Dating is supposed to be fun, but navigating a dating pool full of undateable people is neither fun nor easy.
Instead of being black and white, relationships are muddy shades of gray. You don’t just get a notification telling you your relationship is sh*t and it’s time to get out.
It’s entirely your job and decision. And it’s tricky when your emotions and attachment get in the way. Sometimes you even meet people who are manipulative and abusive without appearing so, making it almost impossible to make ruthless judgments and leave.
Luckily, there are signs you could draw on to tell if your relationship with a new partner is heading towards toxic territory and it has everything to do with you and the way you feel.
Trust your gut in this instance. Here are 4 internal signs your new partner is wrong for you.
1. You don’t know if your relationship is normal
Translation: The relationship doesn’t align with your values and worldviews.
When you enter a new relationship and don’t know if the way your partner behaves or treats you is normal, it’s a sign that they don’t share the same values and worldviews with you. They likely have different expectations for a relationship and different interpretations of love from yours.
Some differences can be settled, but if the differences are fundamental, in the long run, the relationship will cause you more pain than happiness — it’s not worth the self-doubt.
Remember that you don’t need to ask your friends or the internet whether your relationship is normal. “Normal” is relative. It’s your relationship — it should work for you. You shouldn’t have to change your core self to fit in with someone else’s definition of “normal.” If you feel you have to, it means you two are not compatible.
In some extreme cases, the person might be gaslighting you, making you believe their awful behaviours are commonplace — take your stance.
2. You feel increasingly anxious around them
Translation: The relationship doesn’t meet your needs and triggers your past issues.
People with an anxious attachment style often feel ashamed of their anxiety in a new relationship. They do everything in their power to suppress their anxious feelings and act unattached. But it’s counterproductive in two ways, regardless of attachment style.
First, your anxiety is telling you important information about your needs.
For example, if you’re anxious about a partner’s texting habits, it means that the partner is not meeting your need for closeness and triggers your deep-rooted insecurity about distance. While you could work on your anxiety over time, the fact remains that this relationship isn’t as safe as it needs to be for you right now.
Secondly, ignoring your anxious feelings and pretending you’re unbothered means letting the partner set the relationship on their terms and showing weak boundaries. It’s telling your partner it’s okay to not meet your needs and their needs are more important than yours. Over time, you’ll find yourself in a stranger’s relationship that only worsens your anxiety.
Notably, your increasing anxiety might be a sign that there are subtleties of emotional abuse that your brain picks up before you do — it’s dangerous.
3. You feel dissociated from your usual self
Translation: You’re too attached to your partner to admit to yourself that this relationship is toxic for you.
This one is an alarming sign that you’re not only in the wrong relationship but in an abusive one.
It often starts out charmingly and lures you in quickly. Soon, you get intensely attached to your new partner and overly invested in the success (or existence) of the relationship. So when things go wrong, you can’t be honest with yourself and take a step back.
Instead, you suppress your true feelings and thoughts to keep up the status quo. You forgo your own boundaries and standards to preserve your emotional attachment and investment because the alternative is just too painful. The outcome? You no longer feel like yourself.
You become passive and reactive. You lose your agency. Your self-esteem is on the floor. You’re extremely vulnerable. If you’re here, it’s gone too far.
A simple rule of thumb when dating — If you’re not feeling like yourself, you’re in the wrong relationship. The right relationship should make you not only more you but better you.
4. You don’t want to tell other people about your relationship problems because “they wouldn’t understand”
Translation: Your partner is an expert manipulator.
You might want to keep your intimate life to yourself due to privacy reasons, but if you feel like you can’t share your relationship problems with other people — especially close friends and family — because they “wouldn’t understand”, it’s a huge red flag.
If your close friends and family — the people who likely share the same values and worldviews as you — “wouldn’t understand” your relationship problems, it says that there’s something else going on with that relationship beyond what meets the eyes.
You might be gaslighting yourself because you’ve been gaslit for a long time by your partner. You’re possibly under the influence of many cognitive biases and your perception of your relationship has become so muddled that you can’t clearly tell right from wrong anymore.
There’s an element of shame and self-justification in your hesitation to share about your relationship problems with others. But you know if you describe them out loud, you’d struggle to find healthy, meaningful reasons to stay with your partner.
If you experience all 4 signs and more, here’s what to do
If all these 4 signs apply to you, it’s time to get your head out of denial and assess your situation for what it is. The longer you let yourself go along with the motions, the more damaging it is for your well-being and mental health.
Here are a few tips to deal with a toxic partner:
1. Prioritise your well-being.
I know you might want this relationship to work out so badly, but your health comes first. Without your health, you’d end up with nothing — having a relationship certainly can wait.
You need to acknowledge your needs and insecurities and make decisions that benefit you as you are — even if it means cutting your partner out of your life today. Be the leading advocate for your well-being and happiness.
2. Take a step back.
Now, as you know that something is seriously off with your relationship, you need to detach yourself from your partner as soon as you can. At least physically long enough for you to make sense of your situation and calm yourself down.
Don’t worry about losing the relationship’s momentum or offending your partner by taking your time out. It’s their problem, not yours. Your top concern right now is your well-being — don’t lose sight of it.
3. Talk to someone.
You need an ally —for example, a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist. You need someone to keep you grounded when you doubt yourself and know what’s going on with you should something dangerous happen to you.
Do not listen to people who tell you “you’re overthinking.” If someone does this, stop sharing with them immediately. Find someone who makes you feel seen and takes your side.
4. Plan your exit.
If your partner is truly abusive, it’s not going to be easy to just leave them. You might need an exit plan.
If you’ve already moved in with your partner, there are many resources that can guide you on how to get out safely. If, hopefully, you’re not living together and you can break up with them without physical contact, make sure your privacy is protected and you don’t leave them a chance to change your mind.
5. Let yourself heal.
The scars left behind by an abusive relationship can run deep. So give yourself plenty of time to heal and find your feet again. It’s not a bad idea to work on your issues before dealing with others.
I assure you that, with time and adequate care, you will feel better and even stronger. There are people out there who are healthy and genuine and can make you happy if you ever choose to find a relationship again.