Symptoms of a Difficult Relationship

by Rod Smith

26 Indications you might be in a difficult or troubled relationship
(This is longer than my “normal” post. Please read it all, if you read it at all!)

Comments come to me as Emails. I will make time if you want to talk.

Comments come to me as Emails. I will make time if you want to talk.

When relationships become troubled, they are usually so for predictable reasons. Common themes are:

1. Women (yes, it usually is women) who “love” too much, who believe any man is better than no man.
2. Men and women who are in relationships where too much happened too soon and then things turned out very differently than expected.
3. Men and women who feel trapped in an abusive cycle or in a dead-end marriage who feel helpless at the prospect of making necessary, radical changes, and,
4. Men and women who discover that “love” (not the real thing of course) really is blind (and deaf and mute).

Always, with matters of the heart, let your head take the lead. Always speak up, even when speaking up puts the relationship in jeopardy. Always know that too much too soon is a sign of danger ahead. Always take the action required for your safety and well-being. Always be suspicious when someone who says they love you, wants to speak for you, decide things for you and gives you the impression that you are not quite capable of being a full person without their benevolent assistance. It is of course equally troubling when someone suggests they are not capable of being a complete person without your benevolent assistance.

Here are some ways (apart from those included above) that you might be in a difficult or troubled relationship:

1. You’re so used to walking on eggshells it feels like your world is covered in them!
2. You know that no matter how innocent or insignificant a disagreement might be it will get magnified out of all proportion.
3. You wish you could say something but when you do you, the payback is so grilling, grueling, and eternal that silence is preferable.
4. Innocent statements are misinterpreted, misquoted, and repeated incorrectly forever.
5. You whisper under your breath what you’d really like to scream loudly for the world to hear.
6. If you are silent you are avoiding conflict.
7. If you speak up or speak out you are “looking for trouble” or being unnecessarily confrontational or argumentative.
8. You have to watch your every word, smile, frown and subtle rolling of the eye since the smallest of actions on your part can carry super-sized meaning for your partner.
9. You tiptoe around hiding your wants, dreams, and ambitions.
10. You tolerate behavior from your significant other that you’d not tolerate from anyone else.
11. You fear fallout (divorce, separation) and yet want one. You’ve thought being abducted would be a better alternative than your current setup.
12. You fight about everything. There’s never a straight line between two simple desires or destinations. Everything is made more complex because jealousies, tensions and well-remembered history come between you when making the most simple of decisions.
13. You feel trapped by what is supposed to be love but have second thoughts (actually you’ve had a million thoughts!) about how love is supposed to feel.
14. You are usually wrong about everything and are repeatedly told you are stupid.
15. When you admit fault, even stupidity, you are at fault or weak for admitting it.
16. When you are right you are wrong for being right, then, when it clear you are right, you think you are perfect and trying to show others up.
17. In your “intimate” world white is black, black is white and the water is very murky. Up is down: down is up. Seeing happy couples makes you suspicious about what they must be hiding.
18. Your innocence is faked and you are told your innocence hiding real guilt.
19. Pointing out obvious errors or flaws in your partner is interpreted as entrapment.
20. Loving your partner (in their preferred manner) is not only emotionally exhausting it is impossible.
21. You are physically burned out and emotionally drained from trying to carry emotional needs of someone who cannot or will not take responsibility for meeting his or her own needs.
22. You secretly wish your partner would find someone else but then you wouldn’t want what you have endured visited on an enemy.
23. You are accused of seeing someone, of being unfaithful, or desertion when you pursue the most innocent of activities.
24. Your most innocent personal pursuits (reading, choosing when you go to bed, visiting friends, being with your family, shopping alone) are a waste of time or held under suspicion because you are choosing time away from your “partner.”
25. Your partner can do nothing alone and cannot fathom that you would want to anything that does not include them.
26. It feels like you are “sharing” life with an emotional piranha and yet, for some unfathomable reason you stay and feel unable to escape.

