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: for the sake of example, we’ll take a look at these signs using the names Abby and Brian.
- Transfers risk. Abby asks Brian 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 Brian is resistant, there is a backlash of manipulative counterattacks designed to force him to submit to the request.
- Constant victimization. Abby 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 her. This is a forecast of what will happen to Brian 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). Abby’s outbursts are intense and inappropriate expressions of anger designed to force Brian 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 Abby who are likely to escalate given the right time, motivation, and environment. Any indicator of abuse is a bad sign.
- Gossip talk. Abby shares secrets with Brian about other people where there is a clear breach of confidentiality. Unfortunately, how she speaks about others is likely how she will speak about Brian in the future, if not already now.
- One-way communication. Brian does most of the work maintaining the relationship. Abby does not reach out as often as he does. Conversations seem to be weighted in Abby’s direction. She wants help with her issues but isn’t present for Brian when he needs her.
- No responsibility. When there is a problem, Abby refuses to admit wrongdoing and instead blames things on others. There is a lack of empathy for causing harm to Brian or others and disregard for apologies in general.
- Controlling tendencies. Abby tells Brian what to do and how to do it. Then, she 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 Abby. Brian must agree with her 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 Abby gives to Brian were both selections tend to be exaggerated extremes. The choices are presented in black or white versions. There is a right way (usually Abby’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.