5 Signs You’re Dating a Jerk

dating-jerk

Dating a jerk? How to know?

It may seem obvious when a guy you’re dating might be a jerk — a rude, selfish boor lacking in even the most basic of manners. However, some jerks are much more subtle, and only reveal their true selves when alone with you or in certain contexts.  It can be difficult to tell if you’re dealing with someone who is angry, honest, or just a garden variety jerk.

That said, the jerk has a few tell-tales signs which are evident in much of his behavior. Over the years of dealing with a variety of jerks, I’ve found that these signs are common to all, and are dead giveaways that you are dealing with a jerky guy:

1. He is always right

Jerks, who usually have an unrealistically positive view of themselves, tend to think they are always right as a result. Or at least mostly right. And always when it counts.

I know, I know — no one is always right. The jerk was never let in on this secret, it seems. Or he disagreed with the person who said it, and since he is always right, well, we’re back to where we started.

2. He criticizes…often

Relationships are about learning and growing but the jerk doesn’t realize that this is a gradual process and a two-way street. He will give “kind” hints that something is not to his liking, and mention it often until it the situation is altered to suit his desires. His criticism is general, extending to people, places, and things alike, and never-ending.

3. He is rude to others

PSA to all women: Any man who is rude to others, regardless of how he treats you, is a jerk. There is no use in denying it or protecting him, because his true jerkish tendencies will be directed toward you, sooner or later. If not, his jerk behavior will make your relationships with others a constant battle.

4.  He ignores your opinion

Ever get the feeling that you’re talking to the air? Are conversations a contest to see who can best the other’s statements? Does your guy ask for your opinion and then do whatever he wants anyway?

You may be dealing with a jerk.

5. He dictates

Confidence is a great trait to have. Don’t confuse a confident guy with a jerk: a confident man is assured of his abilities and does not need to control others. The jerk, on the other hand, is less confident and builds a false sense of security on overtly or covertly bending others to his will. Beware.

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Techniques of the Manipulator: Gaslighting

gaslightingToday’s discussion on commonly used tactics and tools of the manipulative personality is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse and control where a person is made to doubt their memory and perception of reality. In order to achieve this aim gaslighters present another, untrue version of events or ideas to the person they are trying to gaslight, while continuously denying said person’s claims as false, if not delusional.

Out of all forms of emotional warfare, gaslighting is one of the most intriguing. It is subtle, cunning, and extremely malevolent, but can indicate insecurity on the part of the gaslighter — since they believe they can not counter the other person’s claims, they simply deny that they exist. Gaslighters can seem harmless, if not helpful and well-informed. Through apparent innocence, charm, and/or insistence, they can convince not only the other person, but those who are aware of or observing the situation. Gaslighters are always a generally manipulative personality –whether aware of it or not– and gaslighting is but one tool of many in their belt.

Gaslighting can take place in many ways, and in a variety of situations. A parent telling a child that what they saw they really did not, a husband insisting that the perfume his wife smells on him after work is really her own, a woman telling her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend that he never cared about her.

Gaslighting involves various angles, some popular ones being:

  • Repeated questioning and recreating of events (“Are you sure you were chosen to organize the project? Are you certain he said that?”)
  • Insisting on another version of reality (“I really don’t think that’s what happened when you talked. What really happened is he dumped and you got angry.”)
  • Claiming to be in the know (“You know, your ex-friend told me some things about what you did when you visited her house. She told me all about it.”)
  • Dropping hints and “secrets” (You think your husband goes on business meetings? Your husband goes to the local hotel. All of the neighbors are talking about it, didn’t you know?)

Gaslighters use these techniques in such a way that their assertions seem completely plausible and utterly true — they are pros at what they do. However, an individual’s mind is stronger. If a person knows and believes their own mind and can vividly recall events, they will be a great challenge to the gaslighter. When presented with the covert psychological control of gaslighting, remember that strength of mind wins out over manipulation and psychological bullying every time.

Have you ever experienced gaslighting? How did you respond?

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Online Relationship Intrusion: Don’t Be a Victim

online-frustrationOnline relationship intrusion: The act of internet-based relationships affecting a person’s offline. Often causing frustration, negative thoughts, and unreasonable fixation.

Ah, the internet. Information, entertainment, and people, at a few clicks of a mouse. Such a great resource, and one some people have come to rely on, possibly to an extreme degree. Who ever would have suspected that what makes the internet so enjoyable could also cause it to be the reason some people end their internet sessions not feeling refreshed, but upset and let down.

