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  • Writer's pictureTonya

8 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Updated: Feb 18

8 warning signs of a toxic relationship

This week we will be delving into the topic of knowing what are the warning signs of a toxic relationship? More specifically, are you dating a narcissist or someone who displays the traits of a narcissist?

One thing I wish I had known more about when I first started dating the covert narcissist – and this is an issue women tend to overlook or don’t pay enough attention to – are the subtle and not so subtle warning signs you are dating a toxic person.

The main question I often hear women regretfully ask after leaving or breaking up from an emotionally abusive relationship is the fact that they had no clue that their ex-partner was capable of such cruelty and that to their knowledge there were no warning signs until it was too late; they were already hooked into the crazy-making, emotional roller-coaster of being in a toxic relationship, in my case this was with a covert narcissist.

1. Love Bombing - Setting the Stage:

This happens when the narcissist is molding and prepping their target for future manipulation, emotional abuse through ongoing devaluation and eventually transitioning into the discard phase. Love Bombing is what some call the honeymoon phase of a relationship; however, when utilized by a narcissist love bombing is solely used to keep the target under control and in a phase of continually idealizing their partner (the narcissist).

Love Bombing is used to also extract supply (energy) from the target by way of financial support, sexual gratification and whenever the narcissist feels they are losing a grip over you and the relationship. Love bombing can be experienced through gift giving for no apparent reason, copious amounts of compliments, adoration and attention. The end goal, however, is to be able to switch you on and off as they please.

This hot and cold treatment from the narcissist is how they keep you walking on eggshells within the relationship. Once they pull away from you, withdraw their love, it's intended for you to feel empty and worthless. You must watch out for this warning sign because it is their favorite tactic to use in the beginning of a relationship, just before they start infesting the relationship with their toxicity.

2. The Ghosting Game:

Once they have gained enough territory in the relationship to control and manipulate your reactions and emotions through love bombing, they will then begin the crazy-making game of ghosting you throughout the duration of the relationship. Ghosting is another warning sign you should look out for. This will usually happen once they are confident that they have got you right where they want you to be, both emotionally and mentally, and that is for you to slowly become dependent upon them for emotional comfort and support.

Once they are satisfied that they have hooked you into their fantasy of being the perfect, ideal partner for them, they will shortly after start ghosting you. The first time they ghost you, they will make it appear as though you are over-reacting to the fact that they simply forgot to call or text you for a couple of days; then as time progresses the excuses stop and they will expect you to comply with their ghosting behaviour regardless of how it makes you feel.

Unfortunately, the covert narcissist I dated was a habitual liar and ghosting was his go-to choice for emotional manipulation and control. It finally came to the point where it started to become a routine occurrence with him. What you should pay attention to is the frequency of how many times your partner has ghosted you and for what reasons. Do those reasons line up with a good enough excuse, or is it always one lame excuse after the other? And as I just pointed out, eventually they won't even bother offer you an excuse, they'll just expect you to deal with it.

3. Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde:

This warning sign is a tricky one because when you first meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (AKA The True Self vs, False Self) you will probably assume they are just having a really bad day, but when you are constantly arguing with someone you thought you knew it makes you wonder if the person you fell in love even exist.

This warning sign is quite a popular one among many targets and survivors who have often described their narcissistic partners as having split personalities. A narcissist has their perfect public persona and then there is the private, darker, true self of who they are. Narcissists are masters at wearing different masks, to conceal their true, manipulative nature. Who they are in public when at work with their colleagues and when socializing with their friends is completely different from who they are in private behind closed doors with you. I used to often refer to my ex-partner’s behavior and personality as having a split personality like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You just never know what bag of treats awaits you from one day to the next.

Do you feel that way when you are in the presence of your current or ex-partner? This is a classic trait of narcissists; you never know what to expect or who to expect. There would be times when we were out in public on a date and we would run into a group of his friends and he was the most polite, well-mannered person you could ever meet, and then there were an equal number of times in private that he would allow his mask to drop and become a disrespectful, manipulative, ice-cold individual to be around - his TRUE self.

The two masks exist unapologetically in the same person; and when it’s convenient for the narcissist to put on the mask of Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, it’s a natural and comfortable switch for them, because they are master manipulators in disguise. Don't let their charm fool you.

4. The Truth Doesn't Exist: Lying for No Reason:

Have you caught them recently in an innocent white lie and never thought twice about it because it was just one, innocent lie? The lying will usually appear to be minor at first, but over time their white lies will slowly reveal to you that this person has been living an entirely different life from the one you thought that you shared with them.

When you are dating a covert narcissist, everything to them is all about mind games, what they can get away with, and for how long? The lies, cover-ups, and ridiculous excuses are temperature checks to gauge what they can and cannot get away with and if your boundaries are weak, if you are unable to put your foot down and stand up for yourself when you are being repeatedly disrespected and devalued within the relationship it signals to them that they’ve got you right where they want you and that is right in the palm of their cunning hands.

While dating the covert narcissist I learned to observe and listen very closely to what he said and how he said it. His lies were always on autopilot. It got to the point where I couldn't tell one lie from the other. After a while I gave up trying to pin him down to telling me the truth. You eventually adapt or move on; this is the reality of dating a covert narcissist.

