8 Toxic Relationships that Feel Like Love (Red Flags)

There are some relationships that make you think, “why are you even together?”

As an outsider, it seems so obvious to you that the relationship is toxic and they would be better of with someone else. But it’s not so obvious to the person in the relationship – and may have not been so obvious to you when you were in a relationship that others thought was not good for you, or goin nowhere.

Difficult or toxic relationships do not at first appear to be toxic or dysfunctional because most people tend to see and believe what they want to see and believe about the other person and the relationship.

In some cases, the people involved in these toxic relationships are in so deep that what to some would appear toxic feels normal to them. Something about the toxicity of the relationship feels so familiar, even safe in a twisted kind of way.

See if you can relate to any of these types of toxic relationships:

1.  The “Parent-Child” Relationship

People who get into parent-child relationships have an intense need to recreate or compensate for the relationship they had with their own parent.  Regardless of the psychological reasons behind this kind of relationship, the “re-parenting arrangement” reinforces the dysfunctional and toxic behaviour carried on from childhood, e.g. yelling, silent treatment, enabling, manipulation, etc. You know this is not how a healthy relationship should be, but you have no idea how to make it right, or even want to make it right.

2.  The “Martyr” Relationship

This is where someone sacrifices and gives up everything, including their mental/emotional well-being all in the name of love.  In your desperate need to be loved, you give and give, and nurture and nurture to a point where the relationship is unbalanced and unhealthy. Because you believe that being “a martyr to love” makes you a loveable person, you tell yourself your love is unconditional but actually it is very conditional and selfish. Even when the relationship is abusive, you feel that you must really love this person to sacrifice and give up everything, though you can’t understand why you’d love someone who treats you badly.

3.  The “Change Agent” Relationship

Most people who get into these relationships are convinced on some level that they can really make the other person a “better” person. Even faced with the reality that the other person will not change, you can’t accept and break free of the illusions of the “power to change someone” that you have created. In some way you actually feel “responsible” for the other person, and see leaving as abandoning them.  But as they say, a man who marries a woman to “educate” her falls a victim to the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to “reform” him.

4.  The “Sponsor” Relationship

In this relationship, one person provides financial security and the other person feels obligated to the person who pays the bills. The only reason you are still in the relationship is because you:

  1. have the obligation to support the other person,
  2. have no other way to support yourself or
  3. both of you feel entitled to the “investment” you have made in the relationship and won’t let the other person eat their cake and have it too.

Because the relationship is more about money, the only thing you seem to agree on most of the time is the colour of money. It is the currency of communication, sexual intimacy and whatever else.

5. The “Exotic” Relationship

People obsessed with “exoticness” and “foreignness” often confuse love with a fetish. They seek out a man or woman specifically because thy are from a certain race, religion or culture; or because they’re obsessed with a particular accent, look or other characteristic associated with someone from a particular race, religion or culture etc. Even though the relationship feels fulfilling and exciting in many ways, almost all of your fights are about race, religion or culture.

It’s always about one or the other feeling lonely, isolated, unconfident, unloved, or like the “outsider” — especially around the other’s socio-cultural networks.

6. The “Rebel” Relationship

Rebel-type daters choose a partner, who is exactly the opposite of everything their families and friends would want for them.

You may be angry with your parents, family or friends and trying to get back at them for being racist or homophobic, or you may be attempting to establish your own identity different from the identity of your family or friends, but if you get a kick from watching your parent’s, sibling’s or friend’s reaction to your partner more than you actually get from the relationship, the relationship is simply “entertainment” and your partner a pawn in your reality TV Show.

7.  The “Social Network” Relationship

This is when one or both people get into a relationship to have access to the other’s social circle, widen their social circle, or advance themselves up the social ladder.

At first glance, everything looks “picture perfect” but a deeper look reveals that you are a mere extension of a calculated social equation. Though this is a touchy subject that neither of you necessarily wants to talk about, one or both of you somehow manages to never let the other person “forget” who is dating up or dating down, who married up or married down the social ladder.

8.  The “Friends Without Benefits” Relationship

This kind of relationship is usually based on a great friendship; a close and mutual bond cemented by many years of being each other’s best friend. The sexual attraction/chemistry may or may not have been there in the initial stages, but you feel obligated to stay with each other because you see eye to eye in almost all areas of your lives.

Though there is no sexual attraction between the two of you and you are not even physically sexually intimate, one or both of you feels jealous and rejected if the other is sexually attracted to someone else and feels betrayed and hurt if the other even mentions that they have unmet sexual needs. You feel that if you don’t feel like having any or aren’t getting any, neither should they!

Bottom line: When we have toxic or dysfunctional relationships with others, it means we have a toxic relationship with ourselves.  Remove what you view to be a toxic person from the relationship, and you are left on your own with only the mirror to look at.

In other words, relationships are nothing but mirrors of ourselves reflecting back to us the healthy/good and the ugly/unhealthy that’s already in us. Removing the “toxic person” from one’s life without removing the “toxicity” within oneself that attracted the “toxicity” in the other is only removing the mirror.

Committing yourself to really let go off old patterns of relating is a better alternative to pining for your last love and waiting for your next heart break.

RELATED: Is Your Ex An Avoidant Or Just Not Interested And Doesn’t Care?

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  1. says: Paige

    I feel like my relationship with my Ex fit into more than just one of those. And I still want him back. Wasn’t like that in the begining though

  2. says: Karen

    He wants to go back to his ex wife. he’s not sure if he really wants too.. he has dated other women before me and told them the same thing.

  3. says: Honeybird45

    #5. The “Exotic” Relationship
    I think some people need to stop caring so much about what other people think. I married my first husband because he fitted the “traditional” mold. The marriage was the worst 8 years of my life. This time I intentionally went for someone who does not fit the “traditional” white conservative male my parents and friends expect for me. He is of a different race, religion and culture, and guess what? It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in a relationship. I still have to constantly think about what I say/do because I am afraid that something would be taken the wrong way but I see it as being a huge part of love.

    1. Honeybird45, I’m happy for you for taking responsibility for your own happiness.… 🙂

      I personally happen to believe that you should be with someone you love and who loves you back regardless of race, religion or culture. I know tons of people dating/in relationships/married outside of their own race, religion and culture and very happy and fulfilled. Differences in race, religion and culture are usually not a problem if two understand and relate to each other’s differences and/or compromise those differences in ways that ensure their longevity with each other.

      The toxicity I am talking about in this post is a dynamic within a relationship and not about what outsiders think. It is where the driving force behind the attraction is race, religion and culture etc. The person who selects based on race, religion or culture does not make an effort to appreciate/acknowledge the uniqueness of the individual they are with. And the other person may be aware that they are only ‘loved’ for their race, religion or culture.