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 a potential partner. Unfortunately, toxic people also tend to do what they can to woo friends or partners. Toxic people may use their faults or shortcomings as “bait” to win over others. You may not realize how deep you’re into an unhealthy relationship until the symptoms of its toxicity are getting in the way of normal behaviors or feelings. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in a toxic relationship, aspects of the “normal response” to an “abnormal situation” can include feelings of suffocation, trepidation, helplessness, and even shock at your circumstances.
Bait and Switch: Reeled in before you Know It!
Examples of the “bait and switch” technique in relationships includes those individuals who are “needy” and, when helped by unsuspecting others, are so ridiculously 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 that you might have otherwise rejected.
Recovery 101: Get Off the Bus before its Last Stop
Most people in the “recovery phase” of a toxic relationship would probably agree that the best way to avoid having to end a toxic relationship is to never enter one in the first place! Basically, what it comes down to is that a person should trust their gut intuition about a new friend. Such a large number of interviewees shared that they ignored the “red flags” that were noticed early in the relationship – they did not trust their intuition or pay attention to early warning signs. As one of our research participants shared, her best advice on ending a toxic relationship is to “check out of new friendships the moment toxic traits begin to appear.”
Know the 7 Warning Signs before You’re in too Deep
The “early warning signs” of a potentially toxic friendship include the following:
- New acquaintances or potential love interests who seem to be claiming too much of your time or sharing too much personal information too soon.
- People who call you only when something is wrong in their lives.
- People who take control of planning outings/get-togethers without respect for your own interests.
- 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.
- 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, make sure that relationship is short-lived!
- People who view you as “competition” in any activity may be future toxic friends or partners, depending on how far they take the competitive spirit.
- People who are not shy about asking to borrow money and are slow to return it should be quickly reminded that friendship/romance and personal banking are 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 with your friend before a pattern is set or a line is crossed. If you find yourself unable to initiate this type of conversation – this is yet another warning sign that should be heeded.
In romantic relationships or friendships, when you find yourself trying to convince yourself of how great a partner or friend is – or trying to convince other friends 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, then do what is in your best interest and let the relationship go.