Many people who are or have been disappointed in their online relationships believe they are alone in their frustration. After all, it’s just the internet, no one else takes it so seriously, right? Online relationship intrusion is more common than you might think.

It seems that online relationship intrusion more easily happens to those who spend much time on the internet and those who lack strong boundaries. Both groups allow their online, interactive lives to merge with their offline, real lives. Some create intimate relationships with those they know online, or interact with people from their offline lives in their online world. Others allow their negative interactions on the internet as reflecting the reality of the world outside of the WWW. However, the medium of the offline and online worlds are different, and so are the people in it. When mixed together, they can create a more complicated and complicating combination.

Online relationship intrusion is more common with some people, but anyone who interacts with others online is susceptible to it. Every time you find yourself irritated, sad, mad, or otherwise strongly moved by something or someone online you are inviting online relationship intrusion. Don’t dismiss the effects of this: intrusion can bring real-life negative effects, affecting how you feel about yourself, your mood, and your overall happiness in life.

So what can you do to stop or at least decrease online relationship intrusion? Being one who has experienced online relationship frustration and works online, I’ve developed actionable steps that work for me, and I believe could work for others as well:

  • Do not merge online and offline lives. Keep them separate, whenever possible.
  • Limit your time on the internet. The less time you spend online, the less chance you have to become frustrated by what happens in it.
  • If you find yourself feeling frustrated, take a break. It’s okay.
  • Recognize that you have the ability to quickly and painlessly end any online interactions that are no longer working for you.
  • Repeat to yourself “This is not reality”. This helps to keep your situation in perspective.
  • Do not frustrate yourself further by continuing online discussion that is stressing you out — press the x in the corner, never looking back.

Have you experienced online relationship intrusion? How did you deal with it? Do you have any other tips?

When to End a Friendship

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Whoever said friends were forever?

Throughout the years I’ve gained many friends, and lost just as many. In some cases it was clear that the friendship was over. However, in most situations, the friendship seemed capable of being saved or worth saving. It seemed like these friendships were just going through a rough time and would get better with time and effort. Ultimately though, these friendships declined, as they were destined to.

These experiences weren’t all negative — one positive aspect is that they allowed me to understand the signs of a dead friendship. When many of these occur, I know it’s time to end the friendship:

1. The friendship is depressing

Friendship isn’t all about having a good time. True friends will stick around through the good and bad, and friends show their worth in life’s unhappiest situations. But if a friend is constantly pulling down instead of uplifting; if I feel worse rather than better after interacting with a certain friend, then it is a sign to let the friendship go.

2. The friend is gossipy

Most people are not fond of gossips, but when the gossip is your friend, what do you do? Some people will remain friends with a person who is known to be a gossip, safe in the idea that the friend would never gossip about them. This is an error: a person who is gossipy will tend to be so about everyone. You shouldn’t wait until the friend gossips about you to turn them loose.

3. The friendship is competitive

Unless you’re in high school it’s time to let go of your competitive friend. A friend who competes and shows envy instead of joy at your achievements is simply not worth it. Why stay in a friendship where you can’t share your greatest moments? A friendship is about reciprocation, not competition.

4. The friend plays the blame game

As with all relationships, friendships are a mutual undertaking and both sides are equally responsible for it. Yet some will blame their friend when things go wrong in the friendship, or outside of the friendship. Instead of realizing that this is a toxic relationship, their friends will take the blame and burden the responsibility. It is much less emotionally draining to simply end the friendship.

5. The friend is really a frenemy

Get rid of any friend whose actions your unsure of or who puts you down.  If you’re not sure whether your friend is a friend or an enemy, don’t worry about figuring it out. Just end the friendship.

6. The friendship is one-sided

Most friendships are not a perfect 50/50 give and take all the time. At times your friend will need you more, at other times you will require their help. But a friendship should not be one-sided in emotional or physical giving and help. Otherwise it’s not a friendship — one-sidedness is one of the most obvious signs of a dead or dying friendship.

Do you know when to end a friendship? What are some of your friendship deal-breakers?

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Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: Romeo

piggybackRomeo is the dream partner.

He (or she, in the case of Romiette) is the ultimate romantic. You begin dating Romeo and he is attentive, sweet, and devoted. He spends time learning all about you and assures you that he is in love with you. You are the most amazing woman he has ever met — the only one for him. You can’t help but to be swept into the fantastic web of romance he has created around and about you, and picture yourself with Romeo forever.

Then, after a few weeks or months, Romeo becomes less and less available. He doesn’t come around as often, doesn’t call, and responds to your calls at the last possible moment. He becomes more distant, that is, if he doesn’t disappear completely. You may later discover he has been seeing someone new. You are devastated.

