Signs a Relationship is Becoming Toxic

by Mar 21, 2019

If you are in a relationship where you’re not accepted for who you are; you aren’t treated with respect; your boundaries are ignored; you are being manipulated, mocked, humiliated, and even victimized – you need to know – the Lord doesn’t approve of what is happening.

There are warnings signs a relationship is becoming toxic. But what does that even mean?

Toxicity indicates poison is present. We’re quick to deal with toxicity in the environment. But toxicity can permeate every area of life, including thought processes, words, and even relationships.

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Leads to Toxic Relationships

Raised in an environment of abuse, it feels normal to be disrespected.

Let me give an example.

I was dating this cute guy. One day he said, “I love you and want to know you better.”

Without skipping a beat, he added, “But there’s something you need to change. First, you’re just too fat. You need to lose weight.”

My heart sunk.

“The second is your curly hair. You need to do something about it.”

He said he loved me but disapproved of my body. I felt shamed but longing for his acceptance, said, “But God made my hair this way.”

“Yes. Well, I hate it. It needs to be straightened. Why don’t you iron it or something?”

I felt small. My spirit was crushed. Needing his approval, I failed to listen to my gut instinct. To please him and earn his love, I began to iron my hair.

Let’s be clear. We didn’t have flat irons for the hair. I literally put my head on the ironing board and ironed it with a clothes iron!

That’s crazy!

His expression of love was manipulative and illegitimate. Insecure, I believed it was legitimate.

Have you experienced a relationship where a person expressed love or support and then suddenly cut you down? That is toxic!

Here’s the bottom line. The more you try to please someone, the more toxic the relationship becomes.

Seven Signs of a Toxic Relationship

1. A toxic person doesn’t accept you as you are.

You will never be quite good enough.

2. A toxic person uses words to control you, make you feel accused, ashamed, or guilty.

Their words may be flowery but hide anger and will be wielded as weapons to control you.

3. A toxic person skillfully manipulates you to do what they want.

Your clarity is undermined as your choices are overridden.

4. A toxic person disrespects and overrides your boundaries.

Skilled at maneuvering around boundaries, they easily violate you, then make you believe you wanted and deserved those violations.

5. A toxic person demonstrates entitlement.

They feel you owe them; taking what belongs to you is their due for honoring you with their presence.

6. A toxic person makes you look bad in public.

As the butt of their jokes, mockery and scorn, they rob you of your dignity and make you appear to be the bad person.

7. A toxic person targets you with the goal to victimize you.

As a predator, they target you, groom you, then engage in acts of violence to humiliate you.


No one has the right to treat you with disrespect.

The person who found fault with my appearance disrespected me. To focus on appearance was to refuse to see who I really was. He only cared about externals – specifically how he wanted me to look.

His insulting words diminished me as he sought power over me.

Because I failed to stand in the wonder of who God created me to be and tried to earn his love, I gave him authority to determine my identity.

Disrespecting me, he defined me as fat and unacceptable. Accepting that limiting belief gave him power to shape my identity and take wrongful authority over me, and enabled him to objectify me.

For months I abused my hair to please him,  causing my hair to crack and break. At the salon, the stylist told me the only remedy was to have my hair chopped off.

Choices bring consequences. Abuse leaves a wake of brokenness that can’t simply be fixed. My hair wasn’t the only thing damaged by that toxic relationship.

Toxicity undermines your confidence. If you listen to toxic words, you will allow yourself to be abused.

The only way to heal is to cut off the toxic relationship.

Learn to Respect Yourself

Growing up in an abusive situation, you don’t see anything in yourself worthy of respect. Like me, you learned to disrespect yourself.

The Bible is clear. We are to respect all of humanity.

You may ask why? Because each person is created in God’s image. That includes you!

This is when you will hit a snag. Learning to respect yourself is counter intuitive. It feels safe to put yourself down and ignore your gut warnings.

The reality is deep inside you know if something is illegitimate. God gave you an inner radar, an inner warning system to help keep you safe and protect you from toxic relationships.

Don’t second guess yourself. Make the decision – if your gut warns you – you are going to listen!

Spirit to Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a Person who loves you just as you are.

He wants to protect you. He doesn’t speak to your brain, because that’s where we believe lies that seem logical.

The Spirit speaks to your inner person – to your spirit. He says you are acceptable. Listening to that inner voice will help make you wise and safe.

Jesus respects your boundaries. He is a gentleman; He never forces you.

Therefore, it’s right to expect those with whom you associate to respect your boundaries.

The Lord wants you to stand in your true identity.

So what’s the solution to test the sincerity of the person you’re establishing a trusting relationship with?

Set a boundary.

Smile. Put your hand up. Say no.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, but set a boundary. And keep it! Maybe say no, then walk out of the room.

How the person responds tells you about their motives and character. Healthy people listen with respect and honor your boundary.

A toxic person will follow, trying to manipulate you to change the boundary. If he can’t get you to budge, he may become punitive.

That is toxic.

His motive? He disrespects you. He is not trustworthy. Be careful; you are moving forward into a dangerous place.


The Holy Spirit loves you. He meets you in your place of need and brokenness, not with rebuke or censure, but with words of kindness.

He says, “I love you with an everlasting love. Therefore with loving kindness I draw you to myself.”

His love is unconditional! He doesn’t give a list of things you must do to be loved. But in the midst of your mess – He reaches down to comfort you.

His motive? He sees you as a precious treasure, worthy of love and respect.

Dear Heart

If you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t treat you with respect, move slowly. Don’t give your trust or your heart away.

Adverse childhood experiences that haven’t been dealt with will cause you to believe lies. Lies enable others to trash your identity.

The tragic consequence is you become complicit with them in their toxicity. You allow them to rob you of your freewill to choose to become who God says you are.

Let me reassure you.

* You are worthy of being treated with honor and respect.

* No one has the right to make you feel guilty, ashamed, or to violate your boundaries.

* Choose to seek the Lord. Allow Him to love you.

God bless you, keep you, and enable you to walk in the wonder of who you are.

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