Getting into a toxic relationship can happen to anyone, and it’s frequently hard to know at the beginning of a relationship how things are going to turn out. When your emotions are running high, it can be difficult to navigate the minefield of getting to know a new person, and you might find yourself looking back months or years down the line wondering where it all went wrong. If you’re in a new relationship and finding yourself questioning some of your new partner’s behaviors, here are a few red flags that you can keep an eye out for. If you’re already in a toxic relationship and looking for a way out, here are some strategies that might help you.
This one can be a little subjective, but it mostly comes down to numbers and attitude. If the person you’re dating has one ex-partner that they describe as “crazy” or that they have wild stories about, it’s probably not something to be too worried about. However, if they start telling you about multiple “crazy” exes that they’ve had, or even go so far as to tell you all of their exes were crazy, that’s a definite red flag. Everyone can have a bad experience once or twice, but when a person tells you about a laundry list of failed relationships where they seemed never to do anything wrong and just kept getting involved with “crazy” people, you need to realize that the common denominator in all of these situations is the person you’re currently dating. Additionally, pay attention to the way they talk about their exes. It’s normal for people to have some sore feelings after the end of a relationship, but if they have a lot of anger and malice towards all of their past partners, it’s definitely something to watch out for.
Demonstrations of Violent Behavior
Domestic violence is a real danger, and being aware of the early warning signs of it is absolutely essential. A person who makes violent displays when they’re upset is not someone that you want to be dating, and this isn’t just limited to hitting or hurting you. Aggression towards other friends or family members, or towards animals is also something that you should take notice of. Even hitting walls or breaking furniture and possessions is a sign that this person will likely not have any qualms about hurting you in the future. The person will likely try to explain away these outbursts during calmer moments with lots of affection, saying that they just lost control and love you too much to ever really hurt you, but you need to be wary of anyone with these kinds of violent tendencies. Mature adults who are capable of healthy relationships do not lose control of their emotions in this way.
They’re Completely Fixated on You
The reason that many people end up trapped in toxic relationships before they realize that anything is wrong is because many toxic partners take advantage of the excitement of new love to draw you in. Sometimes called “love-bombing”, it’s when a person showers you with a huge amount of attention and affection, more than would be normal. This will sometimes happen very early in a relationship, and it can be hard to notice because you’ll be caught up in the butterflies, feeling flattered by the attention of a person that you really like. A good rule of thumb to help you in this situation is to take a look at their behavior and what the rest of their life seems like. Do they have other friends or family members they spend time with? Do they have hobbies or goals for themselves? On the flip side, do they seem to only ever want to spend time with you? Do you feel like they have an individual sense of self that is separate from yours, or does it seem like your senses of self are getting tangled up together? If this person seems to have no life of their own and only wants to be involved in (and control) your life, that’s a definite red flag.
How to Leave
Maintain Your Support Network
Toxic or abusive partners will almost always try to isolate you from your friends and family through controlling behaviors. If you have no support of your own to rely on, you’re easier for them to keep and control. Do your absolute best to maintain contact with your loved ones, and don’t let yourself be swayed by any guilt-tripping behavior. A partner who really cared about you would be happy about you spending time with people you love. Tell the people in your life that you trust if you’re worried or unhappy in your relationship. At the very least they can provide emotional support, and they may even be able to help you get away when the time comes.
If your partner has become physically violent with you, the most important thing about breaking that relationship is ensuring that you remain safe. You may be hesitant to call the police or file for a restraining order against someone you love, but if you are in danger, it’s far more important to protect yourself. Have some safe places in mind where you can go if you need to, like the home of a trusted friend your partner doesn’t know the address of, and don’t be afraid to seek the help of law enforcement if you need to.
Cut Off Communication
Once you’ve successfully gotten out of a toxic relationship, it’s a good idea to cut off contact with the person as much as you’re able to. You may not be able to completely remove them from your life, for instance if you have children together, but the first step to healing from this relationship is distancing yourself from the person who hurt you in the first place. If you’re able, block their means of contacting you and engage with them as little as possible. It will help you to start feeling better in time, and it will ensure that they’re not able to hurt you any more or try to draw you back in.
Toxic relationships can be easy to fall into and very difficult to leave, but the situation is never hopeless. If you are in an abusive relationship or feel unsafe around your partner, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or if you live near Allentown, PA, try the Turning Point of Lehigh Valley.