If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of toxic relationships. There are plenty of stories from people who have experienced horrible physical, emotional and psychological abuse from partners.
The truth is most relationships don’t start out that way. It takes some time for things to deteriorate that badly.
But it’s possible to spot early warning signs of a toxic relationship. These instances may seem isolated or one-time things. You may be tempted to shrug them off as insignificant.
But over time, they’ll begin to add up and lead to destructive behaviors. This is why it’s important to know these early signs of a toxic relationship that most people overlook.
1. Early Signs of Controlling Behavior
One of the common examples of toxicity in any relationship is controlling behavior. Mostly it happens because your partner doesn’t acknowledge you as an independent person capable of making your own choices.
It’s also just as much a personal boundary issue as it is a relationship issue. Some examples of what this can look like early on include:
- ordering for you when eating out (when you didn’t ask)
- making suggestions about what you should wear or how you style yourself
- deciding on their own how you both will spend a date or evening together
These examples might not seem very obvious at first. But they are early signs your partner is attempting to exert their control over you.
2. Making Sideways Comments
Does your partner ever make an underhanded or sideways comment towards you? These are criticisms that come off quick and are unexpected, as if out of nowhere—especially in public. It’s as if they’re trying to undercut and throw you off balance emotionally.
Let’s say, for example, you’re really excited about a new movie coming out this weekend. You talk to your partner about the movie and how you’re really looking forward to seeing it.
Naturally, you’d think their response would be affirming. And that they would be excited with you and want to see the movie, too. Or they just like seeing you so happy that they’ll see it anyway, even if it’s not really a movie that excites them. Instead, they reply, “You always act like a kid when it comes to new movies.”
It’s not exactly like a punch to the gut because you could possibly take the statement in a few different ways. Which, is exactly the point—it’s meant to insult you but still leave your partner room to retreat.
These kinds of little indirect comments only add fuel to a toxic relationship.
3. Catching Your Partner in “Little” Lies
Another signal you’re in a toxic relationship is you begin catching your partner in “little” lies. These are lies that may seem innocuous and meaningless. But when we really step back and look, they’re still trying to hide something from you.
Maybe they said that they “forgot” to take out the trash or that you had a date night planned for the evening. Or your partner told you they would do something, but then never followed through.
Lying is also an example of controlling behavior and is meant to keep you from knowing the truth. It’s also your partner’s attempt to not owning up to their mistake. It can be really hard to be with someone who never admits when they’re wrong.
4. Arguments Escalate Quickly
A final early warning sign of a toxic relationship is when you and your partner have a disagreement. Granted, just about every couple has arguments. That’s actually normal. But when you and your partner do argue, they escalate things very quickly.
What was a disagreement over what to do Saturday night turns into a full-on shouting match. It can be dizzying to experience when the argument gets so heated so fast, especially the first time it happens.
Also, during these fights, it’s as if your partner has regressed and acts more like a child. They might twist things or call you names to get their way. This makes it hard for you to feel comfortable having a simple disagreement with your partner.
Have you noticed any of these signs recurring in your relationship? If you suspect you might be in a toxic relationship but still aren’t sure, ask for help. Talk to a counselor who understands these nuances and can help you sort things out.
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