Hindsight is 20/20 vision when it comes to the fall of a relationship. What was once overlooked, minimized, explained away, or discounted now becomes an obvious sign of a deteriorating relationship. At first, they seemed so charming, helpful, generous, innocent, and gentle but then things turned and an entirely different picture became apparent. Charming converted into controlling, helpful developed into obstructive, generous transformed into manipulative, innocent turned into culpable, and gentle grew into turbulent.
The nature of the relationship is irrelevant, it can happen at work, home, or with friends. But what is relevant is learning the warning signs early on to prevent another loss of employment or heartbreak. The following are ten signs a relationship is going sour. To simplify the explanation, Person A is the one displaying the warning signs whereas Person B is unaware of the potential harm.
- Transfers risk. Person A asks Person B to assume their risk over a potentially sticky matter. This could be an ethical issue (violation of work standards or stealing), financial (becoming a guarantor or payment of a loan), or value challenging (get their drugs from a dealer). When Person B is resistant, there is a backlash of manipulative counterattacks designed to force Person B to submit to the request.
- Constant victimization. Person A tells stories of past relationships where they are painted as the victim and others as described as the villain. There seems to be a constant influx of terrible people who have wronged Person A. This is a forecast of what will happen to Person B in the future if they end the relationship.
- Inappropriate anger. Anger is a base emotion and a catch-all for other more intense feelings such as loneliness, fear, guilt, or controlling tendencies. It can come out in inappropriate ways such as aggression (bullying), suppression (silent treatment) or passive-aggressive (biting sarcasm). Person A’s outbursts are intense and inappropriate expressions of anger designed to force Person B into submission.
- Abusive tactics. Several abusive methods surface such as twisting the truth, gaslighting, verbal assaults, physical aggression, or guilt-tripping. These are all unhealthy indicators of Person A who is likely to escalate given the right time, motivation, and environment. Any indicator of abuse is a bad sign.
- Gossip talk. Person A shares secrets with Person B about other people where there is a clear breach of confidentiality. Unfortunately, how Person A speaks about others is likely how they will speak about Person B in the future if not already now.
- One-way communication. Person B does most of the work maintaining the relationship. Person A does not reach out as often as Person B does. Conversations seem to be weighted in Person A’s direction. Person A wants help with their stuff but isn’t present for Person B.
- No responsibility. When there is a problem, Person A refuses to admit wrongdoing and instead blames things on others. There is a lack of empathy for causing harm to Person B or others and disregard for apologies in general.
- Controlling tendencies. Person A tells Person B what to do and how to do it. Then, Person A becomes angry when things aren’t done the way it is instructed. There is little to no understanding of differences in temperament, personality or circumstances.
- Absolute agreement. There is no allowance for differing opinions for Person A. Person B must agree with Person A 100% on sensitive topics such as religion or politics in order to maintain the friendship. Any deviation is seen as a personal betrayal.
- Dichotomous expressions. There are only two options Person A gives to Person B were both selections tend to be exaggerated extremes. The choices are presented in black or white versions. There is a right way (usually Person A’s) and a wrong way (usually other people’s choices).
If all of these ten examples are present in a relationship, it is time to leave. This is potentially an unsafe environment where Person B is likely to get burned. However, if there are only a couple of items, be mindful of the others so an early exit is possible before things worsen.