I know the bad boy cliché is often celebrated in teenage movies. His name is always something like Jesse, he wears black, has ‘fantastic’ hair, rides a motorcycle, and is always, always misunderstood. Sound familiar? It’s like three movies that came out this month. The bad boy can seem like something that every girl should experience as a rite of passage but behind all the leather and spikey hair (I know this was more a 90s version of the bad boy) there’s something deeper going on, and it’s not that nobody except you ‘gets him’. Here are nine red flags with a guy, signs that a relationship might be toxic. Although he seems so exciting and he’s different than all the other guys, meanwhile you know who he’s hurting? You. But you’re worth more than that, so let’s take a look.
1. You’re always making excuses for him
It might be normal to say every once in a while about your guy, “You just don’t know him like I do”, but if you find yourself saying it all the time, that’s not good. If the people who care about you are all saying the same thing, and it’s negative, alarm bells should be going off. Surely they can’t all have impure motives, or be prejudiced, or misunderstanding, or old-school, or overprotective, or narrow-minded. Maybe they’re actually just right. I know denial is something that’s hard to come to terms with. That’s why it’s called denial. But if you are constantly having to defend him, there’s probably some behaviours that are really not up to code.
2. You hide aspects of your relationship
Not proud to say that this is one I did a lot of throughout high school. Things only came out years later that my parents kept saying, “If we had have known that…!” Exactly why I didn’t tell them at the time. You get it. Because you he’s cute, and funny, and maybe one day he’ll change and you will live happily ever after.
Ladies, please hear me. You cannot change a man! Believe me, I’ve tried. The only one who can change someone is Jesus. Also, making people change is not in your job description.
You hide it when he hurts you, emotionally or otherwise, from other people, or always brush it off. You’re conveniently vague when someone asks you about how it was last weekend hanging out with him. Are there some kind of big things you’re keeping from your loved ones about your relationship? Do you ever think, “If they knew about this or that they’d lose it?” Unhealthy.
3. You always take the blame or feel that you’re in the wrong, no matter what the situation
This is one particularly toxic mind-set that girls are experts at. Whether a guy’s conditioned you to think this way, or you’ve just taken it upon yourself, good soldier that you are, it is unhealthy and can be how relationships end up in abuse.
Let me be very clear. There is such thing as inexcusable behaviour, and there are no circumstances under which it is okay for your boyfriend to hit you. Not ever. Not even if he’s angry. Not even if he feels you deserve it. Or you feel you deserve it. Not ever. No exceptions or justifications. No terms and conditions apply.
He will always say he didn’t mean to when he hurts you, or “maybe if you just didn’t make him so angry” then he wouldn’t have to treat you that way. Or that this is the “last time”. Believe it? Neither do I.
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Stephen Chbosky had it right in his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower and these thoughts will lead you to a place of dangerously low self-esteem. If you think you are worth nothing, then you are willing to accept someone who treats you as nothing. Thinking this way is not just someone putting you down, it’s you putting yourself down. It affects the way you think about yourself and shakes your identity until over time you start believing things about yourself that are wholly untrue. And often it takes someone else who loves you to point it out. I remember getting in an argument with someone I loved, defending the lie that I had believed about myself and allowed to become part of my DNA.
Ever had the kind of thoughts that I’m referring to?
Why are you here? No one needs you. You don’t add anything of value. Don’t get too comfortable because once they really get to know you they will leave you. You are alone and will always be alone, because that is what you deserve. If he treats you like that, it must be because you deserve it. Why would someone who loves me say something like that just to hurt me? It must be true.
And so the cycle goes on. The message to our hearts is you are too much, and somehow not enough at the same time (credit to John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating). The message says, “Shut up, back off, sit down, go home. Give up.”
It takes a long time to pull you out of that dark tunnel, and the easiest way is to avoid it altogether by recognising the toxic signs in the beginning stages.
4. He only hangs out when it’s convenient for him
Wow, you feel so lucky that he finally made time for little old you in his busy schedule. Well, you shouldn’t. A guy with integrity and respect for you will make time for you if he’s interested. A bad boy will make sure you know that he’ll only hang out if nothing else comes up; he’s keeping his options open. Way to make you feel like he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel with you. But you are first prize, a top-notch catch, a winning goal, a score, a top-shelf girl. Don’t let someone make you feel merely satisfactory. The daughter of a king shouldn’t settle for that.
5. You have to choose between your loved ones and him
While it’s likely that a lot of couples at some point or another get in fights over their in-laws, if you get into regular fights with your family over him, that’s another story. They don’t like the way he’s treating you, and you get angry and defensive because you want so much for them to just like him (for goodness sake). I feel your frustration but there is wisdom in dropping your defences for a minute and listening to their reasons for objecting to him. The phrase ‘love is blind’ was not coined by a fool.
It’s a bad sign if he draws you away from your family and friends and doesn’t want to get to know them. A guy who’s truly pursuing your heart, and is out for your good, will want to get into your world (not to mention impress all the people you care about) and learn all about you. If he always resists spending time with your loved ones and either only wants to hang out alone with you, or with his friends, not only is that selfish, but it indicates no sense of accountability with the way he’s treating you. As a lady, you deserve respect.
6. He doesn’t want to tell anyone about your relationship
He says that he doesn’t want to wreck what you have, or he likes it better when you two are just in our own world, or he wants to focus on school. Okay I admit that last one might be legit but if the rest sounds like a load of crap, it’s because it probably is. He wants the benefits of being your boyfriend but won’t make a commitment. I knew a girl who was seeing a guy for a while, but all he wanted to do was sit at home and watch movies with her. He never made the commute to see her, and never took her out on dates, even though she expressed a desire to share those things with him. She ended up wondering if he was ashamed to be seen with her, because they never seemed to go out in public.
Trust me, if a guy is truly into you, he will want to show you off to the whole world.
7. He pressures you into things and always makes you feel guilty when you say no
This one’s a no-brainer. If a guy is manipulating you like that, he obviously has ulterior motives. You are the boss of you and your body, and you do not have to feel guilty about setting boundaries. Every good guy will show his respect for you by respecting those boundaries that you’ve put in place. If he keeps over-stepping the line, he clearly doesn’t have your happiness and welfare in mind.
Because your value is beyond measure, don’t give yourself away to someone like that. If you trust a guy like that with your heart, don’t be surprised when he hands it back to you pulverised.
8. You feel like you’d be jeopardising his safety or mental health by breaking up with him
Guys who threaten to hurt themselves, or worse, if you break up with them are definitely toxic for you. They don’t need judgement, or for you to panda to those feelings; they need help. That is an unhealthy place to be in, and he should really speak to a professional about it. Threatening to do some kind of self-harm if you break up with him is also undermining the stability of your relationship and keeping you there for the wrong reasons.
9. He doesn’t treat one or all of these three things well…
If a guy is not so nice to his mother, to elderly people, or is cruel to animals, this is disturbing. First of all, if he treats his mother with disrespect, what’s to stop him from doing it to you after the honeymoon phase has worn off? Respect for elders is a godly principle and you’ve got to wonder what’s going through his head if he doesn’t treat them nicely. Thirdly, not liking animals is one thing, but being purposely cruel to them is another. If gets a kick out of inflicting suffering, or finds suffering funny, what does that say about him?
When seeing all these toxic traits and behaviours in a guy, we ladies should start to think, is this the kind of guy I want to be with? Is this what I want for myself?
And if you think about it long enough, I hope that you, like me, will start to want something better. And then start to believe that you can have it.
P.S. Does it bother some of you that I didn’t add a tenth thing to my list?