Signs of toxic relationships: something every teen should know

Dr. Lillian Glass, expert in human behavior psychology, defines toxic relationships as “Any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” They can make you feel constantly depleted, drained, and sometimes distraught, especially if a victim to multiple toxic behaviors [Source].

Healthy relationships can definitely have their hiccups, but constant toxicity is a different story. These toxic signs can occasionally occur in all relationships, even the healthy ones. However, if there are reoccurring signs, boundaries may need to be set and evaluated.

Common toxic behaviors that can be seen as warning signs for a toxic relationship include abuse, isolation, manipulation, and keeping score.


Abuse is probably one of the most common sign thought of. Abuse of any kind is unhealthy and detrimental to any relationship. Abuse can take place is many forms, such as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual.

Examples: Hair pulling, throwing objects, forcibly grabbing body or clothes, touching without permission, forcing you from leaving or going, calling names/put downs, intentionally embarrassing you or starting rumors, yelling, threatening you, others, or even harm to your possessions or pets, hurtful texts, and blaming. [Learn more at Love is Respect]


Manipulation, a common sign of toxicity, is the act of influencing or controlling someone unfairly. Manipulation is not always a conscious act. Manipulators can be oblivious of their manipulation on others, while others may be consciously strengthening their manipulation techniques.

Example scenario: Constantly checking-in or excessive texting, preventing or discouraging you from seeing or speaking with friends or family, expressing jealous behaviors of your interactions with other people, using online platforms to control, intimidate, or humiliate you, looking through your phone to “check” your activity, pressure to send explicit texts, and telling you who you can or can’t be friends with. [Learn more at Love is Respect]


Isolation is primarily because of two reasons. One, to keep the victim away from anyone who they may leave the isolator for. Two, to keep the victim from anyone who may influence the victim to set boundaries or leave the aggressor. Isolation can be detrimental to someone’s mental health and is extremely unhealthy.

Example scenario: They insist on occupying all of your free time, they create the illusion that it’s “us” versus the world and that they are the only one who truly “loves” you. They make it difficult to spend time participating in other activities. [Learn more at Break the Cycle]

Keeping a Scoreboard

If your significant other is constantly bringing up past shortcomings or failures, it could be toxic, especially if it is to excuse their own faults or to not be responsible for their actions. Keeping score can cause an unhealthy imbalance in the relationship.

Examples: If someone reminds you constantly previous mistakes or negative situations as if to keep a scorecard of who is the better person.

If you or someone you know is in a toxic or abusive relationship, tell a trusted adult.  If you are unsure who that would be, you can always talk to your school counselor.  We will always use discretion and get the student help.    

Ms. Tuck, Cherokee High School Counselor

Many believe that all toxic relationships have no chance and are doomed, but some may be saved. But with that comes a big if. The only way these relationships can be saved is when both partners are equally committed to overcoming the toxicity. If there is no change overtime, the toxicity still may be too much to overcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s