5. Gossiping + Tearing Down Ex Lovers:

Watch out for this one. When having a conversation listen for any gossip, slander or insults towards past lovers or even their own friends and family. Yes, we all have an opinion about the people in our life, especially our ex's, however their is a difference between having an opinion that is just that an opinion and a critical judgement towards another that completely tears them down as a human being. If your current partner or ex has participated in this deplorable act I suggest that you take some time to evaluate why you are in this relationship?

If your current partner constantly speaks negatively about his ex, shares private sexual information with you about his ex, shares private info about ex with you or reveals secrets that was shared with him in privacy don't think for one minute that he will not or hasn't already spoken ill about you to his friends, family or even the other women in his harem of flying monkeys. When someone shows you who they are believe them. I learned this very hardway and realized after the breakup from the covert narcissist that he levied a smear campaign towards me that took me years to bounce back from.

6. Manipulation 101 - Gaslighting:

You are not crazy. What you heard or saw is very much real and you are not imagining things. This is what targeted gaslighting is meant to do to you when you are casually interacting, having a disagreement with the narcissist or when the narcissist wants to get under your skin for fun. Gaslighting is all about getting you to doubt everything about your reality and also about yourself. When used by the narcissist the main purpose or goal is to invalidate your opinions or decision about the relationship and your truth about a given situation; even when the truth is looking right at you, the narcissist will flip the situation around and point the finger in the opposite direction back at you or somebody else.

Gaslighting is also used to discredit you as a person to others, sometimes before you have even had a chance to share what happened. For example, perhaps you had an argument with the narcissist. You stood your ground and did not waver in your truth or decision about something that you were upset about. However, a few days later you are talking with mutual friends over dinner about the argument, when one of your friends turns to you and states "yes, we heard about the argument. Maybe you need to see things from XYZ point of view." This is classic covert narcissism at its finest. In this example, the narcissist was already throwing their partner under the bus by getting other people outside of the relationship to side with him before his partner had a chance to defend herself or at least explain her side of the story.

7. Lights, Camera and ACTION! Drama and the Narcissist:

Narcissist need a stage to perform on. Whether they are a covert narcissist or a overt narcissist they need to feel adored, wanted and most importantly in control of how people view them. They thrive off drama and creating drama.

In another article, Covert Narcissist Discard signs I state that

Toxic individuals and more specifically in my experience of dating a covert narcissist feed-off drama, whether directly or indirectly. They thrive and excel in environments that are drama fueled and if it’s not drama fuelled, they will covertly create confusion around a situation or person to activate unnecessary arguments and rifts, thus feeding themselves with the much-needed toxic energy to sustain and maintain their position of superiority in the target’s life.

If you find that you are constantly in a triangulated argument with your ex/current partner and another third party, it's more than likely the narcissist is cycling through one his usual drama fueled binges. It's all about attention. Attention is emotional currency for a narcissist because it is a great ego booster whether that attention negative or positive doesn't matter, what matters is that they are the center of attention and all eye are on them and their name is on everyone's lips.

I also stated that

Narcissists need stimulating toxic energy to maintain their parasitic connection, whether that is with their chosen target or someone outside the relationship, which is commonly called fishing for new supply. Please note, that it is not beneath the narcissist to also accept a lower, grade supply of attention and energy from any outside source they deem would be a good enough ego boost for them, and will feed off this new source of attention and energy to maintain their position within the relationship for as long as they have an immediate need for that person.

8. Emotional Vampirism is Real - Beware:

Narcissistic relationships will drain your energy because when you break up from a normal, healthy functioning relationship, it is a completely different experience vs. when breaking up from an emotionally abusive one. The process is never linear, there are different dynamics at play, and if you are not careful about protecting your energy, you will feel as though you are a walking zombie by the time you leave that destructive, soul-sucking relationship.

This is what is also known as emotional vampirism. As the target, the narcissist has already identified early in the relationship whether you would be a good source of supply, and as I mentioned earlier in the article, their number one concern is to extract energy from you to feed and sustain their ego — this is the only way they know how to survive; thus leaving you feeling like a shadow of who you used to be.

5-Types of Emotional Vampirism:

  1. Repetitive arguments that are never resolved

  2. Conversations that are drama fueled

  3. Gossip, gossip, gossip is all around you

  4. Dumping their problems on you

  5. Transference of toxic energy

If you are experiencing any of these 8 warning signs of being in a toxic relationship, please take some time out to yourself to reevaluate why you are allowing yourself to be disrespected and mistreated. There is always a root cause for why we attract certain people and situations into our life; and until you take the time sit with your reality and also examine your decisions for staying in such a relationship you will continue to attract or experience low value partnerships.

8 warning signs of a toxic relationship


I hope you enjoyed this week's article and have gained some valuable information to help you move forward with confidence! As a Breakup and Wellness Coach, my work in this world is dedicated to supporting and helping women such as yourself to HEAL, RECLAIM and TRANSFORM your life after leaving a toxic relationship. Do reach out if you would like to discuss how I can support you on your journey of recovery, healing, and transformation.


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