131 Early Warning Signs of a Possibility “Toxic” Relationship Partner

If you notice some of these signs early on in a relationship (say, in the first few months), you may be engaging with a toxic partner who will be both abusive (sometimes) and extremely hard to extricate yourself from.

On the bright side, you’ll likely be very close to having some of your early childhood wounds re-opened (giving you a chance to heal from them).

A “toxic” relationship partner is suffering from unresolved emotional trauma and takes out on their partner the emotional negativity that they felt toward someone else (usually a parent) way back then. They tend to have diagnosable “Cluster B” personality disorders, addictions, and/or a history of broken relationships.

These relationships HURT. I’ve experienced every one of these warning signs personally in the last 25 years (but not ALL of them in any one relationship).

I’m only able to share this info now because now I can SEE it–because I’ve dealt with many of the very old inner wounds that made me susceptible to these partners in the first place. I’ve also studied and learned WHY these relationships occur.

This list is not intended to describe anyone in particular. It’s intended to help others avoid throwing years of their lives away on relationships that WILL NOT WORK without serious, life-changing healing (on both sides)–which often NEVER HAPPENS.

Toxic people usually don’t get help, or they “fake” it if they do. It’s just part of the package.

HEALING HURTS AS BAD AS THE ORIGINAL PAIN DID! “Toxicity” is the avoidance of that pain.

People who “partner up” with these toxic folks tend to be “fixers” or “people-pleasers” in relationships. The proper word for this is codependent.

Codependent people have been “programmed” from earliest childhood to put aside their own needs for the sake of someone else’s. They “depend” on being needed, in order to feel loved, so they tend to seek life-destroying relationships with abusive people who really do need help–from a professional, not from a lover–but ultimately from themselves.

In my experience, these traits apply to toxic women, and I suppose many of them also apply to toxic men.

What do you think?

1. They change long-term goals quickly or repeatedly.
2. They casually mention other “guys” who want to be with them.
3. They toss around the word “crazy” in many contexts, even jokingly.
4. They seem annoyed when someone else calls or texts you.
5. They act differently toward different people.
6. They bring you gifts very early on.
7. They say they hate or dislike other women, in general.
8. They say they’ve dated a lot of “assholes.”
9. They are quickly defensive in ways that surprise you (at first).
10. They say “you’re just like all the other guys” when they get upset.

11. They threaten to end the relationship early on…but stay anyway.
12. They refer to a male friend in conversation with you as “them” instead of “him” and without naming him.
13. They talk about how honest they are.
14. They say they “hate drama.”
15. They tell you quickly about abuse in their past.
16. You feel sympathy for them quickly.
17. They initiate the relationship.
18. They move toward sex early on, maybe even before you’re ready.
19. They take prescription pills for anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
20. They impose on your personal time.

21. They impose on your personal space.
22. They don’t like it when you spend time with your friends.
23. They dismiss or minimize your feelings.
24. They focus your attention on THEIR feelings.
25. They talk about marriage, family, or living together early on.
26. They love the movies Girl, Interrupted and/or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
27. They compliment you so much that you wonder if they’re being sincere.
28. They don’t let you visit them at home and make excuses to meet elsewhere.
29. They lie—and minimize their lies to you (as if you’re overreacting if you get angry about being lied to).
30. They confess a betrayal of you…but say it “wasn’t a big deal.”

31. They seem to have a whole other life that you’re not privy to.
32. They quickly change from happy to sad, mad, or irritated.
33. They give you the silent treatment…and you don’t know why.
34. They avoid resolving issues or misunderstandings.
35. They argue a lot with a parent, or even cuss at their mom or dad in front of you.
36. They ask you very sweetly to do things for them, like get a glass of water or fix their car.
37. They say “I love you” early on.
38. They ask you if you love them early on.
39. They dump you and then call you back later as if nothing happened.
40. They don’t apologize for their part in conflicts.

