Looking back, Jack could see that his relationship with Amanda was over several months ago, perhaps even years. But he was in denial and didn’t want to confront the painful issues that were left unresolved. What was once overlooked, minimized, explained away, or discounted is now an obvious sign of his deteriorating relationship.
At first, she 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. He was exhausted and worn out but stayed.
Then hopeful turned to hopeless and he was no longer able to continue in the relationship. The signs that the relationship was toxic are now clearer once Jack left. But how can he prevent this from happening in the future? Here are the 11 signs he missed.
- Transfers risk. Amanda asked Jack to assume her risk over a potentially sticky matter. Her job required random drug tests and since she used the prior weekend, she asked Jack to lie about her taking a prescription drug. She was afraid she was going to lose her job and asked him to cover for her. Of course, he could lose his government job for lying about this. But that didn’t matter to Amanda. She demanded that he help using everything from crying, to manipulate, to anger, and finally bribery.
- Constant victimization. Amanda told stories of past relationships where she was painted as the victim and her ex’s as the villain. Her constant influx of terrible people was used as a justification for not thriving. At first, Jack believed everything Amanda said. But after a while, Amanda’s ability to cut people out of their lives and continue her victimization wore on him.
- 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). Amanda’s outbursts were intense, inappropriate, and designed to force Jack into submission. Jack, who hated conflict, would regularly fold just to keep the peace.
- Abusive tactics. Several abusive methods surfaced such as twisting the truth, gaslighting, verbal assaults, physical aggression, or guilt-tripping. These are all unhealthy indicators. Amanda would escalate given the right time, motivation, and environment. Any indicator of abuse is a bad sign. Jack was unaware of the abuse signals. His instincts told him something was off, but his logical brain dismissed the feeling and looked no further.
- Gossip talks. Amanda shared secrets with Jack about other people despite a clear breach of confidentiality. Unfortunately, how Amanda spoke about others was an indicator of how she would speak about Jack. Jack never dreamed that Amanda would spill his long-kept secret about some childhood abuse, but she did. When he confronted her, she justified her actions saying that he was being too sensitive.
- One-way communication. Jack did most of the work maintaining the relationship. Amanda did not reach out as often as Jack did. Whereas, conversations seem to be weighted in Amanda’s direction. Amanda wanted help with her issues but then wasn’t present for Jack. This lopsidedness bothered Jack, but he did little to confront it.
- No responsibility. When there was a problem, Amanda refused to apologize and instead blamed things on Jack. Even when she was wrong, Amanda found ways to highlight Jack’s faults to avoid her own responsibility. She also had a lack of empathy for causing harm to Jack but expected empathy from him.
- Controlling tendencies. Amanda told Jack what to do and how to do it. Even when Jack followed her lead, she would still find the slightest fault with what he did. Then, Amanda would become angry when things weren’t done the way she insisted. There was little to no understanding of Jack’s differences in temperament, personality or circumstances.
- Absolute agreement. There was no allowance for differing opinions for Amanda. Jack had to agree with her 100% of the time even on sensitive topics such as religion or politics. Any deviation was a personal betrayal and could cause Amanda to escalate. Over time, Jack gave up his opinions in favor of hers just to avoid the tension.
- Dichotomous expressions. There were only two choices Amanda would give to Jack and both selections tended to be exaggerated extremes. Her choices were presented in black or white versions. There was a right way (usually Amanda’s) and a wrong way. Even when Jack would propose another alternative, Amanda would knock it down.
- Addictive behaviors. In the beginning, Amanda appeared to have it all together. But as the relationship continued, her abuse of substances became more apparent. When Jack would address her with his concerns, she would explode. Eventually, he learned not to speak about it.
If all 11 examples are present in a relationship, it is time to leave. Jack did this and he did not regret his decision. This is potentially an unsafe environment where the longer Jack remained, the worse things would become. However, if there are only a couple of items, be mindful watching for any other additions so an early exit might be possible before things worsen.