No one can abuse you without your cooperation. Put a stop to it today. If you are in danger, do everything it takes to get yourself to safety. Leave your husband if it is necessary. It is better to be safe than dead, free than “abducted” in the name of marriage. There are things more important than marriage – like patience, honor, respect, freedom, goodness and peace. If he says he loves you but you detect none of love’s qualities and are living in danger and fear, do whatever it takes to secure your safety. If you do not stand up to an abusive person, the abuse will accelerate and patterns establish themselves ever more firmly. Turn around begins within the heart and a good place to start is with a few simple decisions:

Take the Pledge of A Growing Person

I am a person with a history to be respected, a present to enjoy and a future to build. I am fully capable of living my life to the full. I do not need a man or a woman to make me complete although a respectful, equal and mutual relationship will enlarge my life. I will not be sidetracked by unhealthy relationships again. I will not build friendships, go out with, or become intimate with anyone who does not regard me with utmost respect. I want equality, honesty and trust in my relationships. I am better off single, alone and lonely than I am “sharing” my life with a man or woman who lies to me, cheats on me and disrespects me. I will start to move my life in a healthy direction despite the difficult hurdles that are in my path.

Rod Smith, Copyright, 2000

25 Responses to “Symptoms of a Difficult Relationship”

  1. What a great site! I have read several articles today – very interesting. Your readers might also be interested in a recent article entitled The Affair-Proof Marriage.

    Our sites deal with very similar topics. Would you consider a link exchange?

  2. Dear Andrew — I linked you up —- hope you get MILLIONS of viewers….. Rod Smith

  3. Very insightful. This is the kind of blog I’ve been looking for. Thank you.

  4. i hereby have adopted to your “Pledge of A Growing Person”

    Thanks for a good read.

  5. I found a lot of my situation in the 26 part list above. I am terribly lonely and unhappy, don’t love my husband at all and feel so used by him that the thought of sex with him fills me with anger and despair. Yet because he does not hit me, my few confidants ( I try not to speak about my problems with people who know my husband) do not recognize his behavior as abusive. I am very confused, feeling abused and yet told that I am not abused. This makes it easy for me to feel that I am in the wrong in this relationship.

    I left my husband this summer but after a lot of pressure from friends and religious leaders I moved back. Everyone would say to me variations on the theme: “So-and-so are getting a divorce, but he hits her.” Like it’s only ok to divorce if there is physical abuse. In fact my husband blamed me for wanting to leave him saying that I am wrong to be unhappy because he never hit me or cheated on me. He blamed me for “tearing our family apart.” I did see a psychologist who seemed to understand our 2 personalities very well and agreed that he is emotionally abusive but encouraged me to remain married and maintain a distant relationship. The reasons for this being that the impact on the children would be so terrible if I divorced that it isn’t worth it, and at my age (43) with so many young kids I can’t hope to remarry (her assessment.)

    I am self-confident and not afraid to make it financially on my own. I know from my husband’s many absences and hands-off parenting that parenting is easier without him. My family and closest friends were very supportive of my leaving him, which he interprets as their utter lack of decent values.

    We have been married for 19 years. At first when I came back my husband was a totally different person, more relaxed and accepting and easy going than I have ever known him, and I thought that my leaving him had really brought about a change. But after about 2 months he was back to his old self. Now I feel I have no hope left. I have to admit I am an enabler but the idea of confronting him all the time about his behavior and comments is daunting – and I don’t want us constantly bickering in front of the kids. I do confront him more than I used to. I can’t possibly have sex with him but now that doesn’t seem to be enough to get him to divorce me, although earlier he said he would.

    My husband always says how much he loves me, and he claims that he lets me do whatever I want. But the reality is that he is disparaging and condescending of most of my interests so I feel I am trapped in a relationship with someone who is totally at odds with my personality. I never discuss anything with him that is meaningful to me for fear that he will criticize it. He is also very critical of the children, which infuriates me. His discipline is very blame-oriented. He seems to be very angry all the time that the world and everyone in it doesn’t behave according to his criteria of right and wrong, and he is completely dismissive of the idea that different people can have different ideas about what right and wrong are. He always says, “There are objective criteria that everyone agree on (except me, apparently.)”