41. They still talk to many of their exes.
42. They HATE it if you still talk to any of YOUR exes.
43. They still “hang out” with people they’ve had sex with before…without you.
44. They have their own “funny” nicknames for males they know but would never have sex with.
45. They say they’re good at something but they AREN’T when you see them do it.
46. They say, “I’m usually (not) ____________, but with you it’s different.”
47. You think they’re too good to be true…at first.
48. They have children with more than one man…and aren’t with either man.
49. They aren’t in contact with any one father of any one of their children.
50. Their child(ren)’s father is in jail or prison.

51. They just got out of a “bad” relationship.
52. They say they “live for NOW” or “don’t believe in the past or the future.”
53. Their children misbehave much more (or MUCH less) than other children.
54. They drink more alcohol than you do.
55. They prefer liquor.
56. One or more of their children doesn’t live with them.
57. They have scars from cutting themselves or attempting suicide.
58. They tell you they’ve ever “tried” to commit suicide.
59. They have one or more prescription bottles at hand…with someone else’s name on them.
60. They are “jokingly” rude to friends or family on the phone or in person.

61. They make “jokes” toward you that would be belittling if they were “serious.”
62. They joke about inflicting physical harm on you (“I’m gonna cut your balls off, haha!”).
63. They get really mad about surprisingly small or trivial matters.
64. They blame YOU for the way THEY feel.
65. They blame you for “making” them do self-defeating things.
66. They tell you that you’re blaming them, when you aren’t.
67. They cannot accept honest criticism and get angry instead.
68. They call you names (asshole, loser, stupid, retard, pussy, etc.).
69. They share confidential info about you with ANYONE else. (You shouldn’t be sharing it anyway.)
70. They repeatedly bring up the same past issues (even resolved ones).

71. They say how organized/neat/”together” they are (or USED TO be), and they aren’t.
72. They say how “independent” they are, but they’re clearly not.
73. They say that they’re “stressed” a lot, for reasons that never seem clear to you.
74. They complain about how you’re “treating” them, even though you’re nice to them.
75. They make you doubt yourself and second-guess yourself.
76. You avoid talking about certain things so they don’t get upset.
77. They say they LIKE to do certain things, but don’t ever seem to DO them.
78. They break promises—to you, or to anyone else.
79. They judge others and put them down in private.
80. They EVER say “You’re so/such a fucking ___________.”

81. They tell you to leave them alone and then THEY contact YOU later (or sooner).
82. They break up with you for no reason that makes sense to you.
83. They describe themselves as “very sensitive.”
84. They tell YOU you’re “too sensitive.”
85. They misunderstand you and jump to conclusions.
86. You find yourself explaining yourself to them so they aren’t mad at you.
87. You find yourself feeling like you have to convince them that you’re a decent person.
88. They send rapid-fire text messages, during which their mood changes a lot.
89. They tell you they were “only joking” about some hurtful thing they said to you.
90. They don’t want to talk about and resolve issues with you.

91. They declare that they’ve decided to do something, and then don’t follow through with it.
92. They say and do things that paint themselves as victims.
93. They tell you they don’t want/need your pity.
94. They seem to be REALLY in need of saving…by YOU.
95. You feel that they can’t or won’t be okay…without YOU.
96. You have a strong sense that they will destroy themselves if something doesn’t change.
97. They confront or question you about friendships of yours that you KNOW are innocent.
98. They seem to be “playing a game” with you sometimes.
99. You feel “jerked around” by their words and actions.
100. They smile while saying hurtful things to you or others.

101. They seem to SPIT the words “I’m sorry”—IF they even admit wrongdoing.
102. After an argument, they act later like nothing happened.
103. There are FREQUENT misunderstandings between you.
104. They introduce you to their kids at all (remember, this is in the first few MONTHS).
105. They act like, or (ESPECIALLY!!) SAY(!!) that they are (or should be) a “princess.”
106. Their favorite word seems to be “Whatever!”
107. They suddenly get quiet, cold, and/or distant if you say something they don’t like.
108. You get the uneasy feeling that they’re “punishing” you for something.
109. You feel frustrated or confused while you’re with them, or just afterward.
110. They tell you they’re “disappointed” in you, or that you “disappoint” them.

