Are You in a Toxic Relationship?

Controlling spouses, unstable siblings, friends you just can't trust. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you may be in a toxic relationship—and you're not alone. According to experts, most Americans have struggled with at least one unhealthy social bond by the time they're in their late teens, and sadly, many continue to endure these connections throughout their lives. Fortunately, you can break the cycle; the first step is spotting the signs.

The Top 5 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

1. You're isolated from friends, family, and social contacts. Whether it's a spouse, sibling, or friend that is isolating you, it's simply unacceptable. A healthy relationship is one in which you can have contact with different people without worrying about negative consequences.

2. They talk about everyone. If someone is constantly going on about how their neighbor is inconsiderate, their coworkers are nosey, and their cousin is fat, there's a good chance that he or she is also gossiping about you behind your back.

3. Their world is always worse than yours. Whenever you have a problem or dilemma, the toxic person feels the need to turn it around and show how much worse their life is. A textbook toxic example: When you mention that you're having car trouble, he or she immediately goes into a rant about how their past three cars have been lemons and they're still trying to catch up on repair bills.

4. Your positives are their negatives. They never congratulate you; instead they use your happy moment as an opportunity to bring you down. Your excitement about a promotion will turn sour as soon as he or she reminds you of the extra hours you'll have to work and the added amount of pressure you'll now face.

5. The other people in your life don't want to be around them. If your other friends or family refuse to be in someone's presence, this should be a red flag that something is very wrong. People who are outside of a situation can often see things that those inside cannot.

If any of these signs sound familiar to you, its time to start taking action and bring this toxic relationship to an end.

How to End a Toxic Relationship

1. Decide to what extent you want to "break up." Do you want to bump it down a level or cut the person out of your life completely?

2. Start spending less time together, whether it's by cutting your conversations short or by making yourself less available for plans.

3. Don't initiate phone calls; if he or she calls you, be polite but keep it brief.

4. If a toxic person doesn't get the hint, talk to him or her about how you feel. If you've already confronted them in the past and they simply didn't take your feelings seriously, make it clear that you really mean business this time. They'll understand that there's no turning back, and unless they change, the relationship is over.

5. If they get angry that you're ignoring them or don't agree with your reasons for ending the relationship, simply cut the lines of communication. If your most sincere efforts to guard their feelings are rewarded with hostility, it only further validates your request to break things off.