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25 of the Best Words to Describe a Bad and Toxic Relationship

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Etiquette & advice

25 of the Best Words to Describe a Bad and Toxic Relationship

Not all relationships are going to be sunshine and rainbows, and anyone can end up in a bad relationship.

Not every bad relationship is the same, so there are some different words to describe a bad relationship that are useful for explaining how it is or how it makes you feel that can sum it all up.

Let’s take a look at some words to describe a bad relationship, what they mean and how you can apply it to your past or present situation. Here are 25 of the best words to describe bad relationships:


 

7 words to describe a bad relationship with your parents

 
No one wants to be in a bad relationship with their parents, but it happens.
 
As sad as it may be to talk about, at some point questions may arise and you’ll need a word to summarize your relationship with your parents.
 
Here are 7 words to describe a bad relationship:
 

01Arduous
 
Use the word arduous if the relationship you share is one that is draining, both mentally and physically. An arduous relationship is one that requires you to put in a lot of effort, with very little reward, and tires you out.
 
If your relationship with your parents is this bad, here’s an example of how you can say it:
 
E.g. “It’s not a matter of not seeing eye to eye. Being around my mother is simply too arduous for me to bear.”

 

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02Distant
 
A bad relationship does not have to be one where there is arguing and fighting all the time. It can mean that there is little to no communication, and no intimacy.
 
This would mean you are in a distant relationship.
 
E.g. “My father could be sitting beside me, yet I often feel like I could not be any farther away from him in this distant relationship of ours.”

 

03Difficult
 
Difficult is a good word to describe a bad relationship with your parents if you cannot seem to understand each other.
 
In other words, it feels like you are talking to a brick wall and you are unable to get anything through to them.
 
E.g. “I love my parents, but they are difficult to deal with.”

 

04Estranged
 
If you no longer have a relationship with your parents, or you rarely talk to them, then estranged is the perfect word to use.
 
It can be useful in either circumstance of you alienating yourself from them, or them banishing you.
 
E.g. “After almost six years of not uttering a word to each other, it’s clear that I’ve become estranged from my parents.”

 

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05Hostile
 
Parent-child relationships become hostile when either party becomes verbally or physically abusive to the other.
 
If you seem to always be fighting with your parents and cannot seem to agree on anything, hostile is your word.
 
E.g. “I dreaded living with my father through high school because the relationship was always hostile.”

 

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06Pernicious
 
Often, by the time someone realizes they are in a pernicious relationship with their parents, it is much too late.
 
Pernicious can be used to describe a relationship where the parent causes the child harm gradually/subtly in some way, for example, by ruining their self-confidence, failing to provide basic needs, or even overfeeding.
 
While it may not be malicious, it does result in a bad relationship.
 
E.g. “My mother was my best friend growing up, but our co-dependence was suffocating and pernicious.”

 

07Strained
 
A strained relationship is one that is constantly facing challenges or succumbs to pressure easily. It will seem like there is always something that is keeping you from living harmoniously.
 
E.g. “My relationship with my father became strained after he left us for a new family.”

 

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7 words to describe a bad relationship with your lover

 
A bad relationship with a lover can stem from many angles, whether it is infidelity, financial woes, differences in ideologies, and so on.
 
You know your relationship best, so you should decide which word properly describes the state of your relationship.
 
Here are 7 words that you can use to describe a bad relationship:
 

08Complicated
 
Use the word complicated to describe a relationship that is complex and difficult to understand for anyone other than you and your lover.
 
It can mean that there are intimate issues that only the two of you can figure out that strain your relationship.
 
E.g. “There’s a lot of history between Tim and me, and many ups and downs. What can I say? It’s complicated.

 

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09Failed
 
A failed relationship is one that has broken down completely and that is only heading to a breakup. It means that the relationship is over or is at the end of its rope.
 
E.g. “We’ve been at it for 4 years and nothing has changed. Consider this relationship failed.”

 

10Fragile
 
A fragile relationship is one that has been dealt a severe blow and is in a state where both parties have to walk on eggshells around each other in fear that things might worsen.
 
E.g. “It’s been a fragile relationship since I stopped trusting her after she cheated on me again.”

 

11Problematic
 
As the name suggests, a problematic relationship is one that poses problems to either person.
 
For instance, a relationship where being with the other means you take on a lot of debt, or where there is a baby mother/father drama that you have to get dragged into.
 
E.g. “I couldn’t stay in that problematic relationship with Junior any longer because his addiction was starting to affect my life.”

 

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12Unstable
 
Every relationship goes through ups and downs, but if it seems like there are more downs than ups, you can describe your relationship as unstable.
 
It means that there is no balance and you aren’t able to be in sync with each other.
 
