This is for those who can’t really seem to get it down that something is very off about their relationship (considering they have one at all.)
Are you losing yourself to an odd, and ultimately destructive, relationship? Do you find your old friends falling away, while family members remark on how you don’t seem like yourself? Before you can regain your individuality and strength, you’ll need to determine whether the relationship is taking something away, and, if so, you must put an end to the destructive cycle.
And here’s how.
Step 1. Evaluate Honesty:
Step 2. Ask yourself if you’re in an abusive relationship.
Now the following questions are simply Yes or No. There is no inbetween with these questions.
Does your partner.
- Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
- Put down your accomplishments or goals?
- Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
- Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
- Tell you that you are nothing without them?
- Treat you roughly – grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
- Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
- Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
- Blame you for how they feel or act?
- Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
- Make you feel like there “is no way out” of the relationship?
- Prevent you from doing things you want – like spending time with your friends or family?
- Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?
- Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
- Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
- Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
- Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
- Feel like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
- Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
- Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?
Step 3: Evaluate how your other relationships have changed:
Are your family relationships and friendships suddenly filled with tension, every time your partner’s name comes up? Red flags should go up if everyone who cares about you is getting worried or is being pushed away.
3A – Does this person bring out your best, or worst traits? Do you feed each others’ best self, or have you seen your attitudes change to more closely mirror your partner’s, which puts off your family and friends?
3B – Be aware of the way he/she behaves with your family and friends, especially if she/he interrupts them, contradicts them, or behaves dismissively. If you feel you need to apologize or explain her behavior to your family or friends, there’s a problem there.
3C – Are you realizing it’s just become easier not to spend time with people you’ve loved for years, rather than to make apologies or excuses?
Step 4. Recognize your blindness to your partner’s faults.
Infatuation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be necessary and good; however, it does make one “temporarily insane” for the first part of a relationship. Sometimes our starry-eyed affection can make us willfully close our eyes to warning signals, even though we really kind of know that our friends and family have a point when they say they don’t like this or that about the significant other. Ask yourself:
Do you find yourself apologizing or defending your significant other’s behavior? If you find yourself getting defensive when someone questions your relationship, you’re probably already aware that there is a problem and haven’t yet come to terms with it.
Remember that people in healthy relationships for the most part have nothing to hide or defend, although clearly they have a right to privacy and a healthy relationship is not one which requires each person to share and disclose every aspect of her/himself to her/his partner. In fact, when a relationship is healthy, your friends and family are normally going to recognize that this person makes you very happy, brings out the best in you, and they will rejoice with the two of you.
Notice if your plans are continually overturned in favor of hers/his. Instead, you’re always changing plans to do what she/he wants, always meeting up with her/his friends.
Have all of your past attachments to people and places been replaced by either old friends of your new love, or new friends you’ve made since you’ve been together? Severing your ties to the familiar stability of people you have always known means she/he has just made herself/himself the center of your universe, and now has no competition for your attention.
Step 5. Pay attention to what others think of your partner. When talking with mutual friends (Not his or her friends that became your friends before you got together),
Have they ever said something about your new husband/wife that made you stop and say, “Huh? But he/she said something different to me… You can’t have understood that right.” Did you then dismiss the idea that what your friends heard could have actually been true? That’s a big red flag.
5A – When you’re being controlled or manipulated, it’s usually through half-truths or omissions, not outright lies. There’s just enough weirdness to make you stop and think, but not quite enough to get you to re-evaluate the entire relationship.
5B – If this happens more than once, STOP and remind yourself that this isn’t the first time you’ve had this reaction. Start analyzing discrepancies between what your spouse/significant other said and what your friends say. If there are a lot of them, call him/her out on them. If his/her reaction or answers don’t satisfy, it is time to re-evaluate in a major way. And don’t delay doing the analysis – it may save you from disaster later.
Step 6. Keep your support system.
Cutting you off from the friends and family that make up your support system helps her/him gain dominance over you — and you think it’s your decision.
6A – Notice that a controlling partner will treat your friends with disrespect — your friends will report rude remarks made behind your back, or you will actually see him/her treat them in a dismissive (“You don’t have the same experience I have”) or outright rude way (“That’s just stupid. You’re wrong”). However, when you’re alone with him/her, he/she never says a bad word about those friends, but rather is kind, loving, and even complimentary about them. It makes you believe your family or friends are simply jealous, don’t understand him/her, etc. You forget his/her nastiness to their faces because he/she’s nice behind their backs.
6B – When you find yourself telling your mom/father or sister/brother, “But, you have to understand him/her like I do,” that’s a bad sign. Why should everyone else understand her/him and adjust their behavior — wouldn’t it be easier if he/she would adjust his/hers? It’s much easier for him/her to control you when you’ve decided your loved ones just don’t understand your mate, and soon, you have no one but her/him to turn to.
Step 7. Recognize excessive jealousy or possessiveness.
If your partner is protective of you, that’s sweet. If they’re bizarrely over-protective, it’s scary. Consider whether he/she constantly nags about how long it takes you to make a trip to the market or to the post office. Does she/he interrogate you if you aren’t home exactly on time, or if you go out for any reason? Do they question you too intensely about why you were talking to another person? Do they tell you that you don’t care about them or your children if you spend time with a friend?
