People With Toxic Partners Reveal Things That, In Hindsight, Were 100% Red Flags Early In Their Relationship

·7 min read

Look, hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes the most innocuous things early on in a relationship can only be recognized as toxic in hindsight.

Graphic of two people facing away from each other with arms crossed.
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Reddit user u/ImportantComposer383 recently asked, "What were the early warning signs you missed that later made sense after dating someone who turned out to be manipulative and disingenuous?" Here are a few tips from people with experience:

1."Someone who absolutely idolizes you WAY too early. For me, it was someone saying 'I love you' after only four weeks, in addition to being very over-complimentary, already talking about our future, etc. This isn't necessarily a sign of someone being manipulative but is almost always a sign of someone who makes insecure attachments or who will be very hot and cold."


2."'I'm very honest. My friends always say that I'm the most honest person they know.' Usually, good qualities are 'show, don't tell.' This person was a chronic liar."


3."They don't have a lot of long-term people in their life. This one is only a warning sign if they're very friendly and make connections easily. If they can connect upfront easily, and yet, no one seems to stick around, something might be up."


4."Oversharing personal details a few hours after we’d met, repeating that they feel 'safe' with me. I thought it was trust and chemistry; actually, it was love bombing."


5."An 'us versus them' orientation where quite early on, they talk about you and them as the same unit, in comparison to other people on the 'outside' who we're just so different from (and somewhat superior to). For example, 'Other people don't analyze movies as we do,' 'I think we're out of place here, look at how everyone around us is dressed.' Those could sound like purely descriptive statements, but at the moment, there was the subtext that 'we' were more intelligent than the people who don't analyze movies and are more indie or natural than the dressed-up people around us. We'd also only been going out a few weeks and hadn't identified that we were in a relationship, so I was surprised when he would 'we' us. But it was always in comparison to others — there wasn't a 'we' that existed as us being a couple in our own right."

A couple holds hands tightly
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6."Learn about different forms of negging. Some guys will tell you it’s a joke, harmless, etc. No. They are insulting you on purpose to chip away at your self-esteem while trying to maintain plausible deniability. I had a guy try to pull some kink stuff in bed on me without permission, and when I said that I wasn’t into that, he said, 'I’m just surprised because every other girl I’ve been with likes it.' Total neg."


7."Mirroring that I mistook for admiration."


8."Disrespecting my time and wanting to hang out way too much, way too fast. Also, refusing to leave my house when I said that I’m done for the evening. I once had to physically open my door and hand him his shoes to make him leave."

Hands holding sneakers
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9."Asking me a ton of questions and talking about themselves a lot but not really allowing ME to ask THEM questions. I’ve noticed that all my toxic exes made it impossible to get to know them on my own terms. All of the information about them was sort of being fed to me like a myth, something that I couldn’t question or participate in. This really subtly and quickly set up a power dynamic where he knew almost everything about me and I knew very little about him."


10."If they're financially unstable. Hear me out: I've come to the realization that all my bad relationships had one common denominator. They were all financially unstable. The issue for me wasn't that they didn't have money or that their jobs were no good. But it was that they all lacked basic life skills associated with growing up, taking accountability, knowing the difference between a need and a want, or having the self discipline to budget and stick to it. They had no understanding of the idea that just because you have money in an account doesn't mean that's what you have to spend. All of the men who were financially unstable projected all of their issues onto me and did everything to make me feel bad and would try and control me. One even tried to convince me to buy him a $120K car. They were just a bunch of users.

Stacks of hundred dollar bills

"Now I'm financially stable, my credit cards are paid off, and I have no personal loans. I bought an equestrian property just over a year ago and will be mortgage-free in roughly three years."


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11."He tells you that he's a nice guy that always gets screwed over. From my experience, 100% of the time this guy turned out to be extremely manipulative, controlling, and gaslit me like crazy."


12."For my ex, it was the amount of time he spent on his computer. I thought it was normal at the time to game for a couple of hours every night. But when they’re turning to online strangers for most of their social interaction, that’s not normal. It turned out he was constantly DMing other women and had a porn addiction."

A man typing on the computer
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13."He was good at performative kindness. I knew what charities he donated to and how much he gave. I knew when he helped a homeless person. He made sure I knew."


14."This came at a great time because this guy bought me a whole cake for my birthday on a second date, and I don't know whether to view that as a red flag or someone who enjoys birthdays a lot. He's been respectful of the small boundaries I've set so far (not letting him come upstairs, canceling a date because he wasn't feeling well and I didn't want to risk it) but I'm VERY skeptical."

A birthday cake with lit candles
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15."Passive aggression in general. When someone finds it hard to handle things directly and straight up, and try to find ways to get you to take responsibility for handling things. I know passive aggression is pretty common, but I run a mile from it now when I see it in anyone. I will not be close (friends or dating) with anyone who relies on passive aggression to get through life."


16."I always extra look out for someone who can only say nasty or vicious things about their own exes, especially if they’re always completely blameless in these retellings, too!"


17."How they respond when you’re not feeling well. Is it an 'Oh, that sucks,' or do they turn and make it about them feeling bad, too?"

A sick woman blows her nose
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18."Look at the other company they keep. My ex publicly bragged about being a feminist and ally but privately kept company with abusers and personally treated me like garbage."


19."He had this ideal version of me in his mind and spent our whole marriage trying to hold me up on this pedestal and ultimately becoming disillusioned by my true self whenever she would peek out, and then emotionally abusing me for it. Case in point: his opinion on tattoos. Only white trailer trash and gangster thug criminals and abusers and junkies have tattoos. So when I got my first one (which he knew about for a full year and pretended to give his support for), he said it looked good and took a picture of it, then went on a full 20-minute soapbox sermon about how horrible tattoos are and why would anyone permanently scar their body like that and yadda yadda yadda. Every time he saw it after that, he looked at me like I was a bug. It clearly shattered the illusion of me he convinced himself was real, and he couldn't reconcile the fact that he was now married to trailer trash."


Do you have one to add? Tell me about it in the comments.