Culture & Lifestyle / It’s Not Culture, It’s Dangerous: 5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship

It’s Not Culture, It’s Dangerous: 5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship

Culture & Lifestyle Apr 08, 2019

When looking at a relationship through the South Asian lens, certain toxic elements can easily be disguised as cultural practice or expectation. Whether they are romantic, familial or platonic  friendships, our relationship expert Yvonne Sinniah reveals five signs you are in a toxic relationship. 

Have you been in family circles or noticed in gatherings where one individual is unhealthily passive or barely has a say in decisions? Have you ever wondered if that’s just how relationships are supposed to be or if there is a better way? South Asian women and men are not taught to identify toxic relationships so there are difficulties figuring this out in the various relationships one encounters in a lifetime.

As a relations advisor, it’s people of South Asian background that tend to reach out to me to seek guidance in the midst of their life journey and speak to me about personal experiences and struggles. A common gap is the inability to identify and articulate the issue and then figure out what to do next.

In the context of a toxic relationship, people struggle with the decision to either stay or leave. There’s also the added South Asian cultural pressure to keep up appearances in the family and social circles which also prevents the individual from exposing the issues that prevent them from living an authentic and happy life.

So are you in a toxic relationship? You can finally found out here.


1. You are not able to grow as an individual to reach your life potential. 

A toxic relationship is far worse than just troubling moments that dot your journey. It’s a relationship that’s consumed by guilt, shame and deny your truth and who you are. When you’re silently observing the dynamics of your relationship. romantic or not, if there’s a part of you that’s kept hidden because your partner discourages you to reveal it, it’s time to make some decisions. Your lack of personal and professional growth becomes apparent in a toxic relationship. You aren’t respected and therefore you aren’t able to open up.

There’s also a lack of a safe space  where you can be vulnerable and share your authentic feelings. This is something that is very apparent in toxic relationships and difficult for individuals to identify as an issue. Opening up to close trusted family members, friends or a professional, hearing an objective perspective will easily identify this problem for you


5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship
5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship: If you feel that you aren’t given the room to grow and show your authentic self, you need to reassess your relationship. Photo Credit:


2. You and/or your loved ones are in danger.

Even though this sign is more obvious for people to recognize it should still be highlighted as it’s not an easy one to get out. Toxic relationships can put you and those you love at risk. They have an aura of danger, from receiving physical or emotional threats and participating in risky behaviours, ie:  pushing your healthy boundaries and not respecting your own values.  Write down your ideal scenario in the relationship and see how far you truly are from that ideal world you’ve depicted. For example, if you never imagined using drugs or reaching conflicts to a point of abusive language and physical altercations, then how does the relationship look like today on a consistent basis?

You will need to take the time alone or with supportive help to identify the risky behaviour and dangerous situation and then develop an exit plan. If the relationship is meant to work and reach a healthy balance, that can be figured out from a new start when healthy boundaries, behaviours and actions are discussed and agreed upon from the beginning.


5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship
5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship: Are you in danger? Photo Credit:


3. You are emotionally drained.

Emotions are hard to understand and learn when you are born and raised in a South Asian family. Feelings are usually dismissed as a sign of weakness which is why understanding emotions is the training ground for much of my interactions with clients.

There is an unawareness of why situations or circumstances are causing negative emotions and toxic relationships are riddled with more negative emotions than positive. “Gaslighting” is an act done to question the person’s reality and legitimacy of  their true feelings. Accordingly to Psychology Today, it’s a form of “persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identify, and self-worth” . Gaslighting can happen in personal relationships, workplace environments  and even over an entire society thereby creating an unequal power dynamic. You will notice gaslighting escalates when one is challenged and can be emotionally draining. It causes insecurity and anxiety and elicits co-dependent unhealthy relationships. Ask yourself how you feel in the relationship on a consistent basis and if you are more emotionally drained than energized.


5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship: Are they gaslighting you? Photo Credit:


4. You feel controlled, bullied and/or manipulated. 

There is a sense of feeling controlled, bullied and manipulated in toxic relationships. Sex can be used as a tool of manipulation. Toxic relationships also present a lack of autonomy to make your own decisions. And when you do make a decision, it’s often questioned by your partner, who than finds ways to convince you to change it by using guilt, shame and manipulation. Compromise is a healthy part of any relationship however in toxic ones, compromise favours one individual more than the other and is decision is based on fear. If you feel bad after your decision, it can be the result of having an unhealthy compromise.


5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship
5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship: Do you feel that you are the one always compromising? Photo Credit:


5. Fear forces you to stay. 

The reason for staying is because of the fear of being alone or that the other person will struggle. When any decision or action (or lack thereof) is based out of fear, your alarm bells should set off because you are in a toxic relationship.

Remember, when you work through your fears and push past them, you build an internal muscle that gets stronger over time. You then gain the clarity you need which helps you take the subsequent actions enabling you to live your truest life path. When it comes to toxic relationships, overcoming your fears will help you achieve a healthier state.


So you’ve ticked off one or all the boxes. What do you do now? 

So what do you if one or more of these indicators describe your current relationship(s)? Start probing and asking yourself the following questions:

  1. How does this person make your feel?
  2. Are you safe in this relationship? (emotionally, mentally and physically)
  3. Do you feel respected?
  4. Are there unwanted challenges in your life due to this relationship?
  5. Is fear keeping you in the relationship?
  6. Do you feel you can grow in this relationship?


5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship
5 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship: What do you do now? Photo Credit: 


Next, is to talk to a trusted individual to give you an objective perspective so you get the proper support you need. Speak to someone who is genuinely looking out for your best interest at heart. Someone who would be happy to see you succeed. These obvious points are worth repeating because, if you’re not able to decipher who is looking to support you in a healthy way, then the advice and guidance will not steer you in the direction in a positive way either.

Finally, with the support and guidance, you should be able to develop and verbalize an action plan and move on each step according to your timing. It has to feel like the right time for you. There is much to be said for the support you need to navigate, improve or get out of a toxic relationship and it can be daunting but know that you can do it and that if you need help, it does exist. This is your life and you are the only one that can help define, create and own your life journey. So make it a happy one.


Main Image Photo Credit:

Yvonne Sinniah

Yvonne Sinniah


Yvonne Sinniah (@YvonneSinniah) is a Relations Advisor and inspirational speaker focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  She is on a mission to meet a nee...


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