Say hello to Romeo

Romeo, or Romiette, is a person who loves the romance –and nothing else– of relationships. The term was first used by psychologist Bryn Collins in her book Emotionally Unavailable. Romeos begin relationships strong, stronger than most, but lose steam as time goes on. Romeo is one of the most dangerous types of emotionally unavailable partners because everyone believes his love is sincere. Including him.

Put simply, Romeo is a romance junkie. He loves the excitement and thrill of romance, which is more likely to occur at the beginning of a relationship. But what he doesn’t like is the steady, stable affection of a long-term relationship. He is hooked on is luv  — that exciting, passionate feeling that comes with a new romance, not Love — the deeper and truer feelings that arise with time. Unlike luv, Love is not always exciting and grand, and is way too emotionally complex for Romeo.

Say goodbye to Romeo

The minute Romeo senses the familiarity and regularity of mature, realistic Love, he begins to look for an exit. And, often, a new romance that will bring those feelings of luv back.

Romeo doesn’t mean to be cruel. But he doesn’t really love you or anyone else. What he loves is the intensity of luv; its highs and lows and constant fireworks. No matter how romantic and sweet he may be, Romeo is emotionally unavailable and doesn’t build true, long-lasting connections.

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Red Flags in Relationships

red-flags-relationships

This article was previously published. It has been slightly revised and is being republished for new thoughts and responses.

What are some warning signs that a relationship is unhealthy or doomed for failure?

Here is my personal list of red flags that a relationship is potentially harmful or is headed for disaster (in no particular order):

1. Lack of Commitment

If a person constantly avoids making solid commitments to the relationship, in a reasonable time, that’s a huge signal that they may not take the relationship seriously, now or in the future. It’s also a sign that they may be emotionally immature and not ready for a serious relationship.

2. Disinterest in Hobbies/Beliefs

If a partner regularly shows that they don’t care about the things you’re passionate about, that may be a sign that they’re not as interested in you as a person. A relationship that is mutually supportive is a lasting and fulfilling one.

3. Verbal Abuse

This point speaks for itself. If a person is repeatedly lashing out or uses abusive language, it’s a sign that the relationship, if it begins, will be harmful or escalate into physical abuse.

4. Many Failed Relationships

If a person’s past is littered with many failed relationships, it’s a sign that they are unable or unwilling to support a relationship over a longer period.

5. Failing to Protect

A person who doesn’t feel the need to protect their partner from physical or emotional harm or puts their partner in harm’s way isn’t worth the time. They don’t care enough about their partner or the relationship.

6. Manipulative Behavior

Attempting to gain the upper hand over a significant other through manipulation shows that the person is self-serving and willing to psychologically harm their partner to get what they want.

7. Disregarding Boundaries

Pressuring a significant other to do things they do not want to, or ignoring refusals is a huge red flag. Healthy relationships work with respect for each other’s needs and personal space.

8. Chronic Fault-Finding

A person who is always criticizing their partner is an emotional and psychological drain. Constant criticism will surely leave a partner unhappy. In addition, it shows a person believes their views and way of being are the only correct ones. 

9. Competitiveness

Seeing your partner as competition can wear them and the relationship down. People want to celebrate their achievements with their significant other, not feel like they in are in a struggle.

10. Overly Flirtatious

Flirting with others is a sign that a person needs constant reaffirmation of their self-worth, is self-centered, and/or doesn’t care about their partner’s feelings.

11. Talking Bad About Ex-Partners

A person talking bad about their past partners and relationships is a huge red flag, yet one that is routinely overlooked. A person’s perspective on prior engagements — the amount of responsibility they take for break-ups, what went wrong in the relationship, how they dealt with it — tells you much about how they deal with relationships in general. If they belittle their exes and past relationship, you should take this is as a warning sign. After all, the chances favor you becoming the ex one day.

What are your personal red flags in dating and relationships?

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The Manipulative Personality

manipulative-personalityManipulators attempt to indirectly control or influence the actions and behavior of others. Instead of being direct with their methods, the manipulator uses underhanded tactics to force their will. Because they are subtle, the manipulative personality easily goes undetected and overlooked, and the person or people being manipulated don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late. Or not at all. They may believe that they are obligated to do what the manipulator wishes, and feel guilty if they don’t. The manipulative personality may be a family member, friend, or colleague.

With experience or learning, the manipulative personality is much easier to recognize. But many people learn through hard experience what manipulative behavior looks like, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The safest way to learn about the manipulative personality is from a distance, from those who have studied these personalities.

