I like to think I’m a pretty positive person. It takes a lot to depress me and I tend to choose friends who are the happy-go-lucky type. But not long ago, I hit rock bottom in a relationship. It had become so toxic and my self-worth had never been lower. I lost about 5kg in two weeks and found myself questioning everything.
I know, grim.
After a particularly intense argument with my man, I received a text from him that sent shivers down my spine. It triggered all my spidey senses and for the first time in a long time I realized I needed to remove myself from this scary situation I had found myself in.
He said: “You have made me a dangerous enemy.”
I knew right away he wasn’t joking and I knew exactly what the threat meant. That meant watch your back.
After a bad argument with my man, I received a text from him that sent shivers down my spine. This triggered all my spidey senses…I needed to remove myself from this scary situation.
There were many red flags about a man I was dating. The first were his “jokes” about the scary people he knew. He would say things like “so don’t mess with me haha”
I did two things after receiving this message. The first was to book a flight for the following week to New York because your body tends to go into “fight or flight” mode when you feel threatened, and in this case, I chose to fly. Literally.
The second thing I did was book a session with my fabulous French therapist. She may be small, but she’s very powerful in her advice, and I needed someone to steer the ship for a second.
As I walked into his office, I burst into tears and said, “I just need you to give me the right tools to get out of this situation.” You see, the problem with a toxic relationship is that you can’t just turn off your feelings, even if you know the person is bad for you.
I was both afraid of him and yet I was still in love with him. It’s not an ideal position, and one I never thought I’d find myself in.
She handed me a tissue and told me to breathe. We spent the next hour explaining how I found myself in a “situation” with a guy who would make such a threat in the first place, and some steps to get out of it. She also stressed that it was important that I notice the red flags early and leave as soon as they start to appear rather than charging at them like a bull.
Oh how I love his frankness.
As we took a trip down memory lane, I realized that there were many red flags being waved all along. The first were his “jokes” about the scary people he knew. He would say things like “so don’t mess with me haha”.
The second red flag was the way he talked about his last two ex-girlfriends. After a few drinks, he would always comment on how “crazy” they were. He never went into detail, just said they were either “crazy” or “bad.”
Upon reflection, I am convinced that these women were probably driven crazy by his toxic actions. I thought about my exes and realized they were all pretty sweet.
Over the next few months, my therapist has given me some really good advice on how to avoid future red flags and if you’re someone attracted to the redder men among us, I hope they will be for you too useful.
If something doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion from a loved one or a therapist. It definitely worked for me
1. As soon as you see a red flag, act on it
She explained that honest and open dialogue early in a relationship helps create a safe place to share your concerns and establish healthy boundaries. Of course, for an anxious avoidant like me, this sounds like a horrible conversation, but she explained that the more you do it, the better you get at it.
For example, rather than awkwardly laughing at his jokes about not messing with him because he “knows people,” I should have said “Hey, that makes me a little uncomfortable.” What do you mean?’.
2. Trust your instincts
If it sounds like a threat, it usually is. If you suddenly feel uncomfortable or unsafe around someone, trust that your instincts are telling you the truth and walk away. We always look back on bad relationships and think “deep down, I think I knew this wasn’t a good idea from the start”, but we ignore it because we’re filled with lust and dopamine. Listen less to your libido and more to your instincts at the start of a relationship.
3. Leave quietly
When you are dealing with someone who has strong narcissistic tendencies or is currently in a bad situation, you will find that they tend to look for trouble. Hurt their ego and they will have an adult-sized tantrum. Rather than ending the relationship with a big dramatic fight, simply explain your reasons for leaving in a calm manner and then give them plenty of space.
4. Like a good Girl Scout, always be prepared
Some red flags can be very subtle. So if you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right, write it down. An occasional white lie or hint of love bombing could just be them trying to impress you. But when they start to add up, you may notice too late that you’re in a bad situation. Enjoy the start of a relationship but always keep your cool.
5. Be kind to yourself
And finally, I think the most important thing to do when you realize you’re in a toxic relationship is to be kind to yourself. We have all made mistakes and gotten caught up in the heated fire that those situations bring. You can’t make intelligent decisions from bad headspace. So remember that you are human and surround yourself with friends and family who only want the best for you. Now is not the time to hide. If something doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion from a loved one or a therapist. It definitely worked for me!
If you or someone you know is in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for anonymous professional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.