The Biggest Red Flags I Overlooked When I Began Dating My Abusive Ex

I’ve always looked for the good in people, often to the point of completely ignoring the red flags they’re waving wildly in my face. I made so many excuses for my ex’s abusive behavior in the beginning of our relationship and it’s only in hindsight I see where I went wrong.

  1. He wanted to be exclusive as soon as we started hanging out. When we started hanging out regularly, he wanted us to be in a relationship immediately, including on social media. While this might seem cute and refreshing compared to flakey guys who don’t seem to know what they want, it’s usually a sign of insecurity and control. It’s nice for someone you’re seeing to be interested and not play games with you, but if they’re rushing into a relationship and refusing to slow down even when you ask them to, that’s a warning sign.
  2. He went through my phone. One of the biggest lessons my toxic relationship taught me was that I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who feels that they need to (or have the right to) look through my phone, or vice versa. You deserve privacy and respect in a relationship. I don’t know why I didn’t see this as a problem early on.
  3. He got extremely upset over little things. He took everything I did that he didn’t understand or agree with as a personal attack against him, which was never the case or my intention. Instead of calmly letting me know it bothered him or explaining why it hurt him, he would explode with anger and accusations. He had difficulty looking at any situation from my point of view—or any point of view besides his own.
  4. If I made plans with my friends, he would get jealous and annoyed. He also would get angry if I made plans without checking with him first. When I had plans with my friends, he would start fights or make excuses for why I shouldn’t go. This led to me feeling lonely and isolated and eventually, I started to resent him.
  5. He would use manipulation tactics to try and get his way. If I disagreed with what he wanted or if I said no to him, he would try and make me feel bad instead of trying to understand and respect my feelings. If I needed space, he would threaten me with hurting himself or doing something that would bother me. I was constantly afraid while in a toxic relationship, which is definitely one of the biggest warning signs. A healthy relationship should make you feel safe, comfortable and loved, not scared.
  6. He had no goals or passions outside of our relationship. When we started dating, the rest of his life basically just slipped away. He stopped hanging out with his friends, working out, or really doing anything that he used to be interested in before. He put me before everything, which was unhealthy and led him to be very emotionally dependent on me. This put an extreme amount of pressure on the relationship and made it hard for me to work towards my goals and my passions.
  7. He couldn’t handle his alcohol but continued to drink. Some people have difficulty controlling how much they drink and how they act while they’re drunk. You can make a relationship work with someone like this if they can acknowledge their behaviors and actually want to stop them, but if they refuse, it most likely means your relationship will continue to get more destructive. While drunk, he was emotionally and physically abusive and he had no control over his emotions or reactions. Even after getting arrested, starting physical fights with people for absolutely no reason, putting himself and me in danger multiple times, he’d keep on. It was terrible.
  8. He used his past to justify his toxic behaviors. I understand it can be difficult to deal with past traumatic experiences, but it is not fair to use them as an excuse for treating someone badly. We all have had hurtful experiences and gone through rough times, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to lash out irrationally because of them. He did, though.
  9. The whole relationship seemed to revolve around his problems. I honestly forgot that I even had my own problems because the majority of the time, we were dealing with his. A relationship should be equal and you shouldn’t feel like you constantly have to be focused on or worried about your partner’s issues. I don’t know why I didn’t see it then.
  10. He wanted to change or control multiple parts of my personality. I have always been a happy, talkative and friendly person. He didn’t like that I was friends with a lot of people and would get insanely angry and jealous. He would constantly ask me to change the core parts of my personality I’ve always loved the most. WTF?
  11. He couldn’t own up to his mistakes. We all make mistakes and in relationships and you’re bound to hurt your partner at some point, no matter how hard you try not to. The biggest thing that makes for a successful relationship is being able to admit that you made a mistake, understand what you did that was hurtful, and mean it when you apologize. If your boyfriend refuses to accept his mistakes, he’ll never be able to learn from them and your relationship will be constantly strained.
  12. He would promise to change but never did. Sometimes in toxic relationships, your partner might promise to change in order to stop you from leaving. People can change, but only if they can accept why they need to and honestly want to change for themselves. If they just say that they’re going to in order to get you to stay with them and never actually make any effort to do so, your relationship will continue in the same toxic pattern until you leave.
Kerry is a freelance writer from Boston, Massachusetts who now lives in the Sunshine State with the love of her life and her 15 month old daughter. She writes frequently about her personal experiences (find more of her work on She has an Etsy shop with cute items: she's not writing, she loves to spend time outside, at the beach, and with her family.