The scary thing about toxic people is that you rarely see the signs up front.
If you’re dating someone but you get the feeling something isn’t right, or perhaps red flags have started to appear, this article will clear up any doubts you have.
I know some of it won’t make for pleasant reading, but your health and mental well-being come first, so it’s important you know what to look out for!
First, I’m going to run through the most obvious signs you’re dating a toxic person, and then I’ll be sharing a step-by-step guide on how to (safely) get out of the relationship.
Let’s get straight into the first red flag:
1) They try to control you
One of the most telling signs you’re dating a toxic person is if they try to control you. But what does this look like? It’s not always as clear as they make out in the movies…
Toxic control can be:
- Monitoring where you’re going or who you speak to
- Making threats if you do something your partner doesn’t agree with
- Limiting how much time you can spend with others or on your own
- Restricting your finances
- Guilt tripping you into doing things
But keep in mind that the scale of control can vary massively. Not only that, but a toxic partner might also make it seem like these restrictions are for your own good.
Trust me, they’re not.
In a healthy relationship, you should have the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want! Consulting with your partner shows respect and consideration, but they should never have the final say over your life.
2) They use emotional manipulation
Now, in the last point, I mentioned guilt tripping as a means of control.
This is just one of many ways a toxic person will use emotional manipulation to force you into doing what they want!
And I know how hard this can be to spot, especially in the beginning.
Some red flags of emotional manipulation include:
- Constantly criticizing you – they make you feel like you can never do anything right.
- Gaslighting – denying things or accusing you of being “crazy”, making you question yourself.
- Blaming you – even if you have nothing to do with it, your partner will find a way to make it your fault.
- The silent treatment – rather than communicating with you, they give you the cold shoulder leaving you hurt and confused.
So, why would your partner, someone who is meant to care and love you, do this?
It could be for several reasons; they are insecure or lack self-esteem, so manipulating you is their way of staying in control.
It could also be a behavior they’ve seen modeled growing up, so they’re continuing the toxic cycle without even realizing it.
Either way, it’s unfair on you and no one should have to go through life with a toxic partner!
3) They’re jealous and possessive
If the points above resonated with you, I have no doubt you’ll also relate to this next one:
I’m not talking about the natural jealousy that we all feel when we see another man or woman hit on our partner, I’m talking about the ugly side of jealousy where you can’t look at the opposite sex without an argument following!
But here’s the real kicker:
Most toxic partners will frame this jealousy as “love”. They couldn’t bear the thought of you even making eye contact with another man or woman because they love you too much.
Or maybe they find fault in your friends from the opposite sex, even if you’ve known them all your life.
I’m here to tell you that this isn’t love!
True love is built on trust and respect. Sure, we can all feel a little jealousy from time to time, but we should not be taking that out on our partners and restricting who they can and can’t speak to or hang out with!
And this leads me to my next point:
4) They isolate you from others
Do you feel like you’re unable to see your family or friends as much as you used to?
Do you have to ask permission to go out without your partner?
If so, this is another clear sign you’re dating a toxic person!
It goes back to wanting to have control over you; by limiting who you can see, they’re effectively cutting you off from any outside support or help.
The truth is though, they will never confess to this. They’ll make it seem like they’re doing it for your own good, that you’re better off without your friends and family.
They want you to be completely dependent on them! But the ironic thing is, once you are dependent on them, they don’t do the following:
5) They don’t support you
Another sign that you’re dating a toxic person is if they don’t support you – in fact, they may even resent your successes or hold you back from taking on new opportunities!
My ex would get annoyed at me if I spoke about going for a new job – he was scared I’d meet someone else at work. When my cousins invited me on a little family holiday, he tried to talk me out of it because, in his words, he’d feel left out.
These are just two examples, but being unsupportive to can range anywhere from:
- Not caring about your physical or mental health
- Stopping you from going for new opportunities
- Halting your personal growth and progress
- Making it difficult for you to follow your passions or hobbies
No matter how much your partner tries to frame this as them doing something for YOUR benefit, it’s not.
A loving partner would encourage you to be your best self and would 100% support you in the process!