    Am I a loser or a heroine who stays in a painful relationship for the kids sake? We don’t fight, the teenagers were stunned when I wanted to leave him in the summer, they had no idea anything was wrong and they thought I was crazy to want to leave. The little kids still don’t know why we left – we told everyone we were trying out a different town that seemed to have better amenities etc for our family.

    Sometimes I fantasize that he will die but of course I feel horribly guilty about having such thoughts. I imagine if I admitted such thoughts to him he would leave me but I could never admit them – it makes me sound like an insane and evil person. Is it possible that he is really not that bad and I am the one with the coping problem?

  6. I have been in a relationship for the past year and a half. I feel like everyday of my life I walk on egg shells. One day he is super nice and the next he is very abusive like calling me names and hitting me. Everyone that knows that he is like this to me tells me that I should leave him because he really doesn’t love me and that he is using me. I take good care of him, I wake up at 5am to make him his lunch, I go to school full-time, I work a full-time job, and I when I get home I cook dinner and take care of him. What am I doing wrong? I’ve even been told that he is bipolar, but only a doctor can determine that.

  7. I read the 26 points and most of them relate to my situation. I was widowed 3 years ago after 30+ years of marriage. I was so very lost and it was suggested by a neighbour that a friend of his (financial adviser) could help me with my plight. 2 years on I am totally and utterly miserable, but feel unable to leave the situation. I dont know why – perhaps its because I have never been alone to “find the real me”. He bombarded me with flowers, gifts, my son thought he’d walked into a florest shop! Very slowly he started to close in by saying that he didnt see that much of me and I felt guilty – so eventually he was there every single day from 2pm onwards 7 days a week. If I went out to see a girlfriend during my day off from work he would ring me several times and if I didnt hear or didnt answer he would sulk and get stroppy. He accused me of having affairs with my colleagues, he read my emails, checked my phone etc. Before this all happended he wanted me to buy a house with him 1/3rd him 2/3rds me. (he divorced last year 2007) Every holiday we have been on he has more or less ruined. If I fall asleep in the car he suddenly brakes to wake me up – says he is worried that I may injure myself if we have an accident! – my children hate him – he is coarse and abusive at times but comes across as a very nice man to others. His language is foul at times, he ripped his shirt off and grabbed a knife saying ” use it on him”. His friends think he is Mr Wonderful – this is just a short list of things he has done – he has hurt me physically but the worst thing of all is that he has played with my mind. I dont know if its me half of the time because he says ” you dont mean that this is what you mean” –

    I believe he “preyed” on me during the early stages of my loss and I was so alone I was greatful. He really did seem a nice person, but he has turned out to be something quite the opposite. I am still with him but dont think it will be for much longer as he is getting fed up with me not making a commitment to him. I will not sell my house and buy one with him.

    I feel dreadful most days – so whoever reads this – please – if you know or know of someone who has recently been bereaved – tell them to beware – there are men out there that prey on the vulnerable.

  8. Janet,
    If you let me know how to contact you, and you wish to do so, I will talk some of this through with you. I have read your letter and I am both sad and moved at the same time.
    Rod Smith

  9. The article is a good reflection of a troubled relationship, but it is biased to an abusive husband, when this can be indicative of both partners in many respects, with the exception of physical abuse. Woman tend to use emotional abuse, manipulation and other forms of abuse where males use physical abuse many times. Both are relational destroyers

    Secondly, leaving is not a solution in itself, just an initial step in a complex process, which needs absolute support and understanding from a support system, otherwise the person takes baggage with them, or trades one bad situation for another.

  10. thank you for this

  11. Derek there are very few men who are murdered by women. Janet I am not critizing but I am wondering why you let that man read your mail. The guy is a psychopath and I am afraid for your and your children’s safety. Just because someone holds a job of status does not mean that they aren’t capable of being dangerous. I am so glad you took the time to write and tell people about this. There are men out there who will zero in on women who are vulnerable, they have an uncanny ability to find people who are down and prey on them. Like predatory animals seek out the weak. I know because I have been a victim of one too. Tell that person to not contact you EVER. Change your phone numbers if he does not stop harassing you. Document everything that he has done to you. Find out what the stalking laws are in your state. Notify your friends about what is happening, and tell the authorities. Get a video camera and document his stalking and harassment. Don’t rule out moving to a different state or providence. (not sure if this is a UK site or US)

