People sometimes use the term karmic relationship to describe an instant and intense connection between individuals. However, there may also be intense highs and lows, and toxic behavior patterns

Karmic relationships can be unhealthy, and a person does not need to stay in a relationship if they feel as though it is toxic and emotionally exhausting.

This article looks at signs of unhealthy relationships, and covers the steps individuals can take to leave one.

Two kissing people in a karmic relationship.Share on Pinterest
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There is currently no scientific or clinically recognized definition of a karmic relationship, but individuals may describe it as a passionate and turbulent relationship. People may feel a strong, intense connection with the other person, but the relationship may be full of highs and lows.

Individuals in a karmic relationship may be codependent, or feel addicted to someone’s presence.

Some individuals may think of these relationships as learning experiences, allowing people to move past unresolved issues. However, they are not healthy or sustainable relationships, and may become toxic and emotionally exhausting in the long term.

Others may identify karmic relationships to be positive, in that they feel a “karmic energy” and a strong connection with another person, without the turbulent behaviors.

Signs of a karmic relationship may include the following:

  • feeling a strong, intense, and instant connection with the other individual
  • turbulence, with plenty of highs and lows, in the relationship
  • red flags, which could be signs of an abusive relationship
  • codependency
  • miscommunication
  • passionate arguments
  • feeling addicted to being around the other individual
  • a pattern of breaking up, and then making up again
  • being emotionally draining
  • jealous or possessive behavior
  • the relationship becoming toxic and damaging in the long term
  • each individual bringing out the worst in each other
  • feeling on edge with the other person and unsettled
  • repetitive patterns, such as having the same fight over and over

In contrast, a healthy relationship may have the following characteristics:

  • each individual has their own, separate identity
  • each person desires the other, but can be independent without the other
  • individuals can talk safely and openly to each other
  • people enjoy spending time and having fun together
  • each individual does not rely on the other for their sense of fulfillment or happiness
  • both individuals are equal in the relationship
  • each person actively cares for and values the other individual
  • there is no attitude of ownership or possessiveness
  • each person is able to express anger or frustration in a healthy, constructive way
  • each individual recognizes the need for time alone as an individual

Learn more about what makes a healthy relationship.

Some people may see a karmic relationship as serving a purpose to teach individuals lessons about life and relationships. Learning from previous relationships may be helpful for individuals, but staying in unhealthy relationships is not necessary or beneficial, and can be damaging.

Unhealthy relationships can have a serious negative impact on mental health and overall well-being.

It is important that individuals try to prioritize their own happiness and well-being, and walk away from any relationship that is not making them happy or fulfilled.

Karmic relationships can feel unpredictable, which may make individuals fearful of ending one and knowing how the other person will react.

If individuals feel at risk from ending a relationship, they may need to make a safety plan, such as back-up:

  • housing
  • food
  • money
  • a support network

If individuals do not feel at risk, it may be helpful to prepare for any uncomfortable situations that may arise, such as arguments or unkind comments.

People may want to plan out how they are going to tell the other individual. Individuals can be brief and direct in telling a partner that they are not happy in the relationship.

If a person is ending the relationship face to face:

  1. Tell the other person that they want to talk with them about something important.
  2. Choose a time and place that feels safe and easy to leave if necessary.
  3. Be direct and brief, letting the other know that they are not happy in the relationship, that they are ending the relationship, and that they do not want to be contacted again.
  4. Leave the situation.

If they are ending the relationship over the phone or messaging, they can provide honest reasons for ending it, and avoid giving any details of future plans. They should then end contact with the other individual.

Although a karmic relationship may not be abusive, it is not a healthy one.

Individuals within a karmic relationship may be codependent, and display behavior such as:

  • a lack of boundaries
  • a fear of abandonment or of being alone
  • an extreme need for approval
  • lying or dishonesty
  • poor communication
  • a need to control others
  • feeling guilt when asserting themselves
  • lack of self-trust, or trust in others

A karmic relationship may also display signs, which over time, could escalate to abuse. Red flags of abusive behavior may include:

  • feeling afraid to make decisions without the other individual’s approval
  • feeling fear or intimidation from a partner
  • feeling put down, embarrassed, or shame from a partner
  • feeling isolated or alone
  • feeling anxious when a partner becomes angry or annoyed
  • having a partner that has very traditional views on gender roles
  • feeling that a partner is controlling or manipulative

People may also have a karmic relationship that is not romantic, such as with a family member or friend, which can show similar signs.

A karmic relationship may share some of the same characteristics of abusive relationships.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines an abusive relationship as a pattern of behaviors that a partner uses to control and hold power over the other person in an intimate relationship.

Abusive relationships may include the following forms of abuse and abusive behaviors:

Emotional or verbal abuse, which can include:

  • criticizing constantly or name-calling
  • acting jealously or possessively
  • monitoring activities and controlling someone’s actions, such as how they spend their time
  • isolating them from others
  • humiliating
  • gaslighting
  • threatening

Physical abuse, which can include:

  • punching, kicking, biting, slapping, or throwing objects
  • pulling hair, choking, or smothering
  • using weapons to threaten or harm their partner
  • forbidding their partner to sleep or eat
  • preventing an individual from contacting emergency services or leaving
  • harming children or pets
  • driving recklessly with their partner in the vehicle
  • forcing someone to take drugs or alcohol

Sexual abuse, which may include:

  • forcing the other person to perform sexual activities or dress in a sexual way
  • engaging in any sexual activity without consent, including choking or restraining
  • ignoring an individual’s feelings regarding sex
  • forcing someone to watch pornography

Other forms of abuse include:

  • sexual coercion, which can include making a partner feel obligated to meet their sexual demands
  • reproductive coercion, which can include shaming or pressurizing a person around their choice to have or not have children
  • financial abuse, when a person tries to control and gain power over an individual’s financial situation
  • digital abuse, which is any abusive behavior that occurs online
  • stalking

If people are in a karmic relationship that includes any of the above behaviors, they may be in an abusive relationship.

Individuals can get help or advice at any time through organizations such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

People may feel emotionally or mentally exhausted after being in a karmic relationship.

It is important that individuals keep their boundaries after ending an unhealthy relationship, and avoid making contact again with the other person.

If individuals find it difficult to cope with or manage their mental health after ending a relationship, they may want to talk with a healthcare professional or counselor.

To recover from the after-effects of a karmic relationship, individuals can focus on self-care and avoid rushing back into another relationship before they are ready.

If individuals feel immediate danger from a partner, they can call a helpline or 911.

A karmic relationship may begin with an intense connection, and a feeling of being addicted to the other person. A karmic relationship may have many negative traits, such as:

  • frequent arguments
  • codependency
  • possessiveness

Some people may state that a karmic relationship can teach individuals important lessons, but it is ultimately an unhealthy relationship that individuals will need to leave.

If individuals have any concerns that a relationship may become abusive or unsafe, they can contact a helpline such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.