In the early stages of a relationship, we tend to put our best foot forward and do what we can to make a positive impression on a potential friend or partner. Unfortunately, toxic people also do what they can to woo us. Toxic people may use their faults or shortcomings as “bait” to win over others. You may not realize how deep you’ve gone into an unhealthy relationship until its toxic symptoms are getting in the way of normal behaviors or feelings. If you find yourself in such a relationship, aspects of your normal response to an abnormal situation can include feelings of suffocation, trepidation, helplessness, and even shock.
How does one get trapped? The “bait and switch” technique is just one example used by individuals who appear quite “needy” and, when helped by unsuspecting others, are so grateful or appreciative that they overwhelm you with gratitude — to the point where it becomes uncomfortable. Another example is the person who uses flattery to make you feel so special that you feel obligated to respond positively to requests you might have otherwise rejected.
Know the 7 Warning Signs Before You’re in Too Deep
Most people in the “recovery phase” of a toxic relationship would probably agree that the best way to avoid having to end such a relationship is to never enter one in the first place. What it comes down to is that a person should trust their gut intuition about a new acquaintance.
Such a large number of participants in our research shared that they ignored the “red flags” that were noticed early in the relationship, because they did not trust their intuition or pay sufficient attention. As one participant shared, her best advice is to “check out of new friendships the moment toxic traits begin to appear.”
Key early warning signs of a potentially toxic friendship include:
1. New acquaintances or potential love interests who claim too much of your time or share too much personal information too soon.
2. People who call you only when something is wrong or they have a need.
3. People who take control of planning outings or get-togethers without consideration for your own interests.
4. People who consistently monopolize conversations or only want to discuss their own lives and experiences without giving you time to share your perspectives or feelings.
5. People who complain that you are not "available" enough, or active enough, or understanding enough, etc. When a friend raises too many complaints about your shortcomings, move on.
6. People who view you as “competition” in any activity may be future toxic friends or partners, depending on how far they push their competitive spirit.
7. People who are not shy about asking to borrow money but are slow to return it should be quickly reminded that friendship (or romance) and personal banking must remain two separate functions.
If a new acquaintance is making you feel the uncomfortable, it’s a warning sign that needs to be acknowledged. Speak up about your concerns before a pattern is set or a line is crossed. If you find yourself unable to initiate the conversation, that is yet another warning sign.
In romantic relationships or friendships, when you're constantly trying to convince yourself of how great a partner or friend is — or trying to convince others of this person’s positive qualities — take that as a sign that the relationship may not be all that you want it to be. Again, address the concerns with the friend or partner, and if the situation or the person does not shift, do what is in your best interest and let the relationship go.
How do you "do friendships" today? Share your experiences through this survey: "How Friendship is Done in Contemporary Society"