We’ve all walked by these red flags.Having your heart crushed is painful, right? Toxic, insecurely attached relationships throw your emotions around like a ragdoll. The ups and downs are as addictive as the hot sex you keep coming back for.
The sad thing is, you may not even realize you’re stuck in a pattern at first.
I didn’t. I spent 6 years dating people believing these patterns were normal. My attachment style was anxious-avoidant. And I attracted the same emotionally unavailable people each time. It hurt like hell.
I don’t want that for you. You deserve a securely attached relationship.
Here are the first warning signs of a toxic, insecure relationship.
The 3 Insecure Attachment Types
Chances are, you’ve dated someone who keeps you at arm’s length. You lust after them, hoping you’ll be the one to save them from their issues.
Perhaps this person is you. No judgment here. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I pined after people like a love-crazed addict and got stung time after time. I also hurt people too with my own attachment style.
To understand why toxic relationships are the way they are — first, you must understand the 3 insecure attachment types:
Afraid of opening up. Keeps you at arm’s length because closeness is too overwhelming for them.
This doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings, they usually don’t know how to experience them in a healthy way.
The “I’m too busy for anything serious” type.
Usually the clingy type. Often afraid of abandonment, and seek validation from their partners. They may call and text wondering where you are and what you’re doing.
They want to know how much you love them because a slight whiff of you losing interest will freak them out.
The “what are we?” type.
These poor souls are a combination of the above. This was my attachment style before I changed to secure.
If the person they’re dating shows too much interest, they lose interest. When the person loses interest, they freak out because they want them back.
The “I want you, but I’m terrified — I can’t do this! Wait, come back!” type.
Got it? Great! Secure attachment is important too. It’s the only healthy option. Secure attachment is what a real, loving relationship looks like. We’ll go through it along the way.
Now, let’s move onto the red flags.
5 Warning Signs
Toxic, insecurely attached relationships are a mix of addictive and painful. You’ll feel as high as the heavens and then get dragged down to hell a few days later.
But with these tools under your belt, you’ll be able to spot the red flags and high-tail out of there faster than Road Runner.
Grab your goggles, let’s dive in.
1. Unsure about what they want
Which translates to “I don’t want anything serious.” When we’re insecurely attached, being close to someone is scary — so we avoid it. (Typical of avoidant or anxious-avoidant people.)
The mistake we make with these people is thinking we can save them. “She’s a good person inside though, she just needs love!” You may say. Sorry to burst your bubble — but if that’s your mindset, you’ve already walked past the red flags.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can save people by pouring love into them. You can’t. You’re not Dr. Phil — they have to save themselves.
2. Zero boundaries
If you’re seeing someone who tells you they don’t want anything serious but tell you they like you and feel attracted to you… Red flag. When there aren’t clear boundaries between you both — it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
I fawned over a gorgeous woman who told me the same thing. She was recently out of a relationship (red flag #2.) So I did what most insecurely attached people do.
I slept with her.
If you start shagging someone you like, who doesn’t want anything serious with you. You’re in for a painful ride.
Ever seen that meme of a kid going down a slide, but the slide is photo-shopped into a cheese grater?
It hurts. I chose to go down that slide and came out the other end broken-hearted. No matter how good the sex is — don’t go there.
3. Emotionally closed off
Feelings? What feelings? Trying to talk about deeper emotions with this person is like pulling teeth. Painful and a bad idea unless you’re a dentist.
If you’re someone who attracts emotionally closed-off people… You may think you need to try harder or make yourself seem more appealing.
Heck, maybe you think sex is the only way to get someone to love you. I’ve been there too (steamy tip — it doesn’t work.) It only makes you feel like you’re never good enough.
And here’s the thing, it’s not even about whether you’re good enough. Insecurely attached people often have unrealistically high expectations that nobody can ever meet.
Unrealistic expectations are a way to avoid intimacy.
There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be XYZ for someone to love you. The right person will want you as you are, warts and all.
My girlfriend loves me for me, even though I have a little chin hair that I need to pluck out every couple of months.
4. Clingy and jealous
When you’re with someone who is anxious, their fear of abandonment can kick in. They might start behaving obsessively and in a controlling way. And they may ask you to stop talking to certain people.
It may seem sweet at first (if you’re insecurely attached too) that they’re protective. It might make you feel loved, maybe you never had someone who showered you with affection.
Clinginess is not love.
It’s a fear of abandonment. I had these patterns in my love life when I was insecurely attached. I felt terrified of abandonment, I would text and call when I thought the person didn’t like me.
Coming from someone who was the clingy person, if you see these red flags… Don’t do it. No matter how adorable it seems, it’s not healthy for either of you in the long run.
5. Come here, go away!
When someone tells you they like you, but then stops talking to you for a few days. You might miss the giant red sign flashing “STOP!”. If you prance past the warning sign, this is what will happen:
You’re about to get caught in an addictive push-pull pattern.
If you’re insecurely attached, this “come here, go away!” will give you a rush of endorphins. Let’s use Polly and Jack as an example.
Polly and Jack start dating. They like each other.
Jack is avoidant, Polly is anxious.
So when Polly expresses her feelings to Jack, he avoids her calls and texts. She feels upset and hurt, but moves on for now. A week later, Jack pops up again and tells her he likes her and he’s sorry.
Polly feels a rush of endorphins.
She tries not to step on his toes again by sharing her feelings with him again. But after a few weeks of hot sex, she asks him “what are we?”. This triggers Jack, and he backs off again.
Polly feels devastated. A couple of days Jack makes a return and apologizes… Again. They both get a surge of endorphins and the toxic, addictive cycle repeats itself.
In healthy, secure relationships, those 5 red flags don’t exist. But, when we’re insecurely attached, secure people may not give us the addictive rush we’re used to. We may think the relationship lacks passion.
When you can see something in yourself, it’s easier to spot in others. When I learned about my own attachment style, I picked up on warning signs when I dated people.
When you change your attachment style to secure, your world will change. You won’t go back to insecure relationships when you’ve tried secure. No matter how addictive and intense those toxic relationships are.
Secure relationships don’t hold any nasty surprises. Talking about feeling is easy. It doesn’t feel like you’re trying to pry open an Oyster. Boundaries are clear. There’s respect, independence, and no jealousy.
Now you’ve got your red flag goggles on, you can spot the warning signs in your dating life. Even better if you can recognize some of these qualities in yourself. Once I saw how my own behaviors kept me stuck, I was able to change them.
And once you go secure, you won’t go back.
Enjoying this content?
Feel free to sign up to my exclusive Substack newsletter Attached for more.