Self, Heartbreak

7 Ways To Avoid Relationships With Unsafe, Toxic People

I have seen too many bright, talented and kind people decimated by relationships with narcissistic partners. The trauma inflicted by the abusive is subtle but it can hang on for quite a while and really disempower the target. Even when the abusive relationship is mercifully short, the effects can linger.

It usually is not easy to see these people coming. They are controlling and extra charming when they want you to connect with them.  They often have a chameleon-like ability to look like the love of your life when you first start to know them, and they don't show their true colors until there is some level of committment.  

Think it can’t happen to you? There are estimates that upwards of 50% of people have been in an abusive relationship. Contrary to the mythology, the targets of bullies and narcissists, are generally fully functioning, talented, socially savvy people who are better than average at their jobs and who care for other people. Targets of abuse do tend to be more empathic than others, so you might want to exercise more care if you are especially sensitive to others. 

Think the targets of bullies are weak people who “let it happen” to them? They are not especially weak, but they usually get backed into a corner by the manipulative and dangerous, and then are vulnerable to their bad behavior. Of course you will let your partner call the shots if he or she is volatile, violent, vindictive and controls the assets. The trouble is that bullies encourage entanglement before they behave abusively.    

Instead of having to disentangle from a toxic relationship when you have already been traumatized, learn to avoid these people in the first place.  

How can you identify and avoid people who will take advantage of your good nature when first dating them?  

  • Develop good boundaries. Set boundaries for what acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a relationship, and set them before dating.  Date only those who respect your boundaries.
  • Exercise due diligence. Have no compunction about background checking anyone you are starting to date seriously.   You are not honor bound to ever tell anyone that you have done this.  
  • If you feel a need beyond the initial check to continue to spy or check up on someone you are dating, your intuition is telling you not to trust them. 
  • Watch for incongruent behavior; the person who smiles when she tells you how she got back at someone; the date who reports a lot of problems getting along with otheres, anyone who seems angry when you assert your opinion. Do not dismiss these signs.
  • Be sensitive to socially odd behavior such as not responding to an obvious joke, blatant failure to make eye contact, not responding to conversational remarks, or huge imbalances in conversations so that you either get no airtime or must fill cavernous conversational gaps.
  • Ask questions about the person's relationships to friends or co workers and watch for answers which indicate contempt or cruelty, lack of empathy, or a need to dominate others.
  • Pay attention to your feelings. If you feel confused, have a feeling of dread, or feel defensive or ashamed, do not dismiss these feelings. They are signs that something is amiss. 

If you see any of these signs, either shake the dust from your feet and move on, or watch this person more closely.  I have not yet seen anyone create a happy partnership with a narcissist, bully or a control freak.