When Bryan first met his girlfriend, he was smitten. She was charming, helpful, generous, kind, and interesting. She would laugh at his lame jokes, tell him how smart he was, was adventurous, and actively sought ways to spend time together. Naturally, Bryan overlooked some of the more concerning behaviors that his friends pointed out.
His friends told him that she was one person with him and an entirely different one when he was not around. Behind his back, she would openly complain about him and make insulting remarks. But Bryan discounted this and pursued the relationship.
Within a year, Bryan was anxious all the time. He felt like he was constantly trying to please his girlfriend, but she was not satisfied. She complained about his job, so he changed it, and now she complained about his new job. She didn’t like his car, so he got a new one, and now she talked about how he overspends money.
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. Charming converts into controlling, helpful develops into obstructive, generous transforms into manipulative, and kindness grows into turbulent. The following are nine signs a relationship is going sour.
- Transfers risk. Bryan’s girlfriend asked him to help her out with a loan. She claimed that her ex had taken advantage of her and she owed money that she didn’t spend. Because her credit was ruined, by her ex, she needed Bryan to cosign on a car loan and her rent. She promised that she would make the payments and Bryan won’t have to worry. But as soon as problems arose in the relationship, she stopped paying on her obligations claiming that the stress of their relationship kept her from paying. To keep his credit from being hit, Bryan paid her debts.
- Constant victimization. The stories that Bryan’s girlfriend told of her ex were unbelievable. She claimed that he was highly abusive, threatening to hurt her constantly, and even pulled a knife on her at one point. It was surprising that one day Bryan saw a text message from his girlfriend’s ex and how she pleasantly replied to him. When Bryan confronted her, she said he was invading her privacy and couldn’t believe he would be so untrusting. She then stormed off saying that Bryan was controlling.
- 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). Bryan’s girlfriend’s outbursts were intense and inappropriate expressions of anger designed to force Bryan into submission.
- Abusive tactics. Several abusive methods surface such as twisting the truth, gaslighting, verbal assaults, physical aggression, or guilt-tripping. These unhealthy behaviors were dismissed by Bryan at first. His girlfriend told him that if he would only do as she asked, she would not have to react so poorly. But Bryan knew that something was not right, he was just unsure of the magnitude of the abuse. It started off so subtly, but then escalated over time.
- Gossip talk. At a party, Bryan’s girlfriend shared a personal secret about Bryan’s past with their friends. He was mortified. Unsure of how to handle the situation, Bryan shut down and didn’t speak which only enticed her to exaggerate the story to untrue proportions. Later that night, he confronted her about the breach of confidentiality to which she snapped back saying, “You are making a bigger deal out of this than you need it, you are too sensitive.”
- One-way communication. Bryan constantly felt like he was doing most of the work maintaining the relationship. He reached out as often than she did, suggested more activities, and brought her more gifts. Yet, most of the conversations seem to be weighted in his girlfriend’s direction. Anytime Bryan tried to bring up something that was bothering him, she quickly dismissed it and insulted him for mentioning it.
- No responsibility. After the breach of confidentiality with his friends, Bryan circled back to the incident later with his girlfriend trying to explain why it bothered him. She refused to accept any responsibility and instead blamed the whole incident on him. She said that if he was more engaging with their friends, she would not have to expose him. She claimed that she was only doing it to get his attention. There was no empathy for any harm the incident caused, and she would not apologize.
- Controlling tendencies. One night while they were cooking together, Bryan’s girlfriend got upset that he was chopping the onions wrong. She then told him he could not do anything right in the kitchen and she would just have to do the whole thing herself. When he suggested that his college job doing food prep for a restaurant did qualify him to chop the onions, she got angry and stormed off claiming that he ruined the whole night and didn’t appreciate her.
- Absolute agreement. There is no allowance for differing opinions for Bryan and his girlfriend. He had to agree with her 100% of the time on minor issues as well as sensitive topics such as religion or politics. Any deviation of her point of view was a personal betrayal and a demonstration of his lack of loyalty.
After reviewing his relationship and looking it from another perspective, Bryan realized that it was time to leave. Continuing in this relationship would likely cause him more harm in the future as it appeared his girlfriend was unwilling to admit to her flaws and improve her tendencies.