Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
- Overt And Covert

Before we look at the signs of a toxic relationship, let's be clear about what a toxic relationship is. It is one in which there is a power imbalance between the parties. This power is wielded by the manipulator to exploit the other person, emotionally, psychologically and even financially and sexually.

The controller uses psychological influence techniques to dominate and take advantage of the victim. These techniques are not rare or special. They are ordinary, everyday influence processes but they are used with a very specific motivation, to build compliance.

Parents, for example use these same techniques to rear healthy, independent, children who grow up to have fulfilling relationships and contribute to society. Like any tools, they are just tools, they are neither good nor bad. But they can be used for good or evil.

The manipulators use them for their own personal gratification at the expense of the unfortunate victim. They take away the independence of their targets, they control their thinking, their decision making, their emotions and their actions. They dominate every aspect of the victim's life.

The difficulty for the victim is that they often don't recognize the nature of the relationship for months or even years. That sounds ridiculous but that's what happens in toxic relationships. In order to understand why this happens, we will have a look at how a toxic relationship often starts and how people are actually tricked into having a relationship with an abuser.

Keep in mind that although I am talking specifically about an intimate relationship here, you can apply the same things to a student mentor relationship, a patient therapist situation, work situations and destructive cults.


Signs of a toxic relationship

The first major warning sign of a toxic relationship is the speed at which it develops. The manipulator makes the target feel fantastic from the very beginning. Victims often say, after the fact, that they felt that they had met their soulmate, someone who understood them in a way that no-one else ever had or that they felt very comfortable from the very start of the relationship.

How does the manipulator do this? Well, they give various messages from the start. They let the target know that they like them a lot. They claim that they like the same things as the target does. They make the target feel that they are trustworthy with the result that the target feels comfortable sharing personal information. And the manipulators talk about how they are perfect for each other.

People like other people who are similar and who have similar interests. Thus this ploy by the manipulators of pretending to have the same interests is very powerful. It makes the target like the manipulator more. The controller may even spend some time doing the same activities as the target but fairly quickly these joint activities come to an end. The manipulator has lied about liking the activity and as soon as this ploy has had it's effect, the manipulator knows it is no longer necessary to keep up the pretence.

Another very significant point about all this is that first impressions count. They are often long lasting and difficult to shift, especially if they are absolutely amazing. So the victim may come to believe very quickly that this person loves them, cares about them and has their best interests at heart.

So what happens when the controlling/abusive behavior starts to kick in? The victim often thinks, "Oh, that's out of character. She must be tired, stressed or something. Everything else is great, though, so I will let it slide. Let's just carry on with the nice times...!" Sometimes the controlling behavior is more subtle. The abuser says something along the lines of, "Do you know what, I would prefer if you didn't do that anymore. It upsets me because my one of my exes did that to me and it really hurt me." It's very easy for the victim to agree not to do something upsetting because, after all, they want to please this wonderful new person in their life.

In this way, step by step, the manipulator begins to extinguish behaviors they don't want, and create new behaviors that they want instead.

And it's not only behaviors that are changed in this way. Perceptions, ideas, beliefs and decision making are also heavily influenced by abusers.

Despite all the abuse, this amazing first impression can lead the victim to continue to believe that their spouse or whatever is basically a nice person and loves them. This can cause a lot of confusion, how can someone who loves me treat me this way. There seems no good answer to this so the victim ends up thinking that maybe it is not that bad, or it's their own fault, or they are too demanding of their partner...


The usual signs of a toxic relationship

Most people can list some behaviors that are generally considered to be abusive. Name calling, shouting, swearing, insults, threats, ridiculing, belittling and harsh criticisms are things that people agree would be found in toxic relationships.

Of course, in many normal relationships, some of these things sometimes occur, too. When people are angry or upset, they often say things that they don't mean, or things that they regret later. So what's the difference? If the same or similar behaviors occur in normal and in toxic relationships, where is the line between the behavior being, "Sorry, I shouldn't have done that" and outright toxic behavior.

There are several factors involved here and I will go through each of them in detail.

The first factor is repetition. In toxic relationships there is frequent repetition of the behavior. It's not once every 6 months when one partner is stressed that something unpleasant is said. It is weekly, or several times a week, or even daily, for weeks, months or even years. There is a study that shows that if you hear something from 3 different sources, you are very likely to believe it. However, if you hear the same thing from one source 3 times, it has 90% of the effect of hearing it from different sources. Think about news channels and the constant repetition of the same information throughout the day as an example. Then consider how often abusers repeat the same abusive things to their victims. Because the victims hear the same messages over and over, the idea quickly becomes reality for the listener. It is no longer the opinion of the abuser, it is literally the way things are. The victim comes to believe that they actually are useless, stupid, less than others, worthless and a whole host of other things. The repetition is what does the damage.

