Is It Love Or Is It Toxic?

A therapist helps you discover the hidden meanings in your relationship.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | August 11, 2022

It's quite common for therapists to hear clients say things like, "But my relationship was so great in the beginning, what if it goes back to that?" or "What if they're an amazing partner to someone else? What if it's just me and I make them act this way?"

In this article, I'll talk about three signs that should cause you to stop and re-evaluate your romantic partnership. I know it's something that isn't always easy to do, but if you're going to take your mental health seriously, you can't shy away from having difficult conversations with yourself and with others. One thing that just about every psychologist will tell you is that the road to psychological well-being is never an easy one.

One sign that should prompt you to re-evaluate your relationship is if you're the only one compromising

Yes, compromise is inevitable in most relationships. And, yes, it is honorable — but to a degree. Because compromise needs to be a two-way street. If you're the one who is constantly changing your plans to accommodate your partner and making concessions to accommodate them, that's a HUGE "Houston, we have a problem" red flag.

Not only is it a problem when you're significant other isn't making compromises of his or her own, but it's also problematic when they reject your occasional need to stand your ground.

Let me give you an example of this.

Let's say one day you decide to take some much-needed me-time, perhaps you opt not to attend a family event that his or her side of the family is hosting.

First of all, that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It's called having healthy boundaries. But if your partner expresses displeasure with you because of this decision, that's a sign that they are not only asking you to do the lion's share of the compromising, but they're also reluctant to accept your boundaries, even — or perhaps especially — when you rarely exercise them.

Now, one thing to keep in mind here is that we aren't always the most objective judges when it comes to sizing up who is making more compromises in our relationships. One classic study, for instance, asked married couples to estimate the percentage of household chores they completed. Suffice it to say that the percentages almost always exceeded 100%. There were a few instances where both the husband and wife claimed to be doing 80% or more of the household chores!

Try to be honest and objective in your assessment of responsibility-taking and compromising. And, if you feel like there is an imbalance, bring this to your partner's attention. Sometimes, working with a couples' therapist can help restore things to their proper balance.

A second sign that you should re-evaluate your relationship is when you find yourself repeatedly excusing your partner's problematic behavior

Sometimes our loved ones may behave in a manner that is unethical and/or potentially harmful. These situations require us to be completely honest with our partners and ourselves — but it is possible that we fail to do so because we love them.

While part of this is our desire to accept our partners for who they are, blemishes and all, another part of this leads us down a much less psychologically healthy path. Research has found, for example, that when we excuse our partners' transgressions and unethical actions, we actually take on some of their guilt, embarrassment, and shame. In fact, we might experience more guilt around their actions than even they do.

A third sign that you need to re-evaluate your relationship is when one partner starts thinking about the other partner in terms of how 'useful' they are to them

In a perfect world, we choose to be in a long-term relationship with someone because we love them, plain and simple. Alas, perfection does not exist. We choose to enter relationships with partners based on a variety of factors, such as the status of the family they belong to, how they can help us achieve our goals, and other perceived financial, material, and sexual perks.

While considering someone as a resource isn't wholly wrong, it can be a problem when it is the foundation of one's relationship. Because, in essence, what is happening is that one partner is objectifying another and only staying with them as long as they're helpful to them.

And the truth is, no one will be "useful" forever. We're setting ourselves and each other up for a lot of disappointment when we go down this path — regardless of whether we're on the giving or receiving end.

If you feel like this is something you are currently experiencing, it's important to know that it's not your fault, and you shouldn't let it affect your self-esteem. This is because goals drive people, and goal achievement can cause people to view relationships of any kind, including intimate relationships, as transactional, quid pro quo agreements between two people.

The trick is to balance these feelings against other considerations that lead to healthy relationships.


It is important to routinely reflect on the state of your relationship; it's one of the best ways to spot potential issues before they turn into long-term problems. If, when doing this, you notice an imbalance in compromises and responsibilities, a nagging ethical or moral divide between you and your partner, or a relationship that feels transactional more than supportive, it's a good sign to dig into those issues with your partner and/or a couples' therapist.