Are you in a toxic relationship? This is how you can know for sure


Ever so often on social media we hear confessions of how women finding themselves in toxic relationships. Some of them end up leaving but some don’t. One of the celebrity relationships that has been labelled toxic is that of gqom singer Babes Wodumo, real name Bongekile Simelane, and her partner, Wes Ink Records label owner Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo.

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The couple seem to often make the trending list, hardly for anything positive, though. Rumours of toxicity and abuse were levelled after a video of Mampintsha allegedly slapping the singer surfaced. The couple took each other to court but were back in each other’s arms days later.

Recently, a docu-series, Impilo: Mampintsha West Ink, that was meant to give viewers an inside look into their lives revealed the dysfunction and violence in their relationship. The two can be seen drinking alcohol, arguing and becoming physically violent in one scene.

It was supposed to air on Moja Love on Thursday night but after a public outcry followed the trailer, the duo approached the high court in an effort to stop the series from airing. “Bonnie and Clyde” they proudly refer to themselves, whole some prefer “Bobby and Whitney” – referring to Hollywood couple Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. 

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Social worker Nthabiseng Madikgetla says a toxic relationship is one characterised by behaviour that is emotionally, physically and psychologically damaging. “It is never easy to identify a toxic relationship because the toxic behaviour is usually subtle,” she says.

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“Some of the signs of a toxic/abusive relationship are that you’re always walking on eggshells afraid to never do anything to upset your partner. You’re always fighting. All relationships have misunderstandings sometimes, but if you are constantly having misunderstandings and fighting, it could be a sign that the relationship is toxic and most likely constant exhaustion from trying to predict the behaviour of your partner, which leaves you feeling drained,” Madikgetla adds.


“It’s hard recognising that you are in a toxic relationship and the fear of leaving it can keep you unnecessarily unhappy and emotionally isolated,” says psychologist Athena Laz. “There are a few red flags that indicate you are potentially in toxic/abusive relationship which allude to how ‘subtle’ it may come across. Being forced to have a baby when you are not ready; harsh, rude and disrespectful behaviour as a means of communicating unhappiness in the relationship; threats to leave the relationship as a means of control; controlling behaviour through blocking and unblocking your calls; and feeling isolated and lonely,” she explains.



  • Toxic relationships destroy your self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Toxic relationships consume your energy.
  • Toxic relationships increase your stress level, which negatively impacts your physical and mental health.
  • Toxic relationships may lead to drug and substance abuse.
  • Toxic relationships may set a bad template for your other relationships.


  • Fear. The partner may stay in a toxic relationship because of false fears such as being alone forever, fear of not being able to find another person who would love them, fear of being judged and ridiculed.
  • Manipulation. The toxic partner, when they realise that the other partner wants to leave the relationship, may use methods of manipulation to force them to stay. The toxic partner may use emotional manipulation such as belittling, threats of violence against future partners or threats to hurt themselves if the partner leaves the relationship.
    • Investment in the relationship. People stay in toxic relationships because of the shared investments that they share with their partner. This can be things such as homes, children and finances.
    • Not wanting to disappoint.

The partner on the receiving end of the toxic behaviour may stay in the relationship because they do not want to disappoint others. This may sound far-fetched, but some people put the happiness of others before theirs and do not want to disappoint those around them.

“The fear of not finding someone else who will understand you as well, speaks to a fear of change. What if you met someone who loves and adores you and treats you with respect? So often with fear we think of the worst-case scenario – like you’ll die alone, a spinster – but the truth is that we can always start again and the process can be enjoyable,” Laz says.

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