Years ago, I left a relationship that was painfully abusive in every sense of the word. Before entering into that abusive relationship, I had dated for 7.5 years back to back. I jumped from relationship to relationship seeking validation only to find dead ends, empty promises, and piles and piles of shame and self-hatred. This eventually led me to date an abusive man who made me question every part of myself, even down to my own sanity.
After two and a half years of the terribly traumatic abuse cycle merry-go-round, I finally found the strength to leave this relationship. I was so deep into believing lies about myself, felt warped by manipulation, and starved of any sense of self-love that my journey to healing was long and arduous. Herein began a long journey of inner healing, self-discovery and reconciling. The tenuous process of recovering from abuse made me realize this was something I never, ever wanted to go through again.
The road to transformation, awareness and healing was truly a journey. One filled with countless tears, a ton of deconstruction, and finally (through time) an awakening to self-compassion. And along that journey-as I healed and pressed through the pain- I became aware of several red flags and toxic qualities that I had previously missed.
Though dating again after being in a toxic or abusive relationship can feel full of fear, with the right tools and healing, you can do this.
Here’s one thing I have profoundly learned: no matter what has happened to you in your past, it is fully possible to heal, rebuild trust with yourself, and develop stronger tools to spot toxic people in the future.
Let’s talk about some of the red flag markers I learned along the way, shall we?
6 Major Signs of a Toxic Person
1. Rarely Takes Ownership
At the end of the day, you want someone who has a teachable heart and spirit. I venture to say, this is the #1 quality you should look for in a dating partner. You want to date someone with a humble heart and spirit. Someone who means what they say and will seek to understand. If you notice that the person you are interested in never takes ownership of their own actions and instead deflects, blames, and discounts you, this is known as gaslighting and is a form of emotional abuse.
2. Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
This is essential. Who are they becoming? Are they seeking to consistently become more like Christ? What is the character of the people they surround themselves with? What do they do to learn and grow? Do they judge people who go to therapy? If they rarely work on themselves, they may have a fixed and not a growth mindset. Say if things like “this is just the way I am”, that is definitely a sign to tread very lightly.
3. Easily Angered or Defensive
If they are easily angered or consistently jump to defense instead of being open to feedback, these are SOS moments. You want to partner with someone who has the ability to exercise reasonable amounts of self-control and patience (both fruits of the spirit). On the extreme end, uncontrolled anger can be a sign of aggression or, even worse, abuse. On the less extreme end, being easily angered can lead to a slew of emotional issues and pains in the relationship.
4. Lack of Integrity
If someone consistently chooses the easy way out, even in small things, it shows a lack of integrity. If they are hiding small things or cutting corners, what kind of big things might they be hiding? This could be the potential father of your children. Do you want that person to have a lack of integrity around your children? I think not.
5. Interactions with the Opposite Sex
Do they have their ex on speed dial? Do they have flirty friendships? Who are they following on Instagram? These things matter. Pay attention. If you confront them on these things and it is met with excuses versus a desire to seek to understand your thoughts and perspective and honor you and the relationship… this is a recipe for disaster. Boy bye!
6. Does Not Respect Your Boundaries
Boundaries are vital for relational health in every capacity. You need to know what yours are and be willing to voice them. When I say boundaries, I don’t just mean physical boundaries. I’m talking spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical boundaries. Do you know your own boundaries? Are you willing to voice them to a partner? If and when you do, if they do not respect them
Above all, remember this: You cannot make a toxic person want to change. You cannot convince someone to treat you better. When you recognize red flags, address them. Give the person the opportunity to explain themselves on it. But if you see no true action or change on these things through time, you without a doubt need to run. The best thing you can do in a toxic situation is to remove yourself from that person and pray for them. Focusing on trying to change them will only destroy you.
As someone who has been through the throes of devastation and destruction in toxic relationships, I want to encourage you on something:
Never stop fighting for yourself and your healing journey. You are stronger than you think. You can trust yourself.
It’s been eight years since my incredibly toxic relationship, and I still have triggers. There are even days where I dip my toes into being attracted to someone who is toxic, yet again. But this time, I have sharper tools. This time, I have more awareness and discernment.
As you fight for yourself, you can and will become more aware and better equipped to spot toxic people. While the healing in many ways will never truly stop, you can find ways to embrace and even love the process as you accept where you are within it.
You can do this. You can trust yourself. You have a strength within you that is prepared to fight battles like this.