A decade ago, I was a prime target for manipulation and there were multiple relationships where I endured emotional, physical, and psychological abuse.
The last relationship that caused me to look within was a narcissist that ultimately sent me down the road of learning about personality disorders and eventually helping victims heal and recover.
Many of these victims ask if there are warning signs they can pay attention to in the future when looking to cultivate a healthy relationship.
Although there isn't always a "one-size fits all" when it comes to red flags, here are four primary ones I have found to be the most significant indicators that someone is toxic/abusive during the initial stages of dating.
#1. I felt exceptionally on edge/my gut was screaming at me
During the first few weeks of meeting the narcissist, it felt as if my body was floating on air.
Then, that feeling dissipated and what was left was a constant stream of anxiety and what I could only call nausea in the pit of my stomach. Although my mind kept saying he was terrific and that we were in love, my body was telling an entirely different story.
The feeling never went away and only intensified when the psychological/physical abuse began.
Later, I recognized that even when everything was "perfect" on the surface, my body instantly set off alarm bells.
#2. The relationship was moving at the speed of light
We were sitting on my bed after a fantastic night out with friends. As I pulled off my heels, the narcissist grabbed my hand and stared into my eyes.
"You are what I've been searching for my entire life. You are my soulmate."
Those words were used because he was manipulative and knew it was precisely what I wanted to hear.
The reality is that he didn't know me, and there is no way that he could have, we had just met, and love doesn't instantly happen… that's simply infatuation.
It wasn't until later that I realized he used his charm to build me up and create a seemingly close connection to bond me to him, which was the beginning of the trauma bond. His quick advances and willingness to declare his love should have been a huge red flag.
#3. My voice was completely ignored throughout the relationship
At first, the complete disregard for my needs was disguised in a way that made it seem sweet and caring.
For example, before we began dating, I would always get up at the crack of dawn to complete a yoga session before work. Because of this, I needed to get to bed early. When explaining this to the narcissist, he insisted that I come over and see him and that he missed me.
I would drive over an hour to see him early on and blinded by the rose-colored glasses, and ultimately my routine and fitness goals suffered.
As time when on, I realized that my needs were not being met, and there was no respect for me in the relationship. It didn't matter what I said, the narcissist drowned out my voice, and I found myself giving up control and allowing things to be one-sided because I wanted it to work so badly.
When I looked back in the aftermath, it was easy to see that I never had a voice from the moment I let him enter my life.
#4. He immediately tried to extract deeply personal information
I didn't have boundaries when I was younger, and I was a completely open book about my past.
During my first date with the narcissist, he dug into my family, past relationships and wanted to have a super deep talk.
Instead of setting boundaries, I was naive and let him gain insight into my past, and my openness provided him ammo that would be used against me in the future.
What I didn't realize at the time was that he was manipulating me to gain my trust very quickly. As time went on, he would use that information against me to devalue me, belittle me, and hurt me.
Hindsight is all too often 20/20
Although it is all too easy to reflect on my toxic/abusive relationship and recognize all of the red flags, I have gotten to a place where I can practice kindness and forgiveness for my younger self.
I may have been a naive young woman struggling with codependency. Still, I was dealing with a manipulator who had mastered his craft and deceived numerous other victims before my arrival.
These examples of red flags/toxic behavior are not meant to scare anyone from dating. They are intended to help you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Listen to yourself and if things feel off, don't ignore that gut feeling and trust yourself because our intuition exists for our protection.