due to their emotional state, is self-focused, but in any case, such a person will change you in a negative way.

Man thinking

Invalidation of feelings

Expressions like you are overreacting, you are too sensitive, or you are being irrational are often used for this. Also: You nag me, you always, you’re boring… Maybe you really do some of the things he accuses you of, but your behavior can be approached in a more empathetic way.

No matter how much you do this, and let’s say your partner gets tired, there is no good reason for them to diminish your feelings. What it can do is help you understand them better or seek professional help.
But assuming you’re not over-demanding and talking about real things and your partner is using this to diminish your feelings, that’s toxic behavior in relationship.

Man and woman

So if you experience such treatment and the person’s goal is not to help you but to offend you or to make you stop talking, you’re dealing with covert manipulation.

Isolation tactics

Isolating you from good people serves to make your partner the only person you rely on and consult with. Sooner or later, you will lose all contacts. The ultimate goal of this can, of course, be the intention to spend all your resources on that partner. Your time, energy, and money. But it also turns you into a vulnerable person who is under his or her complete control. In this way, you practically have nowhere to go, not only because of shame and distance but also because of the habits that your whole life revolves around.

You can read a little more about insulation here.

Your partner can advise you and give you suggestions, but isolating yourself and insisting on separating yourself from people must be your decision. However, if you decided to separate because you were pressured (nagging, scolding, emotional blackmail, etc.), you are probably dealing with a hidden narcissist.

Man and woman break up

Constant monitoring or surveillance

Your partner monitors your activities, whereabouts, or communications. They may invade your privacy, check your phone or social media accounts, or insist on knowing your every move. The bottom line is that behind this is the threat of punishment if something is discovered that does not suit the partner. So, you live under constant pressure and stress: Will your partner reveal something about you today that you think is benign, accidental, or explainable? Will you be punished today?

It is also possible that your partner is looking for reasons to take out their aggression on you.

  • One of my clients was extremely dissatisfied with her life and had a great need to take out that dissatisfaction on her partner. Controlling him was the fastest way to get there, because there is always something that the partner can blame and that can be misinterpreted.
  • My other client, on the other hand, was not satisfied with her partner, and in this way (by controlling him), she was looking for reasons to leave him. Of course, she always found reasons (distorted, but very convincing to her).

The goal of this is to get caught. And it feels like you’re constantly in the crosshairs.

All of this can be packaged as a mutual agreement that it’s normal, but if it doesn’t suit you, trust your common sense.

Toxic couple

Unpredictable behavior

Your partner’s behavior is inconsistent and unpredictable. This can range from not being able to predict their actions (whether they’ll come to the meeting or home, whether they’ll fulfill the agreement) to not being able to predict their mood (whether they’ll be angry or in a good mood). The goal is to keep you constantly tense, and all your energy is focused on fixing their behavior or mood. The manipulation here lies in trying to stagnate you because your energy is focused on your partner and anticipating what will happen next. This is a manipulation of your time and nerves.

Your life is on hold because you don’t know what’s next and what you’ll have to deal with. Your plans are also on hold, because everything is unpredictable.

Another explanation is, of course, a complete lack of interest in you.

Woman thinking what are the qualities of a good couple?

These kinds of manipulations require special attention because they are covert and elusive. My recommendation is to completely focus on them. Dedicate attention and time to studying this, and if you conclude that such things are indeed happening, consider leaving that relationship.

But before leaving a relationship because of such things, read a few more useful articles on this topic.

How To Recognize Signs of Hidden Toxicity in Relationships?

How To Know When It’s Time To Break Up a Relationship

Can unhealthy relationships become healthy?

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