3) It’s All About Control
Sure, relationships are supposed to be 50-50, but somehow you and your girlfriend always end up doing what she wants. Your opinions and interests better match up with hers or else. The slightest concession to something you might want is a massive sacrifice, with all the attending pomp, production, grousing and resigned passive-aggressive sighing… but if you don’t give in to what she wants, then you’re staring down the crater into an emotional Krakatoa. She has a whole host of techniques to bend you to her will and she wields them with the precision and glee of a KGB interrogater trying to wring secrets from an ISIS agent.
She may use her affection as both the carrot and the stick. Do what she wants and she’ll be lovey-dovey for a little… but give her the slightest bit of resistance and you’ve been exiled to the snowy wastes of Siberia until such time as you’ve shown her that you’ve suffered enough and repent of all your sins against her. Other times she’ll throw a temper tantrum – timed to cause you the most embarrassment, inconvenience and humiliation – in order to get her way. She’ll threaten to go off with someone else – someone who knows how to ‘treat her right’. She may even go so far as to flirt – or worse – with other guys in front of you just to show that she has options you don’t have if you aren’t giving her what she wants. She knows all of your sore spots and weaknesses and she won’t hesitate to exploit them if it means getting you to give in.
It’s a long string of exercises in breaking down your will; before too long, you’re giving her everything she wants because it’s so much less trouble than if you stand up for yourself.
2) You’re Always Having To Apologize or Explain About Them
Sometimes it just seems like nobody understands your sweetie like you do. Sure, the way he acts may look offputting to an outsider, but if they just knew what he was really like they’d realize it’s actually not that bad. And sure, maybe she acted unconscionably rude to your family but they just have to understand that she didn’t mean it like that… she was just stressed. Or tired. Or has food allergies. Or any number of a host of other issues that magically excuse everything that she does that pisses your friends off.
In fact, if you stopped to think about it, you’d realize that you’re having to spend most of your time apologizing for him or trying to explain that he’s not so bad once you get to know him and your friends should just give him another chance, y’know?
Many times, it’s very difficult to take an honest, dispassionate look at the state of your relationship; you rarely have the emotional distance and perspective to be completely honest and accurate. Your friends are often your best metric when it comes to gauging the health of your relationship. Sometimes they’re capable of seeing things that you’re just too close to see yourself… and when you’re perpetually having to try to convince them that no, your girlfriend really isn’t as bad as all that, it’s a sign that something’s rotten in the state of Denmark
Nobody’s saying that relationships are democracies and your friends certainly don’t have veto power over who you date, but when the majority of your friends can’t stand your partner, the odds are good that somebody’s missing something. And that somebody’s you.
1) Thou Shalt Have No Other Friends Before Them.
Everybody in a new relationship goes through a period where they spend every waking hour with their new snuggle-bunny, annoying their nearest and dearest with their sudden chronic unavailability; you’re both too caught up in that new relationship energy to bother putting pants back on, never mind notice that you’ve been neglecting your friends. But there comes a point where your absence goes beyond “guess they can’t stop bangin'” and well into “blink twice if you’re being held hostage” territory.
While your relationship with your partner is important, it’s equally important that you have a life outside of your relationship. There’s a line between when your boyfriend is your best friend and when he’s your only friend. Sometimes it’s just a case of the two of you becoming so entwined in each other’s lives that you’ve become emotional conjoined twins, unable to function without the other for long before melting into a puddle of codependency.
On the other hand, you may find that they’ve taken an active hand in separating you from your friends.
It’s actually shockingly easy to do; like the frog in a pot of water, you simply don’t notice it because it’s a gradual process, creeping up on you until you look up and realize how long it’s been since you’ve seen any of your buddies. He may have started a whisper-campaign, bad-mouthing your friends and planting the seeds of mistrust. “You know Angela is talking about you behind your back, right?” “It was cute before, but Zack’s attempts at trying to steal you away from me are really starting to get on my nerves.”
Alternately, she may make a point of just demanding so much of your time and attention that you simply don’t have enough energy or hours in the day to actually do anything besides dance in attendance on her. Or she may just disapprove of your friends and subtly but inexorably punish you for spending time with them; never anything you can point to without seeming petty or silly, but you know that going out for beers with the guys or hanging after class is going to lead to another uncomfortable night at home.
And it’s your toxic boyfriend is concerned, it’s good thing you don’t have friends any more. By encouraging you to be as co-dependent as possible, he’s helping insulate himself against the possibility that you might wise up and leave his ass.
Having a life outside of your own little world – encouraging one, even – is a hallmark of a healthy relationship. Isolation from your friends is a huge warning sign and a common tactic of abusers. The more he or she cut you off from your support system, the more you will come to depend on them… and the more you depend on him, the harder it is to wake up to the truth: your relationship has become impossibly toxic and you need to get out as soon as possible.