Sneaky Ways Toxic Men Try To Hook You—Beware

We all know to avoid men who are always trying to one-up us in conversations or who use negging as a tactic to try to undermine our self-confidence. Yet there are plenty of not-so-obvious tactics that a toxic man will use to get your attention that may seem charming on the surface but are actually deadly underneath. Here are some you need to watch out for.

  1. They have sob stories for days. A toxic man may tell you stories about how he’s been cheated on in his past relationships or how his exes mistreated him. He’s grooming you about how you are to act. In addition, he’s setting you up to forgive whatever bad behavior he engages in down the road. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and author of The Sociopath Next Door, says that pity is highly desired by those without a conscience and that appeals to our sympathy should be a warning sign. When we pity someone, we’re more likely to see that person as a victim and more willing to help them or let them off the hook.
  2. They suffer from premature familiarity. The two of you barely know each other, and this guy is already calling you babe or baby. It may feel comforting or flattering to know he’s using a term of endearment usually reserved for someone you’re in a relationship with, almost as if he’s falling for you, but it’s a red flag. It’s either a sign he feels entitled to treat you with that level of that familiarity early on or a test to see how much you’ll protest if he fast-tracks the relationship.
  3. They want to know all about you. It’s also flattering when a man asks you all about yourself and seems interested in all the little details of your life. There can be so few opportunities to feel heard and it feels nice when someone actually wants to pay attention and listen. It’s a red flag in conjunction with several of the other items on this list, however. Toxic men want to learn how you operate so they can pull all the right strings. They want to know your weaknesses.
  4. They mirror everything about you to a scary degree. Oh, you like The Walking Dead? That’s his favorite TV show too. And what a coincidence, both of you went to Coachella last year.  He may even mirror your gestures and posture when you are around him. Psychologically, the act of being physically mirrored allows you to feel a stronger connection to him, while having so many things in common may make you feel as if you’ve found someone else in the world who understands you.
  5. They use excessive flattery. You’re the most beautiful woman this guy has ever met. He’s never known someone as accomplished as you. He loves your eyes, your lips, your skin. He says he can’t stop thinking about you and he tells everyone how great you are when you’re not around. Who doesn’t like to be told how wonderful they are?
  6. They frequently “check in” to see what you’re up to. Toxic dudes like to text or call you when they wake up, keep in contact throughout the day, and text you good night. If you don’t respond in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll receive more texts about your whereabouts, usually disguised as concern. These check-ins are conditioning you to get used to this contact on a regular basis. It will become a method of control that they can use to monitor where you are once the expectation of your response has been set.
  7. They use over-the-top declarations of love. If the guy you’re seeing has been fast-tracking the relationship with some of these other tactics, you won’t find it odd when he starts declaring his love and doing it early. He’s never felt this way about anyone before. He loves everything about you and feels like it’s destiny that you met. I know, I know, he’s sweeping you off your feet—but listen to those warning bells. Isn’t this a little disingenuous? How can he have fallen in love with you already and this deeply? The two of you barely know each other.
  8. They talk up a future that will never come. If you do find yourself in a relationship with a manipulative guy, he may start to talk up future plans with you that he likely never intends to deliver on. The words themselves convey serious intentions and make you feel as if the relationship is going somewhere. Whatever big plans he conjures up, don’t get too excited about them because they probably won’t be happening.
  9. They expect you to change your plans for them. Guys like this want to be around you almost all the time. They hint around or directly ask you to if you mind canceling with your friends on nights they know you have other plans so the two of you can be together. It may just be once or twice at first, but over time it becomes a regular thing. At first it’ll be a test just to see if you’ll do it. Later, however, once you’re hooked into a relationship with them, it becomes expected. This way, they can slowly isolate you from your support system, who might be able to warn you about them down the road.
I'm a writer, researcher and advocate in the area of toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse. I'm passionate about empowering people who have been in psychologically and emotionally abusive relationships and about raising awareness about hidden abuse, and have blog at https:\\ where I write about these topics. My educational background is in sociology, where I focused on gender, sexuality and sexual assault.