Experts agree that there are three main types of manipulative personality:

  • The Narcissist — The Narcissist is the ultimate manipulator. They are egotistic, self-absorbed and feel entitled to nearly everything they desire. They lack empathy and consideration for others, so they will easily manipulate to their own gain. They think it is their right to have others do what they say.
  • The Needy — The Needy person is the most difficult type of manipulator to let go of. They are experts at making you feel sorry for them, and making you feel like you are the only person that can help them. Some Needy personalities don’t realize that they are manipulative. They have learned to depend on others for their needs, and simply don’t know how to get along without help. They may cry or become offended when accused of manipulation. Those that realize they are manipulative may become passive-aggressive in their attempts to regain control.
  • The Martyr — This type of personality will give you everything — but at a price. They will do you favors, give you special attention, and be overly considerate, but they expect much in return. Their giving is tied to their desire to be considered a “good person” or be considered important to another person. They “cash in” on the favors they’ve done for you to get you to comply with their wishes. Common phrases heard from the Martyr include, “After all I’ve done for you” and “I would do it for you.”

The most common methods of manipulation are flattery, guilt-tripping, repetition, assumption, confrontation, and gaslighting: a way of twisting information in such a way that the person being manipulated begins to doubt their own perceptions and memory.

The best way to deal with a manipulative personality is to acknowledge their ways outright and respond calmly, and even turn their own tactics against them. The manipulator is counting on you to be surprised, confused, and overreact to them, so don’t be. If they say “After all that I’ve done for you!” reply “I’m very grateful for all that you’ve done. Why do you think I’m not? That’s not very nice of you.”

Once the manipulator realizes that they can’t affect you in the way that they want, and can’t influence your thoughts or actions, they will move on. And even if they don’t — you’re safe. Manipulation is all about control, and once you figure out the manipulative personality, they are no longer in control.

Do you have any experience with manipulative personalities? Do you have tips for how to deal with manipulation?

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5 Love Lessons to Learn from Elizabeth Taylor

elizabeth-taylor

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was an American actress known not only for her films, but as a symbol of classic Hollywood glamour. She was also famous for her love of love: Elizabeth married seven men, eight times, besides her many engagements and romances.

Some may call Elizabeth’s love life a whirlwind of drama, secrecy, and restlessness, fit only for a soap opera or romance novel. But as stormy as they were, there are vital love lessons to be learned from Elizabeth Taylor’s many failed relationships.

1. Take your time

Elizabeth first married when she was 18 years old, after having been previously engaged to another man. But beyond her age at the time, Elizabeth was not mentally or emotionally ready for marriage and barely knew her fiancé. She met, engaged, and married her first husband, Conrad Hilton, in less than a year. Both were abusive towards each other and the relationship was shaky from the beginning. As a result, she filed for divorce almost as soon as their honeymoon was over.

Never rush love, and especially commitment. Get to know your partner, and yourself, first.

2. Never act when vulnerable

After the death of her third husband, Michael Todd, Elizabeth became involved with his best friend, Eddie Fisher. Eddie consoled her in her time of grieving. She soon married the already married man, breaking up his marriage. But again, Elizabeth acted too quickly: as soon as she met Richard Burton on the set of their film Cleopatra, she began an affair with him and her marriage Eddie was left behind.

Don’t make commitments in love while going through a hard time. You’re more likely to change your mind later, so save yourself and any potential partners the trouble.

elizabeth-taylor-paul-newman3. A steady relationship can be a good thing

Elizabeth’s first and second marriage to Richard Burton was legendarily abusive, so much so that they were nicknamed “The Battling Burtons”. While their relationship was exciting and dangerously romantic, it lacked a solid base to hold it together. They divorced and remarried, only to divorce again.

Passion and lust may begin a relationship, but a real foundation is what keeps it going over the long run. It’s not all about the chase.

4. Sometimes it just can’t work

Elizabeth and Richard divorced and remarried the next year. Although their relationship was unstable, they couldn’t see that they weren’t meant to be together. That is, until a year after their remarriage, when they divorced again.

You may love a person and they may love you, but if they are not right for you, you can’t force the relationship to work.

5. Always believe

Despite her many unsuccessful relationships, Elizabeth still believed in love. She entered every relationship as if it were her first, always believing that this one would be the last. She loved with all her heart, and even when she broke up with a lover, continued to love them. After her eighth marriage, she never married again, but never gave up on relationships entirely.

Love can be difficult sometimes, but there is hope if you simply believe in it. Even if you fail many times, who is to say that your lucky one isn’t soon to come, or that the experience of loving wasn’t worth it?