E.g. “We rushed into things so I’m not surprised our relationship was so unstable. It had no foundation.”

 

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13Uphill
 
Some say an uphill relationship is the same as a downhill relationship since both typically end in disaster, so you can use these words synonymously.
 
It means that no matter how much effort you put into making the relationship work, it never seems to be enough and it is hard to accomplish anything together.
 
E.g. “Our relationship was always an uphill struggle, but I was too dumb and in love to see that it was going nowhere.”

 

6 words to describe a toxic relationship with your lover

 
A relationship becomes toxic when it starts to do you more harm than good. This is worse than a bad relationship and is unhealthy for both individuals involved.
 
If you are in a toxic relationship, here are some words you can use to describe it:
 

14Abusive
 
Abuse can come in many forms, whether it is verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, material or financial. If your relationship fits any of those slots, you can use abuse to describe it.
 
E.g. “Even though Mike never put his hands on me, he was verbally abusive and those words battered me more than his fists could.”

 

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15Debilitating
 
Some relationships can break you down and wear you out over time. It can drain the life out of you, and make you feel like you aren’t yourself anymore.
 
If you can relate, use the word debilitating like this:
 
E.g. “A debilitating relationship can age you ten years!”

 

16Illicit
 
If you know that your relationship is wrong, and others have shared that they don’t think the relationship is healthy for you, you can use the word illicit to describe it.
 
It is good to use because that type of relationship is not encouraged.
 
E.g. “I can’t help but get reeled back into my illicit affair with my brother-in-law.”

 

17Manipulative
 
Toxic relationships often involve one partner manipulating the other, sometimes by playing mind games, or holding something over the other’s head.
 
An example of a manipulative relationship is one where a partner encourages the other to spend money on something outside of their budget because of guilt or threatens to keep the other from their child if they ever leave.
 
E.g. “I’m glad I got away from that manipulative relationship with my ex who was using me to pay off his student loans.”

 

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18Oppressive
 
If you feel like you were being controlled in a relationship, oppressive could very well be the word you are looking for to describe it.
 
It can also mean that the partner is dragging the other down in some way or preventing him/her from doing the things he/she likes.
 
E.g. “I was never able to finish my degree while I was in my oppressive relationship with Keira because she was afraid I wouldn’t need her once I got a good job.”

 

19Tumultuous
 
Tumultuous is a good word to use if your toxic relationship is full of turmoil and chaos. It means that the drama becomes overwhelming or unbearable and causes you great distress.
 
E.g. “It wasn’t always a tumultuous relationship. There was once a time when we were like two peas in a pod.”

 

For a bad sibling relationship

 
Siblings may fight at any age over what seems like petty issues. However, there comes a point where sibling relationships become so bad that it feels like it’s better to have no relationship with them at all.
 
These 5 words to describe a bad relationship may help to describe the rift between you and your sibling:
 

20Contentious
 
Use the word contentious when there always seems to be an argument or fight because you never agree on anything and will always seem to butt heads. In other words, it may seem like your sibling is an enemy.
 
E.g. “I avoid family functions because of the contentious relationship between my brothers and me.”

 

21Dysfunctional
 
Dysfunctional relationships are those that don’t seem to function quite right. It is good to use if you don’t have a close relationship with your sibling, or don’t seem to connect. Here’s what you can say:
 
E.g. “Although we’re fraternal twins, we’re oddly dysfunctional and act like we didn’t come from the same womb together.”

 

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22Fraught
 
Fraught is a word you use if you are in a relationship with your sibling that is full of issues. There is always drama and it stresses you out.
 
E.g. “The relationship I share with my sister is fraught, and it is in our best interests to limit our communication.”

 

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23Insufferable
 
An insufferable relationship is one that can take an emotional, physical or financial toll on you.
 
You can use this to describe a relationship where your sibling leeches off you in some way, whether it is by borrowing money and not repaying it, or by always making silly mistakes that you will have to fix.
 
It is good to use when the relationship has gotten to a point where you cannot bear it anymore, and you just want to find peace.
 
E.g. “My brothers are insufferable! They make me want to yank my hair out!”

 

blonde girl boy children sad
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25Tense
 
A tense sibling relationship is one that seems to have a dark cloud looming over it. This may be because of an unresolved issue, or as some people like to put it “an elephant in the room” that makes it awkward or uncomfortable to be around each other.
 
E.g. “After five years, my brother still has not apologized for his role in the way his wife treated our mother so things are tense between us.”

 

Conclusion

 
Life is short, so remember to value the good people in your life and stay away from negative energy.
 
Once you’ve found the best words to describe a bad relationship, try to fix it or just walk away.
 

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