Guidelines for Determining Toxic Relationships by Dr. Anne Brown | Backbone Power

A Quick Guide of Gauging Toxicity

When you are getting to know someone, understand it is a research project which takes about a year. Minimally you want to see how your partner handles the following situations:

  1. Handling finances.
  2. Treatment of you in many different situations.
  3. Treatment of his/her parents.
  4. The treatment of those they perceive is not his/her equal.
  5. Embracing your world with his/her world to create Our world.
  6. Respectful communication including resolving differences.
  7. How he/she handles anger/indignation (very important).
  8. Generous of heart.
  9. A good paradigm for emotional, spiritual, physical health.

1: Keeping Agreements

2: Generosity

I will never forget a story I heard of a woman who wanted a partner who had a financial abundance. She forgot to notice whether her partner was generous. Her partner had financial abundance-he just didn’t share this with her. Is your partner generous with love, finances, caretaking, communication, your world, those who have less for starters? These are some of the areas of importance for a life-time partner. If your partner is not generous, that might not be a deal-breaker for you. However, if you accept a non-generous partner and later you change your mind, the boat will be rocked!

3: Authenticity

I have a 90-day rule for relationships. I believe around about 90 days people begin to reveal themselves more honestly. This is a good thing. Many of us have the “put your best face on” for the beginning of the relationship so we need to take time to see who else is coming along. I actually believe if you want to find a healthy relationship find your voice sooner. If something bothers you speak up. If you make requests for what you need, let someone know when his/her behavior is unacceptable to you, stop enabling opportunistic behavior, you will probably weed out the personality disorders e.g. Sociopaths, Narcissistic, Borderlines, Psychopaths because they don’t want you to have needs, concerns, opinions, ideas, boundaries, and/or a voice. This would be a good thing to weed out for obvious reasons.

4: Healthy Communication

Any form of gaslighting, brainwashing, insulting, or threatening, communication is toxic and does not provide a healthy foundation for a relationship. These are a form of psychological manipulation used to keep the victim destabilized and questioning his/her belief system. These forms of communication can be identified by observing the perpetrator denying abuse, rewriting history, lying, contradictions, constant criticism, etc.

5: Healthy Boundaries

It is our job to teach our partners how to take care of us physically, emotionally, and spiritually by making requests. It is also our job to be with the partner who honors most of our requests. If you have a partner who thinks it is all right to be physically aggressive with you, it is your job to set the boundary and leave if it is not honored. If your partner flirts and his/her flirting is not all right with you, make the request. If your partner cannot make any changes in this area, and it really bothers you, you may have to move on. If you want to have a say in financial decisions and your partner wants to run the show financially, again if you can’t accept, it may be best to move on. These are examples of how partners have to negotiate taking care of each other. If you never let your partner know what is important to you, you will build resentment. Resentment is not a distinction for a healthy foundation.


All the toxic forms of communication-gaslighting, threatening, bullying, constant criticism, brainwashing are signs of a toxic relationship. Any form of physical abuse is a sign of a toxic relationship. When these are present, my assessment of the relationship has a poor prognosis. As you can see there are other areas that can challenge a relationship, but with hard work and a competent therapist, have the possibility for resolution.

Psychotherapist, Speaker, Coach, and Author of “Backbone Power The Science of Saying No” | New Release Audiobook: