Anyone who has been in the dating game or in a toxic relationship knows we can talk endlessly about red flags. We carefully analyse and deconstruct our dates, we pull apart alarming behaviour with surgical precision… but somehow still never see that the best red flag warning system is within us!
This is especially true for those of us who have spent countless hours telling your friends about your partners upsetting behaviours but always end up staying with them. You offer up explanations on their behalf, accept excuses, and have heard the all too familiar ‘just dump them already!” from your friends.
Here’s the thing – it’s not them. It’s you.
A person could be wearing a suit of red flags, but if you’re in a vulnerable headspace you may choose to see carnival instead of a warning. You may be letting yourself get wrecked by a toxic relationship. They could be waving scarlet, crimson and fire engine red blankets in your face and you might just think, “yeah but they said they’re sorry, and that this won’t happen again!”
Instead of looking at their red flags, look at what’s happening internally within you. How does your partner make you feel?
Internal Red Flag Warnings
Feeling like you have to walk on eggshells in fear of their reactions.
Avoiding expressing your feelings or requesting a need because you don’t want to upset them, be needy or ‘too much’.
Not telling your friends what they’ve done or said to you, because you don’t want your friends to hate them. You feel ashamed that you tolerate their behaviour. You mask how your relationship is really going.
Making excuses for them and justifying their behaviour, to yourself or to others.
Feeling the urge to go through their phone or to control them (because you just don’t trust them).
Telling your friends “But when we’re good, we’re so good!”
Telling yourself or others that your partner would be so great, if only xyz didn’t happen.
You’re afraid to leave because you’re afraid of being alone. You think it’s better to be with them than be single.
The pain of staying in the relationship is tolerable because at least you’re avoiding the pain and inconvenience of a break up.
You keep trying to change them into a version of themselves that doesn’t keep hurting you.
You find yourself thinking and saying things like, “I can’t live without you”, “I have nothing without you.”
You’re preoccupied with the fate of the relationship. This thought takes up a lot of time in your head and in discussions with friends. These thoughts can be intrusive and/or obsessive and may include a Disney-happy ending or a disastrous break up.
Continuously forgiving harmful patterns of behaviour without seeing any change. This can look like not bringing up their behaviour or repeating the same old conversations about it.
Acting fine with their poor behaviour, betrayals and boundary violations because you’re afraid standing up for yourself will lead to break up.
Thinking that there is one solution that will fix everything, such as marriage or a baby!
You’re more concerned about whether they like you, rather than whether you like them.
Ok there are a million red flags in me… but it’s so hard to end this.
If some or much of the above list resonated in you, you’re likely stuck in a toxic push-pull relationship. Your friends have told you to end it but for some reason you just can’t.
Ending a toxic relationship like this is very difficult. There’s a sunk cost fallacy where we have spent a lot of time and/or tried our utmost to make it work, so we think we have to make it work. This just isn’t true.
Human beings like routine and familiarity, and unfortunately it means we can stay in situations that are familiar but miserable. We become comfortable in this misery, simply because it is routine and what we are used to.
Ask yourself these questions:
What decisions/choice have you made about your relationship that were made from fear? How would those choices be different had you made them from self-love?
Imagine you have bucket loads of self-respect and self-esteem. Now what would you do?
What would you advise your friend?
What does choosing yourself look like? Write it down.
Only you can choose to walk away. But the below can help you with this process.
Make a plan. Write it out step by step.
Stay firm in your decision to leave. No more oscillating.
Cut off all contact, including social media. Delete their number and block their socials.
Lean on your support system, or build one. See your friends, make plans, start or continue an old hobby. Practice self-care.
Use therapy as on-going support throughout this difficult time.
Know that there ARE other people out there that you can be happy with. Know that you deserve a lovely, happy and respectful relationship.
Sometimes our brains tell us to stay in a familiar misery, but our instincts are trying to warn us the relationship is just bad. Don’t wait for your partner to turn into a full-on villain to make it easier to leave because it just won't happen. You must choose yourself and listen to your red flags, they’re telling you something for a reason!
When to seek counselling
If you don’t know how to end your relationship, then counselling can help you build your self-worth to make it possible for you to choose yourself. We can help you lead a happier and fulfilling life by building your self-esteem and mapping out how to build a social support network.
If you find your feelings of sadness, hopelessness and apathy are overwhelming you then counselling would also be beneficial. If sad feelings start disrupting your daily life (cancelling plans, withdrawing from friends, calling in sick to work) or if you cannot see a way past this (feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness) then I can also help. Contact me if this sounds familiar.