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Five Signs You Might be in a Toxic Relationship

Posted on 28 November 2016

 By ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office from Kabul, Afghanistan (110329-A-5634G-004) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

For some reason, combat veterans tend to get into relationships with toxic women more than our civilian male counterparts. I was speaking to a friend from the unit the other day, and he hit me with this: "I think because of my PTSD I'm a relationship black hole."

I didn't know what to say to my friend to make him feel better, but I knew one thing: I'd been there before and I knew that those words were not his own. I asked him if this sounded familiar:

"Did your your ex ever say, 'When we get in an argument and you get angry, I don't feel safe because you have PTSD'?"

A resounding yes.

I’ve noticed that over the years more of my veteran friends (let’s be clear, I served in a hard hit combat unit—this article is aimed at male marine and army combat veterans) have been through toxic relationships and divorce than my civilian friends. And I’ve come up with some indicators of toxicity besides ‘crazy eyes’ to keep yourself and your sanity in check.

Here are five signs you might be in a relationship with a toxic individual.

1. You and her got involved real fast.

I'm not just talking about sexually, I mean she is talking marriage in a week's time. Writing your last name as hers. She's decorating the house and you don't even know what she majored in. Was it psychology?

I realize that when you're forward deployed, there aren't a lot of girls around. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the only women around were the ones we brought with us. If you're lucky enough to be stationed in Hawaii, you go from 7 to 13 months of jerking off in a port-o-shitter to hitting on girls wearing bikinis and sipping bellinis.

There's a certain raw maleness to an infantry guy when he's placed in situations like that. Can't blame you guys for indulging. 

Not only is there a lack of female intimacy at war... once you leave the military, there's also a lack of brotherhood. You haven't had much contact with women, while deployed, and now as a civilian, you don't have that tough brotherly love that the rifle platoon gave you. There's a space there.

Manipulative types will use their sexuality to get close to you, and then exploit the quickness of your attraction to them. The next step? Get you to feel sorry for them.

2. She brings up trauma from her past within moments of meeting. And asks you to forget about it. 

You’re on the first date, and she hits you with something really traumatic that happened in her childhood, flippantly. Then immediately asks you to forget it. “I was abused by my last boyfriend. But I forgave him already so it’s no big deal.”

And she demands this acceptance from you, moving on to something mundane like some interest you share together. 

This is all too common. I’m all for being sensitive to someone’s experiences. But manipulative people are really good at getting you to feel sorry for them.

People who have gone through serious shit do not talk about it on the first date. Do you bring up that time you saw a suicide bomber blow himself to shreds? Fuck no, you don’t. Be wary of anyone who throws something big at you like that but doesn’t take it seriously themselves.

3. When you get into an argument, it's "not okay" for you to get angry.

This is classic gaslighting. You get into an argument, get frustrated, and bring out the ole sergeant voice. Swear like you used to with your Marines. And the argument stops being about what it was about and starts being about your PTSD. It’s “not okay for you to get that angry because you have PTSD and I’m afraid you might hurt yourself or me.”

She might even call it “emotional abuse.”

Grunts are passionate guys. We know we lived through some shit and it affects us. We want to be better men than the majority of guys out there. This is great real estate for a good woman, but manipulative types will take advantage and make everything about how you have PTSD. And the reality is, if you’re in a relationship with a toxic woman, you might have relationship PTSD. And she is the one doing the emotional abuse. When you

Dear veteran, you’re allowed to be mad. You’re allowed to step out. You’re allowed to voice your frustration.

4. She drinks/smokes/does party drugs often.

One of my friends was hitting on a girl I used to work with at a house party. He told me she was approached by a guy while they were talking. The guy came up, hugged her, asked her if she wanted some molly, and she popped the pill. Just like that, the guy left, and she continued talking to him like it was no big deal.

He was dumbfounded. Me too.

With the level of binge drinking in the military, and especially during the height of the war, it’s no wonder many veterans come home and are attracted to women that put away shots of whiskey like a coked-up Honolulu bouncer.

Know when to dial it back. There’s a big difference between your first night out after a seven month deployment and people who party like that weekly. A world of difference. Blow off some steam every once in awhile but be wary of people who break it off every single weekend or multiple times a week. That’s no good for your already taxed adrenal glands, you got me?

A lot of people mask their unhappiness with empty smiles and empty bottles. Don’t be one of them. If you’ve got some stuff to work out, better to do it sobered up. Trust me.

5. “You need therapy.” (in an argument)

Third-party medical professionals are the only people whose opinions you should listen to concerning therapy. If someone you’re in a relationship has ticked off three or four of the above, and they tell you to consider therapy, run. Especially in the middle of an argument. Huge red flag!

If your significant other is a health professional, she would never consider psychoanalyzing you, especially in the heat of the moment. The hardest thing for a veteran to do is to admit that they need help, but when they are dealing with relationship PTSD, and it’s being blamed on the war, there is a cycle of abuse that continues to beat down the veteran’s mental health.

US Marines standing watch in Afghanistan near the Korengal/Pech river valleys

You Might Have Relationship PTSD

If you’ve been in a relationship with a toxic woman, you might have relationship PTSD. Emotionally and psychologically manipulative people seem to know no boundaries. Suicide attempts. Pill swallowing. Cheating on you. Drug abuse. Child abuse. Manipulation in the courts. False accusations of violence. Actual violence against the veteran or children. Seen it all.

Our best advice is to get hard, gentleman. You need to select carefully the women you get into relationships with, and that includes those that you might get accidentally pregnant!

Stay safe out there, Lance Criminals. There are some seriously amazing women out there who respect your service and sacrifice. 

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1 comment

  • Aaron: November 30, 2016

    Great read brother!

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