The Anxious-Avoidant Trap

anxious-avoidant-attachmentWhy are people who long for closeness in relationships attracted to their complete opposites: people who prefer their independence and distance? And why are the resulting relationships unsatisfying and prone to failure?

Attachment science defines a person with a strong desire for intimacy and preoccupation with their relationships as anxious. Anxious people are sensitive to perceived threats to the intimacy of their relationships. On the opposite end of the spectrum are avoidant people. Avoidants wish to reduce closeness and intimacy in order to maintain their autonomy. They are less aware of the needs of their partner.

It would seem people with such differing needs would avoid each other, but the opposite happens. Studies have shown that in a classic case of “opposites attract”, there is a mutual attraction between avoidant and anxious people. Each has particular reasons for attraction, as outlined in the book Attached:

Why the Avoidant is Attracted to the Anxious:

  • The avoidant has built up an idea of themselves as being more capable and self-sufficient than other people. They believe that people want to “trap” them and create more intimacy than they are comfortable with. With an anxious partner their beliefs are confirmed.
  • Due to their defense mechanism of self-sufficiency, the avoidant likes to feel psychologically stronger than their partner. They can not feel stronger than another avoidant or a secure partner who would not be bothered by their behavior. They can only feel this way with an anxious partner.

Why the Anxious is Attracted to the Avoidant:

  • The anxious person’s defense mechanism is likewise supported. The anxious person believes that they want more closeness than their partner is capable of. In addition, they believe they will be let down or hurt by their partner; this is the inevitable result when they pair with an avoidant.
  • The anxious person tends to idolize avoidant tendencies. Self-sufficiency, independence, less need for another person — these are the qualities the anxious person wishes they had.
  • The anxious person, being addicted to passion, mistakes the mixed signals sent by the avoidant for sparks of love. They think the avoidant might be coming around to loving them as they feel they should be, but the avoidant is just unsure what to do: they want to be in a relationship, yet they want to keep their independence.

Some signs that you are in the anxious-avoidant trap are extreme highs and lows in the relationship, a feeling that your relationship is uncertain, and if you’re the anxious partner, a feeling that things get worse the closer you become to your partner.

Relationships between anxious and avoidant people tend to be very unstable. Even if the relationship lasts, it is stormy and unsatisfying for both partners. The avoidant person has little desire to resolve issues — doing so would create more intimacy. So the anxious person ends up conceding to the avoidant in the Anxious-Avoidant Tug of War. Any hope for a better relationship is never realized.

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Red Flags in Interracial Relationships

red-flags-in-interracial-relationshipsInterracial relationships, while essentially like any other type of relationship, come with their unique joys and difficulties. The addition of different cultural backgrounds and appearance creates circumstances which are less likely to occur in intracial relationships.

Some of the less obvious red flags a person may be tempted to ignore or may not realize are warning signs. So by request, here are some of these red flags in interracial relationships.

1. You haven’t met your partner’s family and close friends

If after several months (or years) you haven’t even made plans to meet your partner’s parents, siblings, immediate family members, or closest friends, this may be an indication that your partner doesn’t want you to meet them. He or she may be afraid of their reaction, embarrassed of you, or may not have told them they were in a relationship, much less an interracial one.

2. Your partner says “I only date [your race/ethnicity here]”

To some this may not at first seem like a red flag. However, if your partner is only interested in dating people of your perceived race or ethnicity, it’s a hint that he or she has less of an interest in you as a person and more of an attraction to your race. In other words, you are easily replaceable — one size fits all. In addition, it shows they hold preconceived notions about the characteristics of people of your race.

3. Your partner consistently makes negative remarks about the opposite gender of your race

You may or may not take these remarks personally, but if your partner makes a habit of this, its an indication that he or she holds some prejudices about the people of your perceived race. What happens if or when you have children and they are considered to be or identify with the group that your partner thinks so little of?

4. Your partner refuses to participate in your cultural events

If you participate in events specific to your culture (holidays, foods, etc) and your partner is reluctant to go along with you, you may not think much of it. But you should — later on it may cause problems in the relationship or with family members when cultural considerations become more important.

5. Your partner wishes your children look like them (or expresses disappointment that they look like you)

Beyond mere vanity, if your partner shows a strong desire to have any children you have together look like them, or more particularly, less like you, they may not want children of your perceived ethnicity or race. It may not be obvious at first, after all they are in a relationship with you, right? But your partner may not see you as an extension of them, which is how they undoubtedly will view any children they have.

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