111. Your close friends tell you that “you don’t seem yourself since you’ve been seeing” them.
112. They look through ANY of your private stuff (phone, computer, closet, diary, etc.) without permission.
113. They say they think you’re keeping them a “secret” from friends, family, or the public.
114. They tell you which of your Facebook photos they think you should remove.
115. They tell you that you should get rid of items that your ex(es) gave you.
116. They seem jealous when you talk to or spend time with your family members.
117. They seem to call or text you more when they know you’re with your family or friends.
118. They suggest that one of you start staying at the other’s place every night.
119. They ask for help paying one (or more) of their bills–EVEN AS A LOAN.
120. They delete or block you on Facebook when you have arguments.

121. They say they can’t bear to read or see your Facebook page because it’s “too hurtful”.
122. They think things your friends say are subtle jabs at THEM (when they aren’t).
123. They say that you should delete certain people from your Facebook friends list…or from your LIFE.
124. They say that your friends have certain negative qualities that you know they don’t have.
125. They flirt with other guys in front of you and then deny it or say, “Oh, that’s just so-and-so.”
126. They tell you that they’re “ready to settle down” (after living crazy for years).
127. They tell you that you’re the first “nice guy” they’ve ever dated.
128. They say that “someone” told them you did something recently that you didn’t do.
129. They suggest performing “kinky” sexual favors that you didn’t ask for.
130. They say that they’ll do “anything you want” in bed.

131. They seem to have trouble making and keeping eye contact with you.


On the bright side, you’ll likely be very close to having some of your early childhood wounds re-opened (giving you a chance to heal from them).

8 Responses to 131 Early Warning Signs of a Possibility “Toxic” Relationship Partner

  1. Anon says:

    Ven, please be aware that many non-toxic women have dated a string of assholes, have married some of them before realizing they are narcs, and have had children with them and for safety reasons don’t talk to them any longer (or because those men didn’t want to be involved in the kids lives which is probably for the best) and are on anxiety/depression meds to deal with the PTSD!! So, please think through what you are writing. Victims have been blamed enough and judged enough. Oh, and we also might talk about how sensitive we are because we are simply being honest! 😉

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate constructive criticism such as this.

      I understand where you’re coming from. Consider also a couple of pertinent ideas:

      1) None of these warning signs is a “dealbreaker”. They’re only possible indicators of toxicity in a relationship partner.

      2) Someone who has unresolved emotional pain (even from being close to a Narcissist in the past, or even a victim of Narcissistic abuse) IS–by my definition, anyway–“toxic”.

      In common terms, we still have “fleas” from the Narcissist(s) in our past.

      It’s only after we’ve healed from our past experiences, by dealing with our unresolved emotional pain, that we ourselves are no longer toxic.

      “Victims”, because they carry this unresolved pain, will tend to attract more abusive partners in the future, precisely BECAUSE of their own residual toxicity.

      This is one reason why we must heal from Narcissistic abuse. ❤

  2. Your reply was very helpful. I have often wondered about my role in my toxic relationships with my father, an abusive ex husband and a narcissistic ex boyfriend. I do not want a relationship at the moment and I now understand it is because I am toxic and need to heal. This is the first time, throughout my research, that this has been said and it is important for one to recognise this in order to heal.

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you for this wonderful comment, Gabriella. Healing, in a nutshell, means grieving, as I’m sure you already know. I wish you the best in yours.

      Feel free to return, and to read more or comment again. ❤

  3. Although you write from the position of describing female toxics, much of what you describe could apply to men, too. I was married for 20 months to a narcissist who just about undid me, emotionally and finsncially, and I recognize many of the red flags you list here. I had a good counsellor afterwards and went on to have a good relationship with the man to whom I am now married. Dealing with these situations is always a process.

    Good post. 🙂

    • venbaxter says:

      Thank you, Lynette! I’m glad to hear that you undid your near-undoing and seem to be on track now. 🙂

  4. Louise says:

    I was raised in a very verbally abusive, alcoholic family, and I continue to work on my issues so I don’t become like my parents. I have been married for 42 years to a very mellow man. A good marriage is hard work! A wonderful online website for anyone involved in an abusive relationship is: leslievernick.com
    She is an amazing Christian counselor!

  5. […] as if there were a “Narcissists’ Club” with certain rules and standards of behavior (however low they may […]

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