6) Their moods are unpredictable
Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner?
Does their mood seem to change as quickly as the weather?
Unpredictable mood swings are another sign you’re dating a toxic person because you never fully feel secure and safe around them.
What starts as a normal innocent conversation can quickly blow their fuse and turn into a full-blown argument…this isn’t normal behavior in a relationship!
This is a tactic to make you stay “on edge”. If you don’t know how they’re going to respond, you’ll probably tread lightly and avoid doing anything to upset them.
The bottom line is:
In a healthy relationship, you should be able to discuss everything – even uncomfortable subjects – without fear of them lashing out!
7) They lack respect for you
Now, all of the points in this list point to one major thing:
Your partner doesn’t respect you.
This lack of respect within itself is a sign of toxicity in a person. So, aside from what we’ve already covered, what does disrespect look like?
- Embarrassing or humiliating you in front of others
- Mocking your decisions, actions, appearance, and personality
- Lying to you
- Being unfaithful or disloyal
Unfortunately, you may not know whether the last two have occurred or not. But certainly, if your partner has ever mocked you or humiliated you, you’ll remember it.
Because those types of feelings, no matter how much they excuse their behavior, stay with you.
These are all signs that you’re dating a toxic person and should definitely consider getting out of the relationship!
8) They’re verbally or physically abusive
And finally, if you’ve experienced verbal or physical abuse, there’s no doubt you’re dating a toxic person.
Verbal abuse can look like threats, name-calling, swearing, shouting, or trying to frighten you with their words/voice.
Physical abuse can range from:
- Being pushed or held down
- Being lightly or strongly hit
- Being pinched or having hair pulled
- Being punched or kicked
- Being forced into having sex (this comes under sexual abuse)
Quite often, a toxic partner will lash out physically or verbally, only to come back the following day with tears in their eyes and an apology prepared (usually accompanied by a speech that either blames you for what happened or with false promises of change).
I’d like to stress that if you’ve experienced any of the above, you must get yourself out of the situation and go to safety immediately.
I know you may feel scared, but your well-being needs to take priority and you can’t do that if you remain with this person!
And to get yourself out of this relationship for good, read on:
How to get out of a toxic relationship
If leaving the relationship fills you with dread because you know your partner will overreact, please know that the longer you stay in it, the worse it could become.
And even if they’ve promised to change, if you haven’t seen any dedication from them to work on their issues (like taking anger management classes, seeking therapy, etc) then there’s a 99% they will not change their toxic behavior.
So the very first thing you need to do is build your support system.
If you haven’t told anyone about what you’re going through, now is the time. Follow these guidelines:
- Only confide in your closest, most trusted loved ones (such as a best friend or family member)
- Don’t post about it online or somewhere where your partner may see it
- Remember not to feel shame about your situation – it’s not your fault, and even the most clued-up of people can fall into this situation
Next up, once you’ve got your support system in place, you need to make a plan of action to leave. If you’re living with your partner, this may look like this:
- Arranging a safe place for you to stay
- Arranging for your financial security (especially if your partner has control of this)
- Organizing the right time to physically leave the house (preferably when they’re not around) and the removal of your belongings (get someone else to collect or use police assistance if needed)
- Making your place of employment aware that you’re leaving a harmful relationship (mainly if you’re concerned about physical abuse or stalking).
And finally, if you need to be in communication with your partner during the breaking-up process, you need to set strong boundaries.
These boundaries will dictate what you’re comfortable with and what you aren’t, i.e, only meeting in a public place, not being verbally abused over the phone, etc.
Unfortunately, I know what it’s like to leave a toxic relationship – it’s not going to be easy but there are things you can do to help yourself.
One resource I wish I had at the time of my breakup was Relationship Hero. This is a site where professionally trained relationship coaches offer their services.
I’ve since used them for other relationship issues, but if I’d known about them back then I would have enlisted the help of a coach to ensure I placed strong boundaries on my ex, and also to help me heal from the trauma of the relationship!
The truth is, family and friends will do their best, but sometimes you need a professional to walk you through the difficult moments in life, and for this, I highly recommend Relationship Hero.