The second factor is that in toxic relationships there are many of the behaviors listed above. Of course, they are typically not all introduced at once into the relationship, otherwise the victim would run a mile. Over some period of time, several, or even most, of the abusive behaviors are used by the manipulator to basically destroy the personality of the victim, to make them doubt themselves and to make them feel inferior and flawed in some way. This has the effect on the victim of making them try harder to please the manipulator. I know, this is also very twisted, but it's what goes on in mind control environments.

The third factor is intention. In normal relationships as I mentioned, people say things they don't really mean when they are very upset. It just comes out and then later they regret it and apologize for it. In abusive situations the manipulator does these nasty thing on purpose. The toxic behavior is deliberate. This is very difficult for many people to fathom. They find it hard to get their head around the idea that some people are deliberately cruel and callous to their spouses and even their own children. They simply can't believe that their spouse would be deliberately winding them up, shaming them, making them feel guilty and afraid, all on purpose. They basically don't know that there are people on this planet who live to control and dominate others and these people do not have normal emotions. They are called psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists However, to recover fully from such a situation, the victim has to come to terms with this fact. Nice people don't deliberately destroy others. Psychopaths and narcissists have no problem doing this, they never feel bad about anything they do!

The last factor I am going to mention here is that these deliberately destructive tactics are aimed at the victim at the level of identity. What does that mean? Criticizing someone's work environment, for example, is not the same as criticizing the person's beliefs, or their skill level. Each of these different criticisms has a different effect on the person criticized. More explicitly, saying to a child, "What you did was bad, and we don't do that here," is absolutely not the same as saying, "You are bad for doing that!" In the same vein, the manipulator might be talking about something you did or said, but they make it about you personally.

  • There you go again. It's the same thing with you every time, isn't it?
  • Why do YOU do that?
  • If only you could change, we wouldn't have these problems in the relationship...
  • Who do you think you are that you can treat me like this?
  • You being you again! Dragging up things from the past again...
  • Up to your old tricks again! Not telling me things and making me feel like I don't belong in this relationship...
  • You know what the problem is here? It's you. YOU are the problem.
  • Everybody does it this way but not you. Oh no! You have to be different!

All these attacks at the level of identity basically destroy the victim's sense of themselves. They come to believe all sorts of negative things about themselves (that are basically not true or accurate). They don't trust themselves any more. Their personality has been changed and they become subservient and dependent on the abuser. This is why victims feel that they have lost themselves in the relationship, that they don't even recognize themselves any more and they feel that they are nothing without the abuser. I know, this is also very weird, but it's typical of psychologically abusive situations.


A few more signs of a toxic relationship

Financial dependence is a major warning sign. Perhaps one partner controls all the bank accounts and the other knows little to nothing about what is going on. Or one partner spends the others money first, and then starts into their own. Or a person might have to produce receipts and change whenever they return home from the store.

Lies, lies and more lies. There are always lies in a toxic relationship, whether the victim recognizes it or not. Remember that the pseudopersonality is programmed to trust the manipulator and it may take the victim some time to figure out that there are being lied to. And the psychopaths lie as easily as they breathe!

A toxic relationship is an emotional rollercoaster. There is one crisis after another, one thing going wrong after another. The manipulator is constantly poking and prodding the emotions of the victim. It often happens that it's not until the victim leaves the relationship that they realize how full of drama their live was with the manipulator.

People in toxic relationships live under an umbrella of fear and guilt, although, again, they may not be aware of just how much fear and guilt there is until they leave. Fear and guilt are the two main controlling forces used by controllers to keep their subjects under control. Ruling bodies have used these two things for centuries.

The manipulator will want to know all about your day, where you went, who you were with, what you did, what was said. They, on the other hand, give you very little personal information about themselves. In some toxic relationships, the manipulator even disappears for days on end without ever giving an explanation. These people understand the importance of information control and they will hide information from you as well as feed you half truths and distort information to make it more 'acceptable'.


Signs of a toxic relationship - more reading

If you recognize some or all of these signs of a toxic relationship in your own situation, it would be prudent to learn more about mind control and manipulators. You really need to understand what is being done to you if you want to have any chance of protecting yourself.

You can read more about what a toxic relationship is, the stages of an abusive relationship, why some people abuse others emotionally, what makes a psychopath and leaving an abusive relationship.

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