Everyone knows a toxic relationship when they see one — in someone else’s life. It can be astoundingly difficult to accurately recognize a soul-destroying time sink of a relationship in your own life for what it is, and even harder still to recognize one before it gets started. The problem is often that the toxic elements in these relationships tend to not be black and white. Rather, such relationships tend to come with a few really good parts that make the bad side hard to see clearly.
It can be really hard to identify the dangerous ones
Contrary to the way movies show toxic characters, these aren’t usually losers with no life of their own. Often, those with toxic personalities tend to be talented, caring and helpful, only, they like to often turn on a blowtorch in people’s faces, as well. It could be so confusing, you could allow a relationship to start before you know what’s going on.
You mustn’t think that it’s only the weak and vulnerable who would allow bad relationships to happen to them. These relationships often start off very well; abusive people do not let the signs show at first. It’s only when you are thoroughly enmeshed in a relationship and find it hard to break away that the traumatizing begins.
The good news is, there are signs of a toxic relationship that you can watch out for, clues that will tell you even before a relationship has begun, that things are not likely to go well.
Watch closely how you feel
You can certainly look to your feelings once the toxicity in a relationship begins in earnest. You are likely to feel experience feelings of dread, depression, shame or defensiveness. These are great signs that tell you that you need to run. Usually, though, the signs show up only once it’s too late. In the beginning, you’re only likely to feel extremely enthusiastic about the person.
Here’s a strange way to set up an early warning system then: if you find yourself instantly liking someone and feeling a strong need to be with them, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong. Good, normal people don’t usually manage to inspire such enthusiasm.
Of course, this is a highly fallible method. You should only use it to not let your guard down.
Look for boastful vindictiveness
You don’t need to only defend yourself when a person is unpleasant to you; you can also do the right thing when they seem to treat others poorly. Toxic people often like to boast how harsh they can be to people who have been poorly treated, put in their place, cut off and so forth. They take pride in how hard they can be with waiters, cleaners and other people who “don’t do their job well,” and may tend to make a curious show of how friendly they can be when they’re in a good mood. In other words, good or bad, their actions rarely seem natural.
Keep a watch on how much room you are given
A person who gives you enough room to express yourself (without making a big deal of it) is usually okay. Regular people are also usually at least somewhat self-effacing. It’s a natural quality that everyone should possess. If a person seems to try to hog all the time available with their own ideas, judgments, positivity and negativity, though, you should begin to be suspicious.
You can ask questions
It’s easy to put forth hypotheticals to test a person’s character with, and learned a lot from the answers. What would they do if someone were to cheat on them? How would they react if someone less deserving were to get a promotion over them? How much sympathy do they have for those who can’t seem to do well in life? A number of these questions slipped into conversations can begin to reveal the slant that their character takes.
When there’s always a lot of drama, it’s a great warning sign
Somehow, toxic people tend to thrive on crisis of one kind or another. They simply tend to be uncomfortable with uneventful daily routines that are quiet and calm. Everyone in a conversation has to either be a victim or a villain. Conversation rarely seems a satisfying unless it includes something snarky. Looking down on people is a great pastime, and accusations take the place of good conversation. When a person seems to like the idea of life as a soap opera, it should be suspicious.
Toxicity is a pernicious thing in relationships, and it’s important to understand that you can’t always trust your gut instinct when it comes to recognizing them. Abusive people tend to instinctively specialize in putting on trustworthy faces. Since your heart won’t really help you, it’s important to go in with your head. It’s pointed questioning that will save you, rather than some instinct. You should run a few tests on every person that you plan to get closer to. It can save you a world of trouble. Studies do show that one out of two people have been in toxic relationships at some point. People with unhealthy attitudes that common.
Joy Sanderson has worked as a relationship consultant for 12 years, previously working as a life coach and with a degree in psychology her aim is to help people get the life and love they deserve. Her articles have been published on men’s and women’s lifestyle blogs and dating sites.