30 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

In season 2 episode 8 “Deconstruction”  Melissa and Amanda go through a list of 30 Toxic Traits found in the book “Psychopath Free” by Jackson MacKenzie.

After searching through several sources we found that there are many available for discovering toxic traits, why people act in toxic ways, and how to overcome abusive relationships. We choose this list because it covers a broad spectrum of issues specific to relationships. Although this list is written with the assumption of toxic behavior in romantic relationships, the ideas and concepts portrayed are universal to all relationships.  It is easy to read each situation and adjust the roles and actions to meet your specific situation. In a church environment discipleship, fellowship, and friendships all revolve around coming along side each other and building relationships. These types of relationships have ties that can run deep and deal with spirituality, a very personal and intimate experience for most people.  

For our context we are talking about relationships in churches mostly in regards to people in leadership roles.  It is best to view this list first with an openness towards your own heart and heart issues and second to use this list for understanding and spotting toxicity when you encounter it.

***Disclaimer***this is not a “ Christian” list and some of the wording may be consider harsh and not represent a Christian world view. However, the behaviors being described are true nevertheless and happen in both Christian and secular relationships alike. You can learn more about Psychopath Free on their website.

30 Red Flags

“Psychopath Free”

Recovering from emotionally abusive relationships with narcissists, sociopaths, and any other toxic people.  Written By Jackson Mackenzie

1. Gaslighting and Crazy-making. They blatantly deny their own manipulative behavior and ignore evidence when confronted with it. They become dismissive and critical if you attempt to disprove their fabrications with facts. Instead of them actually addressing their inappropriate behavior, somehow it always becomes your fault for being “sensitive”and “crazy.” Toxic people condition you to believe that the problem isn’t the abuse itself but instead your reaction to their abuse.

2. Cannot put themselves in your shoes, or anyone else’s for that matter. You find yourself desperately trying to explain how they might feel if you were treating them this way, and they just stare at you blankly. You slowly learn not to communicate your feelings with them, because you’re usually met with silence or annoyance.

3. The ultimate hypocrite. “Do as I say, not as I do.” They have extremely high expectations for fidelity, respect, and adoration. After the idealization phase, they will give none of this back to you. They will cheat, lie, criticize, and manipulate. But you are expected to remain perfect, otherwise you will promptly be replaced and deemed unstable.

4. Pathological lying and excuses. There is always an excuse for everything, even things that don’t require excusing. They make up lies faster than you can question them. They constantly blame others – it is never their fault. They spend more time rationalizing their behavior than improving it. Even when caught in a lie, they express no remorse or embarrassment. Often times, it almost seems as if they wanted you to catch them.

5. Focus on your mistakes and ignore their own. If their  two hours late, don’t forget that you were once five minutes late to your first date. If you point out their inappropriate behavior, they will always be quick to turn the conversation back on you. You might begin to adopt perfectionist qualities, very aware that any mistake can and will be used against you.

6. You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full grown man or woman. Normal people understand fundamental concepts like honesty and kindness. Psychopaths often appear to be childlike and innocent, but don’t let this mask fool you. No adult should need to be told how he or she is making other people feel.

7. Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention. They drained the energy from you and consume your entire life. Their demand for adoration is insatiable. You thought you were the only one who could make them happy, but now you feel that anyone with a beating pulse could fit the role. However, the truth is: no one can fill the void of a psychopath soul.

8. Accuses you of feeling emotions that are intentionally provoking. They call you jealous after blatantly flirting with an ex – often done over social networking for the entire world to see. They call you needy after intentionally ignoring you for days on end. They use your manufactured reactions to garner sympathy from other targets, trying to prove how “hysterical” you’ve become. You probably once considered yourself to be an exceptionally easy-going person but an encounter with a psychopath will (temporary) turn that notion upside down.

9. You find yourself playing detective. It’s never happened in any other relationship, but suddenly you’re investigating the person you once trusted unconditionally. If they’re active on Facebook, you start scrolling back years on their posts and albums. Same with their ex. You’re seeking answers to a feeling you can’t quite explain.

10. You’re the only one who sees their true colors. No matter what they do, they always seem to have a fan club cheering for them. The psychopath uses these people for money resources and attention-but the fan club won’t notice, because this person strategically distracts them with shallow praise. Psychopaths are able to maintain superficial friendships far longer than relationships.

11. You fear that any fight could be your last. Normal couples argue to resolve issues, but psychopaths make it clear that negative conversations will jeopardize the relationship, especially ones regarding their behavior. Any of your attempts to improve communication will typically result in the silent treatment. You apologize and forgive quickly, otherwise you know they will lose interest in you.

12. Slowly and steadily erode your boundaries. They criticize you with a condescending, joking sort of attitude. They smirk when you try to express yourself. Teasing becomes the primary mode of communication in your relationship. They suddenly belittle your intelligence and abilities. If you point this out, they call you sensitive and crazy. You might begin to feel resentful and upset, but you learn to push away those feelings in favor of maintaining the peace.

13. They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem. After once showering you with nonstop attention and admiration, they suddenly seem completely bored by you. They treat you with silence and become very annoyed that you’re interested in continuing the passionate relationship that they created. You feel like a chore to them.

