“Baby don’t hurt me,” is a famous line from the song “What is Love?” recorded by artist Haddaway. It’s a plea for the pain in his relationship to stop. It’s a phrase that reveals this relationship is stuck in a cycle of hurt and pain. A healthy “loving” relationship doesn’t continually inflict hurt and pain on purpose. When you find yourself in this cycle, you’re living in a toxic love design.

What is Your Love Design?

The creation of your love design is formed from your life’s experiences, understanding, and the adjustments you make as you learn and grow older. The only love design you can use and live by is the one you know and have come to accept as “normal.”

If you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you fix it? Christ’s healthy love design is the only one that is perfect and never changes. As his disciples, we are called to live in his love. His love sets the healthy standard of faithfully respecting and honoring the person we profess to love. Likewise, the love we receive from others must be respectful and honoring.

Depending on the dynamics, standards, and version of love you grew up with you may not realize Christ’s love design. You may have accepted that being disrespected, blamed, shamed, and abused is normal when the person apologizes. Because we don’t know what we don’t know, I am sharing Christ’s love design as the standard to measure the health of our intimate relationship.

7 Signs of a Toxic Love Design

The 7 Signs of a Toxic Love Design below give you insight to the emotions and realities you may be experiencing that are in truth, abuse. Be honest with yourself as you read through these signs.

  1. You feel like you are with Dr. Jekyll one minute and Mr. Hyde the next? The switch of your new love interest will begin subtly. With every beastly personality change, he will always have a rationale, justification, and blame. As a Christian woman in a new relationship, it’s very easy to overlook, forgive, and forget one or two things. However, in a new relationship, you are called to be honest and discerning. You need to make sure the man you are starting to share your heart with, doesn’t reveal his true nature is Mr. Hyde, a beast. Take at least a year in your relationship to make sure “your wonderful man” remains your wonderful man. Be honest; if he’s switching personalities and he’s not treating you with respect and honor, your relationship is toxic.
  2. He puts you down or discounts you. At the beginning of your relationship, your boyfriend may have used flattery, compliments, and even words of encouragement. Over time, he replaces his good words with sarcasm. His sarcasm turns into small digs and degrading remarks which he dismisses as “just joking around.” If you question or protest, he tells you to stop being so sensitive, or he blames you. Whenever anyone disrespects, dishonors, and degrades you, it’s a red flag that you are living in a toxic love design.
  3. He questions you about who you talk to, where you have been, and what you have been doing. Your boyfriend acts interested in every aspect of your life, and he listens intently. His willingness to listen makes you feel valued, important, and his priority. As time passes, he will question you more and listen less. When you protest, he justifies his questions by telling you that he’s protecting you. His questions are his tactics of manipulation and control. If your boyfriend or husband requires you to account and justify every hour of your day, then you are living in a toxic love design.
  4. He’s jealous and possessive while using the excuse that he’s protecting you. Your boyfriend will shower you with compliments and make sure you feel like you’re the most beautiful woman around. He will continue treating you like a queen for a while. As you spend more time with him out in public, he will become jealous. His jealousy will turn from aggression toward men to accusing you of flirting or being unfaithful. Jealousy is not healthy love. Jealousy is a siren revealing you are living in a toxic love design.
  5. You barry your feelings and silence your objections just to keep the peace between you. Your relationship starts off good. However, he will begin to use hurtful words and justify them by blaming you. He will use gifts and apologies to keep you believing that if you hang in there, he will turn back into the man you first met. The truth is, whenever you have to hide or silence your feelings there is no peace to protect. When there is no peace, and you are hiding from yourself, you’re in a toxic love design.
  6. He uses faith and his claim to be a Christian to build a connection. He may attend church, Bible studies, and even quote Scripture. As time goes on, you begin to notice his words and actions are becoming the opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. When you question his attitudes, words, or actions, he tells you that you are the cause of his change. He will use faith and Scriptures to manipulate you into believing that you must obey and submit to him. He also uses scripture to force you into forgiving him, forgetting what happened, and staying in the relationship to prove you are a good Christian woman. All of these actions are Spiritual abuse. They are a toxic design of love.
  7. He blames you for causing his outbursts and problems. Your relationship begins good, and it may even have elements of being electric. As time goes on, your boyfriend becomes extremely reactive. He funnels his emotions into outburst on objects, pets, and you. If you hold him accountable to treat you with Christ’s love, he blames you for making him frustrated, angry, and upset as he has another outburst. Because of his outbursts, you become afraid to speak up or to end the relationship which is toxic love.

All these signs of toxic love are abusive and sinful as Christ-followers. Many actions of your abuser are also criminal and dangerous. However, you can break free as I did.

You Can Live Safe, Secure, and Loved

I know firsthand how confusing love can be, especially, when you’re a Christian, and people expect that forgiveness equates forgetting what happened and allowing that person to continue to disrespect and dishonor you. Forgiveness sets you free. God’s word didn’t design forgiveness to instruct you to let people disrespect, dishonor, or abuse you. He calls us to be discerning and to guard our hearts.

If you have recognized that you are in a toxic love design, your priority is to make sure you and your children, if you have them, are safe. Find help by calling your local women’s shelter or the domestic violence hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY), especially if you are in immediate danger.

If you’re confused about abuse or what God says about abuse go to this link. https://godstransforminggrace.com/

It is not God’s will for you to live in a toxic love design or to be abused. You are not alone, and there are many great people to help you. Through Christ’s revelation and healing power, my life is proof that you too, can be healed and live safe, secure, and loved!