How to Spot the Signs of a Toxic Relationship


“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love,” said Christian in the film Moulin Rouge. But in reality, there are tons of other things you need before love. Those include honesty, respect, friendship, and a sense of safety. Unfortunately, many of us only learn the meaning of the saying “love doesn’t conquer all” after the inevitable implosion of a relationship that was not meant to work.

As magnificent as it might be, love can blind us to the toxicity of a connection and the damaging effects it has on our lives. It can wash away our sense of self, dilute our ideas of what we want and deserve, and change lives in ways that are difficult to imagine. Identifying when a relationship is putting your well-being at risk and finding the strength to walk away is a battle.

Becoming a victim of a toxic relationship can happen to anyone of any gender, faith, race, sexual identity, or social status. There are no preconditions. Similarly, abusers take many forms, and so does abuse.

The signs of a toxic relationship infographic

Text by: Katelyn Brush/Design by: Katelyn Brush

If you or someone you know seems to be in a toxic relationship, reach out for help. Recognize the signs and find a counselor on campus, a trustworthy friend, or a hotline to assist you in making the right choice. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free resource available 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-799-7233 toll-free or message with one of their online representatives. There are also apps available for free, like Circle of 6. Add trusted friends and family to the app on your phone and with just two taps, everyone in your circle will be notified of where you are and how they can help you.

Sometimes even when the facts are right in front of us, saying goodbye is a hard choice to make. The scars from a toxic relationship run deep and can last a lifetime, but holding onto the hope that things will get better just isn’t worth it. Love should never hurt. Do what is best for your safety, wellness, and happiness.


About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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