14. They expect you to read their mind. If they stop communicating with you for several days, it’s your fault for not knowing about the plans they never told you about. There will always be an excuse that makes them out to be the victim to go along with this. They make important decisions about the relationship and they inform everyone except you.

15. You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you. You find yourself writing off most of their questionable behavior as accidental or insensitive, because you’re in constant competition with others for their attention and praise. They don’t seem to care when you leave their side-they can just as easily move on to the next source of energy.

16. An unusual number of crazy people in their past. Any ex-partner or friend that did not come crawling back to them will likely be labeled as jealous, bipolar, an alcoholic, or some other nasty smear. Make no mistake they will speak about you the same way to their next target.

17. Provokes jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence. They once directed all of their attention to you, which makes it especially confusing when they begin to withdraw and focus on other people. They do things that constantly make you doubt your place in their heart. If they’re active on social media, they’ll bait previously denounced exes with old songs, photos, and inside jokes. They attend to the “competition’s “activities and ignore yours.

18. Idealization, love-ombing, and flattery. When you first meet, things move extremely fast. They tell you how much they have in common with you – how perfect you are for them. Like a Chamaeleon, they mirror your hopes dreams and insecurities in order to form an immediate bond of trust and excitement. They constantly initiate communication and seem to be fascinated with you on every level. If you have a Facebook page they might plaster it with songs, complements, poems, and inside jokes.

19. Compares you to everyone else in their life. They compare you to ex-lovers, friends, family members, and your eventual replacement. When idealizing, they make you feel special by telling you how much better you are than these people. When devaluing, they use these comparisons to make you feel jealous and inferior.

20. The qualies they once claimed to admire about you suddenly become glaring faults. At first, they appeal to your deepest vanities and vulnerabilities, observing and mimicking exactly what they think you want to hear. But after you’re hooked, they start to use these things against you. You spend more and more time trying to prove your self worthy to the very same person who once said you were perfect.

21. Cracks in their mask. There are fleeting moments when the charming, cute, innocent persona is replaced by something else entirely. You see a side to them that never came out during the idealization phase, and it is a side that’s cold, inconsiderate, and manipulative. You start to notice that their personality just doesn’t add up – that the person you fell in love with doesn’t actually seem to exist.

22. Easily bored. They are constantly surrounded by other people, stimulated and praised all the time. They can’t tolerate being alone for an extended period of time. They become quickly uninterested by anything that doesn’t directly impact them in a positive or thrilling way. At first, you might think they’re exciting and worldly, and yet you feel inferior for preferring familiarity and consistency.

23. Triangulation. They surround themselves with former lovers, potential mates, and anyone else who provides them with added attention. This includes people that the psychopath may have previously denounced and declared you superior to. This makes you feel confused and creates the perception that the psychopath is in high demand at all times.

24. Covert abuse. From an early age, most of us were taught to identify physical mistreatment and blatant verbal insults, but with Psychopaths the abuse is not so obvious. You likely won’t even understand that you were in an abusive relationship until long after it’s over. Through personalized idealization and subtle devaluation, a psychopath can effectively erode the identity of any chosen target. From an outsiders perspective, you will appear to have “lost it” while the psychopath calmly walks away, completely unscathed.

25. Pity plays and sympathy stories. Their bad behavior always has sob-story roots. They claim to behave this way because of an abusive ex, an abusive parent, or an abusive cat. They say that all they ever wanted is some peace and quiet. They say they hate drama- and yet there’s more drama surrounding them than anyone you’ve ever known.

26. The mean and sweet cycle. Sometimes they shower you with attention, sometimes they ignore you, sometimes they criticize you. They treat you differently in public than they do behind closed doors. They could be talking about marriage one day and breaking up the next. You never know where you stand with them. As my morning coffee friend Rita wrote: “they put forth as little effort as possible and then step it up when you try to disengage.”

27. This person becomes your entire life. You’re spending more of your time with them and their friends, and less Time with your own support network. They’re all you think and talk about anymore. You isolate yourself in order to make sure you’re available for them. You cancel plans and eagerly wait by the phone for the next communication. For some reason, the relationship seems to involve a lot of sacrifices on your end, but very few on theirs.

28. Arrogance. Despite the humble, sweet image they presented in the early stages, you start to notice and unmistakable air of superiority about them. They talk down to you as if you are intellectually deficient and emotionally unstable. They have no shame when it comes to flaunting new targets after the break up, ensuring that you see how happy they are without you.

29. Backstabbing gossip that changes on a whim. They plant little seeds of poison, whispering about everyone, idealizing them to their face, and then complaining about them behind their back‘s. You find yourself disliking or resenting people you’ve never even met. For some reason, you might even feel special for being the one he or she complains too. But once the relationship turns sour, they’ll run back to everyone they once insulted to you, lamenting about how crazy you’ve become.

30. Your feelings. Your natural love and compassion has transformed into overwhelming panic and anxiety. You apologize and cry more than you ever have in your life. You barely sleep, and you wake up every morning feeling anxious

Melissa Weber

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