On Your Mind

Is My Relationship Toxic? – 4 Questions To Ask Yourself

By Gabi Powell Jillian LoPiano, MD Heidi Conlin, MS, LPC Claire Lempert Niyell Ascencio, MA, LPC-A

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The butterflies. The fuzzies. All those on-top-of-the-world feels! *Ahhhhhhh*

Healthy relationships embody positive energy, acceptance and respect – it’s no wonder connection makes us feel so good!

Of course, even the healthiest relationships aren’t all butterflies and fuzzies. But when a relationship begins to compromise your wellness, you need to take those yellow flags, red flags and uncertain feelings seriously.

Betties, relationships are complex and identifying the line between healthy and toxic can be a bit blurry. We want you to have the tools to spot unhealthy relationships, so you can cultivate and nourish healthy connections with partners, present and future.

So, what do we mean by toxic?

Toxic relationships are defined by the volatility within it: lots of highs, lots of lows, mood swings and shifting emotions.

To quote pop princess superstar Katy Perry,



Katy Perry's Hot N Cold chorus lyrics

You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down
You’re wrong when it’s right
It’s black and it’s white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up


Betties, the truth is, Katy is calling out the drama-loaded relationships that are normalized in culture – we see them in TV shows, movies, and in the scandalous, celebrity gossip. But what works in Hollywood doesn’t bode well for thriving relationships or individuals IRL. If your relationship is characterized by these back-and-forth interactions, you might have a toxic relationship on your hands.

Right now, some of you might be feeling anxious as you are reading this, which means you have become aware of the red flags. Becoming aware is the first step of acceptance and taking the next step.

Action time!

Time to take a relationship pulse check.



Is there a lack of trust and support for and/or from your partner?

Couples clash. But how you and your partner communicate and handle conflict resolution speaks to its health status. When there’s friction, do either of you jump to conclusions? Are disagreements talked out and dealt with? Do you feel respected and listened-to? Do you trust each other – words and actions? These questions can help you step back and evaluate any problematic patterns.



Is there a power imbalance within the relationship?

All relationships require some give-and-take, that mutual teamwork is what makes them so vital to our growth and wellbeing! But a relationship dominated by one party’s control is not a partnership. This may look like seeking permission to engage in certain activities, “rules” placed on one partner but not reciprocated by the other, one partner always compromising out of fear of losing the other, etc. If a relationship does not empower one another to make autonomous decisions, a power imbalance is at play.



Have you noticed any changes in your mental or physical health?

Where healthy relationships generally bring out the best, toxic relationships do the very opposite.



You can thank serotonin and dopamine in part for those feel-good sensations.

Dubbed the “happy hormones,” these two neurotransmitters play a fundamental role in regulating our mood and boosting feelings of pleasure + well-being.


Riding the relationship rollercoaster of bad, to good, to really-bad, to just-okay, is, *whew* emotionally exhausting! So it is no wonder the chronic stress of a harmful relationship can manifest itself in the body – increased fatigue, fogginess, migraines, weight changes, and menstrual alterations. Our “happy hormone” levels decrease, making us feel stress, sad and possible more anxious. Toxic relationships can also have out-of-body effects on social health, causing a Betty to isolate from a healthy support system, which fuels a dependency on the partner and the relationship.



Does your partner refuse to care for their mental health?

A partner with a mental health condition DOES NOT inherently create a toxic relationship. However, a partner unwilling to deal with a possible mental health condition can bring instability and massive complexities to a relationship, because of rapid and, often unpredictable, behavior shifts.

If you suspect your partner might have an undiagnosed mental health disorder, communicate directly to understand their mental wellbeing  – what they are doing to manage it and their willingness to seek treatment. (If you fear that conversation, see Red Flag #1.)

Mental health management should always involve a professional, Betties. Your responsibility within a relationship is to define and communicate your own boundaries and only provide support for a partner who is enrolled in respecting those boundaries.


Only you can answer these questions and decide whether to stay or disengage from a toxic relationship. And TBH, toxic relationships can be very difficult to leave because the chaos and instability that distinguish them is often mistaken for passion. But your wellness is not worth the compromise, Betties.


We’re here for the health of your whole self – mentally and physically.

If you suspect you’re in an unhealthy relationship environment, book a Betty’s counseling appointment. Our providers can talk you through the ins and outs of healthy and toxic partnerships.


However, if you are experiencing any physical, emotional or sexual abuse, seek help immediately.











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