Dating can be fun and exciting, and the honeymoon phase of a relationship is full of butterflies and giggles. But dating isn’t always smooth sailing – sometimes there’s a toxic side. Toxic and abusive relationships don’t immediately start off negative, because how could someone get a second date if they were immediately cruel? They can start like any other relationship, and slowly become more and more insidious. Here are some red flags to take note of and avoid partners who behave like this:
All Their Exes Are Crazy
We’ve all had someone from our past that we cannot understand what we saw in them at the time, and it’s pretty common to have had at least one bad relationship or nasty ex. Some people do genuinely get unlucky, but if someone – especially someone quite seasoned in the realm of dating – has nothing but bad things to say about everyone they’ve ever engaged with romantically or sexually, paints themselves as the victim, and has a grudge against your gender as a result of all their “crazy” exes, then be concerned. They can make you pity them and feel like you need to be extra good to them to prove that not everyone is like that. Sadly chances are you’re going to realise later on that actually they were the problem. The “crazy” exes probably got sick of dealing with their shit, and you’re gonna be next on their list.
They Pressure You
They might not outright force themselves on you, or physically make you do something, but they still don’t respect consent. To understand why putting pressure on your partner isn’t good, you need to understand consent first. It’s easiest when you think of consent like a contract. A contract is deemed null and void if; a minor signs it, one party was coerced into signing, one party was intoxicated etc. Basically, it’s only valid if it was something that was willingly entered by someone who knows what they’re getting into to. It’s the same with consent. In an ideal world saying no once would suffice, you shouldn’t have to explain your no, justify it, and have to repeat it over and over.
A partner who respects you won’t pressure you into things you don’t want to do. That includes trying to talk you into it after you’ve said you don’t want to, making you feel like you only have so many no’s left before they’ll just leave you, and trying to turn you on anyway. Consent also needs to be informed, it’s not right to hide information such as whether or not they’ve been tested or if they’re at risk of having an STI from you, and they definitely can’t have you thinking that they’re safe and sensible when they’re not. If something could change someone’s mind about having sex then it’s absolutely relevant and something that needs to be discussed beforehand.
They Gaslight You
Gaslighting is a way to make you doubt yourself, memories, and actions. Your partner can start with something small like acting like they told you something that you know they definitely didn’t. To be clear, sometimes someone can be sure they mentioned something and you’re sure that they didn’t. Incidents such as this aren’t always a manipulation tactic.
Gaslighting always starts subtle and once they get away with it the first time they’ll keep doing it. They can make it look like you’re the negligent partner and that you don’t listen or that you always do something wrong. Once they have you doubting your memory and feeling like you’re losing your mind, they can spin the narrative anyway they want – such as acting like you did something wrong you’re not even sure you did or even trying to convince you that something you saw with your own eyes didn’t happen.
You’re Walking On Eggshells
They’re unpredictable. In the early days they were just so nice and charming, and all of a sudden something changed. Sometimes they show the nice side – usually to make you feel like they’re not that bad – but you simply trying to make conversation results in whatever you said being tore to shreds. Out of nowhere they start to act like you’re not good enough and before you know it, you’re thinking about what they expect you to be before your own feelings. You might think that you’ve just run into a bad patch, or that the honeymoon phase is over, or maybe the person they were at the beginning will come back.
You no longer know where you stand with them, or even how to act around them because one minute they’re affectionate and the next they seem embarrassed to be seen with you. Unfortunately, toxic relationships get progressively worse.
You Hide Who They Really Are
You keep things from your friends and family because you don’t want them to dislike your partner and you don’t think it’s that bad, but if you’re hiding the truth about your relationship then it probably is that bad. Your friends and family probably won’t hate everyone you ever date because they don’t think anyone is good enough. They want you to be happy with someone who treats you well, which is why they won’t like someone who isn’t good to you.
You only tell them the good things and act like everything is perfect. When you do tell them things, you might be trying to justify your partner’s actions or say you deserved it, or that it sounds worse than it is. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. If they told you those things, you would probably be outraged and immediately hate their partner, so show yourself the same compassion.
The best thing to do if you spot relationship red flags is to confront the problem before it escalates, or run to the hills. I’d be more likely to suggest the latter. You might feel bad for leaving because something seemed off, but trust your gut. It’s much better to leave than to stay and end up in a toxic or abusive relationship which is harder to leave, and can still effect you even after leaving.
Stay safe, and have fun dating!
Author: Aisling O’Connor