1. What is the Foundation of Your Relationship?: If your relationship is built on lies, control, manipulation, ego, or competition and not on trust, shared interests, love, kindness or respect, know that you have a problem. The foundation of your relationship determines the future of your relationship. Lies will persist in a relationship built on lies. Manipulation will persist in a relationship built on manipulation. Respect will persist in a relationship built on respect.
  2. When You Have to Change to Fit the Other Person’s Expectations: Change is natural part of any relationship. Intimate relationships facilitate growth and change, they don’t force it. Encouraging growth and change should be done for the benefit of the person. But if your partner is forcing you to change so that you meet their vision of who you should be, then you know you’re in trouble.  When change is forced, not done for the other person’s best interest, and defined by one partners wants, this is a major red flag.
  3. Distancer-Pursuer: This is a classic dynamic in toxic relationships where, as the title heading implies, one partner distances and the other pursues. The pattern happens when partners can’t connect in a healthy way, or that their way of connecting is unhealthy. Neither partner wants to stay, but when one person tries to pull out of the relationship (distances), the other pushes for connection (pursuer). At times the roles reverse, the pursuer becomes the distancer, and the distancer becomes the pursuer, but no matter who is playing the role, the dynamic is a toxic pattern of connection.
  4. Triangulation: When two people cannot work out their issues in a productive, healthy way, one or two of the people involved may try to build an alliance with a third person against the other person. The third person, who is drawn into the drama, will hear only side of the conflict and form a negative opinion about the other. This creates an added layer of unhealthy conflict that further complicates the initiate issue.
  5. Poor Boundaries: When people in relationships either don’t respect boundaries of others or when people do not create boundaries for themselves, dysfunction breeds like weeds in a garden. Boundaries are appropriate limits on behavior to keep people safe in relationships. Respecting boundaries requires a person to consider the wishes and needs of the other person. Enforcing boundaries requires a person to define and consistently maintain their boundaries. If this cannot be done, wounds will build up and toxicity will increase.
  6. Chaos: Toxic relationships can be measured by the degree of chaos present. Without chaos, people in toxic relationships don’t know how to behave and function in healthy ways. Chaos is all they know so they, consciously or unconsciously, create it. When there is chaos, a person may complain about it, but without it, they don’t know how to live.


About the Author: Dan Bates

Special thanks to Dan Bates from Lacamas Counseling for sharing his expertise about relationships in the above blog post! Dan is a seasoned therapist and accomplished author of the book “When Parenting Backfires: Twelve Thinking Errors that Undermine Parents’ Effectiveness.”