  12. I liked the 26 examples you placed, I can relate to a few of them. Now the question I have is, when do I call it quits on a relationship that is troubled. example: together off in on for 4yrs, now living together, but he doesn’t say he loves me and he can’t ansewer me when I ask”do you see a future with me or for us”. He is also very distant and we’ve never gone out of town together, except to the bar or casino in town where we live. And when we do go out he flirts with the woman and he acts like I am just a friend not his girlfriend. His friends at work say they pity me, so gods knows what he is up to at work. So I ask you if you could give me advice. Thank you, Troubled

  13. Wow i can relate to the majority of that list.. I’m still dumbfounded as to how i overcome my hurdle… part of my story is here on my blog: http://www.helpmestopher.wordpress.com
    if you get a chance to read it i would be so grateful!
    Its still in its infantile days, and my writing style is very much like my head as you can probably tell; all over the place! the dynamics of my relationship are so deep and wraught in our matriarchal family i don’t know who to turn to now, as if a NHS psychologist, and my g.p. and social workers are unable to identify/admit/deal/help with it i dont know who is?! im well and truly stuffed! Ill continue to read through your blogposts tho in search of more guidance!! thank-you so much, blogs like this really help me through! X

  14. Geez, I thought my relationship was rough. I guess I was wrong.

  15. Desperate need of advice….

    I’m 23 and met my current partner via us cheating on our previous partner becoz we were unhappy… We moved in together very quickly after that….

    I was independant n so was he and our relationship was all fun n adventerous in the begining…. When we had arguements he didn’t seem to handle them the way I wanted him too…
    I was warned in the begining that if I made him angry he would hit me…. And this happened….

    After that he would apologize n plead n I would stay with him….. He became very verbally abusive when we would fight and I would just cry n cry n beg for him to understand where I was coming from….

    Our relationship turned into an abusive one where he would hit me and I would hit him back…. I would throw glasses and go into a huge rage!! I changed so much as a person that friends and family would tell me they didn’t know who I was….

    After leaving and coming back leaving and coming back…, trying and trying I am still. With him and don’t understand why I can’t leave him…

    He isn’t happy.,, neither am I.,,, why can’t I just leave??? I have been made to feel like it’s all my fault!!! I’m always in the wrong…

    We Have moved to another country to start a new life and are currently going threw a break up…. fighting non stop has caused him to not care ….But I stil want us to work things out…. He doesn’t and I’m angry that he doesn’t care to wanna fix us….now I am being blamed for being the one giving up on us and wanting to leave….

    I am so confused coz we have had good memories yet the bad times have been extremely bad…..

    I don’t I’m being treated the way I Want to be…,

    just DONT understand why I’m stil wanting to try fix us…..

    ANY ADVICE?

  16. I did not realise that there was someone else called Trouble seeking advice so I have changed my name to trouble 2

    I’m the 23 year old looking for desperate need of advice….

  17. I am 22-years-old. I have been in a relationship for four years. I do not trust my boyfriend. He lies and he’s very sneaky. When he knows it’s his fault he tries to do and say everything there is to cover up and make it seem like it’s all my fault. I’m just so tired of him. I’m ready to leave but he always says please don’t leave. I’m just tired and too young to be going through what I do. Someone help me on advice what to do. Thank you.

  18. Can one not help being self-absorbed?
    I feel my husband is very self-absorbed.When he wants to do or say something he just goes ahead.He does not think of the feelings of others especially mine.
    If he has an appointment with someone or if someone has an appointment with him he does not make an effort to be ready on time.His attitude is they/you/he can wait because i am busy.It upsets me alot.I tell him that is not how people should be treated and he treats me the same way.He gets very upset and says he is fed-up with my verbal abuse and he is not perfect like me.He will not talk to me for days and treat me as if i am wrong.He will never ever say sorry and will remain like that until i go to him and apologise.But i can’ do this anymore
    .
    Also he takes me for granted and does not feel the need to make an effort to make me feel special.I know he is not the romantic type.I dont want flowers and expensive gifts.He says he does not know about all this romantic stuff.So i show him.I slip in a message in his lunch.When i go to the supermarket i sometimes buy him a chocolate and put it on his pillow.I send him love smss which i found on the net and saved on his computer.But he is not interested.One thing i do know is that he is faithful.Am i being ungrateful and petty?Should i just be happy that he is not cheating on me and disregard the fact that he does not care..I am so fed up.I don’t feel like trying anymore.He also said i am fighting for something i will never get.