Step 8. Watch for double standards and can’t-win situations.
Does your partner apply one standard to their own behavior and a different one to yours? For instance, it’s okay for your partner to be two hours late but you get berated if you’re five minutes later than expected? It’s okay for them to flirt but probably infidelity if you flirt? Can’t-win situations are when you get chewed out whatever you do — if you save money then you’re being too stingy, if you spend it on going out with your partner then you’re careless with money and it’s your fault. Both of these patterns are common in controlling-manipulative relationships.
Step 9. Be wary of “courting” after repeat offences.
He/she does something that is totally unacceptable then asks your forgiveness, tells you they realize they were wrong, and promises to change. They seem utterly sincere and convincing — but it is part of the control. It is a way to use your compassion to keep you interested. Watch for the bad behavior to resume as soon as they believe they have you hooked and complacent again.
9A – At this point he/she may even tearfully say she/he wants your help to change, particularly if you have let them know that you will not tolerate such things again. They may bring you lavish gifts and attempt to sweep you off your feet, again, re-establishing her/his sincerity and your belief that he/she truly loves you (and she/he may, but in a really toxic, controlling way).
Step 10. Beware of the backhanded compliment.
Saying, “Nobody will ever love you the way I do,” seems sweet, but he/she wants you to believe that nobody but them will ever love you again. It fosters utter dependence on her/him and her/his love. Over time, these ideas erode your sense of confidence. You will begin to believe you’re unworthy of better treatment, and they’re the best you can hope for. Do not believe this, you deserve so much more — and that is what you should have. (Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of this one)
Step 11. Stop berating yourself for loving this person.
Realize that they’re amazing — on the surface — and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for being attracted to that. These people are often an odd mix of very high intellect or talent, coupled with low self-esteem (although they often seem confident to the point of arrogance, a mask for their internal lack of true confidence).
11A – Controlling, manipulative people are not able to just let things happen naturally — they must control things or, in their mind, things will “get away” from her/him — so he/she’s compelled by their inner horrors to make sure they’re the one pulling all the strings. But what makes it most awful is that they’re probably gorgeous (you thought so, right?) and smart, funny and charming. It’s no wonder you fell for them.
Now that was a h**l of a long list, but this is how you will bypass most of those things.
Don’t blow off the opinions of your friends and family; they do have your best interests in mind. One person can be ignored — many cannot. Do they tell you you’re acting strange lately? Do they comment on how different you seem — and not in a good way? Has anyone you love and respect expressed actual dislike for your partner? Ask yourself, “Is my mom (for example) right about every other thing, but wrong about this ONE thing — the new boyfriend/girlfriend?” And if more than one close family member or friend is expressing dislike of the new guy/gal, give more weight to the negative opinions.
Resist the temptation to be bitter about the experience. You’ve just survived a very tough situation and lived to tell the tale!
Key to this entire discussion is the recognition that the establishment of control is subtle, and often occurs over time. The entire purpose of the article is to help you examine your relationship for the warning signs. Because these signs can be subtle, it can be helpful to see a collection of warning signs; one sign may not be a problem. Four or five — talk to friends and relatives. If they affirm the signs are there, it may be time to re-evaluate this relationship — and try to do it outside of the control of this person.
Do recognize that almost everyone is capable of some manipulative or controlling behaviors from time to time — we all want to get our way or to win the argument. But when you begin to recognize more than a few of the above warning signs, it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship and decide whether it’s truly an equal partnership.
Make sure your relationship is a two-way street, and that your partner is giving as well as receiving. If you have something big coming up — an exam, for instance — so that if you get together, you will still need to study. He/she agrees initially to just come over and hang out while you study, but when he/she gets there, says something dismissive, like, “You shouldn’t be studying when we’re together, you should spend time with me. That exam isn’t such a big deal and it’s rude of you not to spend time with me.” That should be a red flag. A healthy relationship means there is give and take. A controlling or manipulative relationship forces you to constantly choose between other important events and people in your life and your partner. Giving back in a relationship does not only mean showering you with affection and gifts. It means working together in co-operation on non-romantic subjects.
Confess to your friends and family – apologize to them for marginalizing them and disregarding their bad opinion of this person. Tell them you wish you had listened to them. Get all the anger and hurt out of your system – they will be only too happy to share. They will rejoice when you tell them it’s over.
Don’t be mean about it. You don’t have to be like him/her to get away. Just say it’s not a match and you don’t intend to continue the relationship. Period. Don’t try pointing out all of the above warning signs. This type of person won’t recognize it himself/herself. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing – it wastes your time and makes the pig bitter.
Controlling persons often check out of the relationship before you do; he/she may become detached and apathetic toward you. But unless he/she is the one to end this relationship, even though it is obvious he/she is interested in someone else, or at least looking with interest at others, he/she will freak out if you are the one to leave, and spend hours berating you for your thoughtless abandonment. Just so you know.
Originally posted on our forum. That’s all folks!