7 Critical Ways To Avoid Relationships With Unsafe, Toxic People

Learn how to notice the red flags the first time.

Last updated on May 04, 2024

Avoiding relationships with unsafe, toxic people Jacob Lund | Shutterstock

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 commitment.  


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?  


RELATED: 10 Online Dating Rules I Swear By

Here are 7 critical ways to avoid relationships with unsafe, toxic people:

1. Develop good boundaries

Set boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a relationship, and set them before dating. Date only those who respect your boundaries.

@brycespencerjones Healthy boundaries aren’t barriers designed to keep people out. They’re there to set your limitations and invite the other person to participate. If they choose not to participate, then that’s simply their decision. #healthyrelationship #healthyrelationships #boundariesareimportant #boundariesarenecessary #relationships ♬ original sound - Bryce Spencer-Jones

2. 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.  


3. Trust your intuition

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. 

@stephanspeaks In dating and relationships, don’t ignore your intuition. Its a blessing from God 🙏❤️… #trustyourintuition #womensintuition #listentoyourspirit #datingadviceforwomen #relationshipadviceforwomen ♬ original sound - Stephan Speaks

RELATED: 15 Red Flags In Men You Don't Want To Miss

4. Watch for incongruent behavior

For example, 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 others, or anyone who seems angry when you assert your opinion. Do not dismiss these signs.


5. Be sensitive to socially odd behavior

This can be things like 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.

RELATED: 10 Tiny Little Signs Your Boyfriend Is A Jerk

6. Ask questions about the person's relationships with friends or co-workers 

Watch for answers that indicate contempt or cruelty, lack of empathy, or a need to dominate others.

7. 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 control freak.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.


RELATED: 7 Do-Not-Ignore-Them Signs The Person You Love Is Incredibly Toxic

Ruth Wilson is a life coach and hypnotist who uses her intuition to help guide her clients in using theirs to help them create personal or professional life changes.