  19. Help. I havent been sleeping or eating lately. and i have felt nausiated for days. Im 11 and a female. And i’m pretty sure something is seriously wrong with me. Please help. I wake up in the morning and i fall back asleep for another half an hour. Then i get up, but im not hungry. So i do the only thing i can think of. I stuff myself. Please wright me back. I need help. I have went threw alot of heartbreaks also, but i dont think that has anything to do with it. But me not sleeping makes me more violent. Which gets me into fights that I can’t win because of my sleep loss. So please wright me back. I’m begging.

  20. I never knew that I could adopt some of these “criteria” indirectly. Most just thought I was a skeptic or a pessimist, always looking for the negative in that happy couple, but really I’m the child caught between a troubled relationship of this magnitude. It’s so easy to see around you, but it’s almost impossible to analyze your own life. I used to sit back and wonder how she falls for his manipulative tricks, how he twists rhetoric, how he finds the pressure points. But once he tried the same on me, turned my world upside down, mentally pinned me against the wall, I could finally see. You see, the only way to persuade a lie is to believe it–all he can remember are lies. To disturb them, to shake their foundations, to contradict his rhetoric, his stories, is to throw his universe off balance, and his rage ripples out in waves until all is under control again. How can I get out if he can never see the truth, if the only thing keeping him alive are his lies? The tension is so great that if it snaps, his whole universe might cave in, sucking in everyone who has sworn allegiance to such a delusional captain, leaving no survivors as the ship sinks, carrying with it the coffin buoy that should have saved one.

  21. Hi, I actually had tears reading what Sarah has described above. Its a very old post and i am not sure if she will ever read this. Your post has helped me think about the conflict in my head about leave or not leave.

    I am 28, married for 6 years now. the difference is we have no kids.
    the points above were like – how does the writer know so much about our relationship.????..!!!!
    I left for a few months but some pressures got me back…I am here now, Because the constant “i really love u” from him has just trapped me. i want to leave but the sudden good behaviour from him is making me think what if he has really changed… Though i feel its not the real him – he says he will change and his life is nothing without me. he will be ruined. I have this guilt of hurting him now. he even starts crying if i say i am not happy and we should think of seperating.

    he is trying hard, loving me, mot restricting me with the things he used to. but still we face the situation where are quiet to avoid conflict and fights.

    oh these 26 points are my life..!!
    great help
    great insight

  22. panomo malalaman kung mahal kapang isang tao

  23. Help!!!
    HI\i, was was married 2 years back and had a very difficult relation, he used to hit me badly wen ever we used to start arguing and later tell me that he hit me just coz I shouted at him, though he asked to shut my mouth and we had many more issues, I tried to fix them up, but it all went in vein that it was only that i went in for depreesion. and atlast i decided to leave him and my familt supported me. In the mean time one of my collegue who was a divorsee then , proposed me and started being too good and he made things happen so fast that he hooked me and made me get the divorse and wants me to get married to him. But the issue is he is too tempermental and he doesnt match me emotionally and he is not able to occupy me emotionally and he is little more for sex. And the major point am worried is that he has never spend t for me and since am in a far higher level than hhim economically he always only makes me to spend. He didnt even get me a small gift for my first birthday with him. and I have a fear that guys shld spend for gils and its so agonising to see him make me spend for him, though I do spend with out even telling a word, only for the raeson not to hurt him. But he says ofetn and I do realise that he has faced a lot of lonelines and he knows and understand the importance of wife. Now am really wrried that I cann ot take a cahnce of marrying a wrong person again second time in my life. Life isnt a game. Am too worried and if i decide to leave him am notsure how shld I leave him coz he has made all the arrangements for our wedding.

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