4 Early Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Reader Pigeon said the following in response to our post, “Your Call: I Finally Escaped a Toxic 13-Year Marriage. Now What?” What warning signs of a toxic relationship would you add to this list?

Have a bit of time to enjoy your freedom — just remember that you are still young and you don’t have to be married. Find new hobbies and just really get to know yourself in every sense of the word! And take some time to write down what you would consider “warning signs” for a new partner… things like:

1. Isolation: Feeling separated from friends and family.

2. Pressure: Feeling like you’re being pressured into anything, either by force or guilt.

3. Physical: Any form of non-consensual physical contact. This could be a range from actually hitting to grabbing and manipulating you into sex.

4. Sense of Self: If you feel like you’re being made to do what he wants all the time and that you’re losing your own interests just to keep them happy.




  1. “I “wasn’t sympathetic enough” to the pain that they were in from the bladder infection. ”

    to me that sounds very selfish of you. uti is very painfull and it takes long time to heal completely

  2. Tony,
    You have hit the nail on the head. I am currently in a similar position with my current girl friend. ##4 and #5 really speak to my gf. I have finally come to realize that if she is not willing to put in the same effort or confront her own faults honestly, without heated conflict, there can not be progress. I am glad that I am not the only person who is facing (or has faced in your case) similar circumstances. Thanks.

  3. Oh, where to start . . . sadly, I can add several from a past failed relationship.

    1) Watch how they treat their enemies, or people that they feel superior to. If they feel justified in being vicious towards exes and such, they will probably treat you similarly (once the romance wears off) during disagreements.

    2) Bizarre rejections. After performing oral sex on her, they developed a UTI. They refused to ever let me perform oral sex on them because I “wasn’t sympathetic enough” to the pain that they were in from the bladder infection. Another example is cutting the mattress pad in half on the bed so they have separate sheets from you.

    3) Unwillingness or inability to talk about prior traumas or hurts (at certain stages of intimacy). Someone who has a trauma history that they claim has been “completely dealt with” but won’t talk about may well have not dealt with it at all. They then may start attacking you and casting you in the same light as past individuals whom they claim were abusive as well.

    4) Unwillingness to take responsibility for their own words or actions, or even to examine their own behaviors. In a marital therapy session, a therapist asked me what I was willing to change for my partner. I listen one way that I would try to be different for her sake. When the therapist asked her the same question, she simply kept attacking me and wouldn’t even consider the idea that she needed to change anything.

    5) How they argue and handle conflict. If their way of dealing with disagreements is to attack/yell/go on the offensive, watch out. Also if they won’t stay on topic but keep switching around in order to keep attacking you. If they really go for weak spots or if they are unusually vicious, get out. My ex once told me, “I don’t love you, I don’t trust you, and I’d rather be raped again than have you touch me.” This was over several verbal disagreeents that were standard domestic squabbles (I recall them as being quite minor).

    6) Listen to your gut. Do you feel SAFE with this person? If the answer is “no” (assuming that your gut is reliable), get out.

    7) Prior history. If they have a history of multiple failed relationships (intimate, work, family, friends, et cetera), chances are that they are at least partially responsible for that. If they are aware of this, take responsibility for their own words & actions, and have worked on themselves to change that, that may be fine. However, someone who talks about a litany of people who have wronged them in the past “but you’re different! I would never say that about you” will probably turn on you in the future no matter what you do.

    8) Any partner should treat you AT LEAST as well as a good friend. AT LEAST.

    9) Your friends and family warn you that this person isn’t a good choice. Especially if your partner treats your friends and family poorly for no good reason.

    All of the above are, unfortunately, personal examples from a very destructive and abusive relationship. I hope that this is of benefit to someone to avoid a potential nightmare of a relationship in the future.

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