Being hurt so many times in the past, you’d think I’d learn my lesson. In my defense, dating toxic people isn’t something I casually decided to do one day because I was bored with my perfectly peaceful life.
I was buttered up into thinking that the irrational kind of love that makes you break china plates on the wall in a fit of tears was somehow endearing and romantic. Excuse me, what!?
The hurt and doubt that consumed me each time I entered another relationship with yet another sweet-talking, manipulative jerk almost irreparably broke me.
It took me years and years to pick up the pieces and move on. Years to start enjoying my life without feeling as if I was doing something wrong and selfish.
To start living for those little things that brought happiness back into my life. And most importantly, to start loving myself more than anyone else.
But, that doesn’t mean I never face times when I’m wrestling with feelings of anxiety, shame, and sadness.
There are nights when I, after a drink or two, find myself typing their names in the search bar, wondering what they’ve been up to, and hoping they haven’t been doing better without me by their side.
Hoping I wasn’t the only one left cynical and fearful of love. Hoping I wasn’t the only one left with a bunch of scars reminding me of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life.
But, then I remind myself of the strength I mustered when I came to accept that the things I endured were merely a tool for my own growth.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go through the same agony I did. Here are some things I learned from dating toxic people.
1. Red flags aren’t always red
What do I mean by that? When you’re observing other couples who seem to have relationship problems, very often you catch yourself thinking “I would never let that slide” or “I would notice his manipulative behavior from a mile off.”
The sad reality is that you probably wouldn’t notice. Red flags aren’t always red. Toxic people aren’t always toxic. Or at least that’s what they want you to believe.
You see, dating someone who’s toxic doesn’t mean you’re dating someone who makes you unhappy all the time. Who manipulates you all the time. Who makes you feel bad about yourself all the time.
That would make leaving them so much easier, but trust me, they’re smarter than that. They learn how to hide their flaws, mask their intentions, and manipulate you into thinking you’re the one who’s being paranoid!
So, how do you avoid being caught in a vicious circle of questioning your own sanity? Trust that gut feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time. Give yourself some space and don’t commit to a relationship right away. Trust me, they all have their tells!
2. You are your own best friend
When you spend a good chunk of your life dating toxic people, you learn to trust yourself a little bit more. You learn to pay attention to your own judgment, intuition, or whatever you want to call it.
The point is, you don’t let him use his honey words to manipulate you into thinking you’re imagining things. You don’t let him tell you how to feel about something. You’re perfectly capable of doing that yourself.
So, that horrible comment he made under his breath about the waitress on your second date? That glimpse of irrational anger you noticed when you were hanging out with his friends?
That know-it-all, douchebag attitude that slipped up on the street? You didn’t imagine any of that! You should’ve removed yourself from that relationship right there and then.
Trust me, there’s a whole lot more where that came from. Toxic people don’t change, they simply pretend until they let their guard down and show you their real face. So, when they do that… Don’t waste your precious time on them and leave!
3. No relationship is better than a harmful one
I can’t say that I’ve been dating toxic people like a sucker for punishment because I’ve been scared of being on my own, but… I also can’t say there isn’t some truth in that.
People tend to go into (and stay in) unhealthy relationships because they aren’t comfortable with being alone. What they don’t understand is that being alone doesn’t equate to being lonely. You can be alone without craving the presence of someone else.
I understand that staying alone might be a difficult choice to make for some, but it’s one that’s bound to bring you peace in the long run. Let’s be honest, you can never hurt yourself the way someone else could.
And don’t give me that “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” excuse. Comparing your partner to the devil should be a red flag in itself. Don’t fear the unknown, especially when the alternative isn’t all that better.
Trust me, I learned it the hard way. Relationships are all about compromise, but the moment you learn there are things you shouldn’t compromise on, you’ll be free.
This might sound selfish to people who never had to deal with manipulative jerks, but… it’s not.
4. What you don’t want is more important than what you do
This might be the biggest lesson you learn from having a history of dating toxic people. Figuring out what you don’t want in someone is so much more important than figuring out what you do.
Who wants to be manipulated, criticized for everything they do, and gaslit to the point where they start questioning their own sanity? Who wants to be reduced to a lesser human being and pressured to plea and beg for an ounce of love?
I’ll pass on that any day of the week, thank you.
So, how do you go about avoiding these situations in the future? Make sure you know what you don’t want, and make it your priority to set healthy boundaries as soon as you find yourself in a relationship with someone new.
Don’t let anyone pull the strings of your own life. You are so much better than that. If you just came out of a toxic relationship and you’re feeling okay, you’re determined to be better… You’re the real winner. Trust me.