Red flags that you wish you had known were red flags
February 3, 2020 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Nor the obvious things like “he hit a wall next to my head”, but the other things that added up to make an abusive individual.

I don’t only mean physical abuse. Any type of abuse. Please tell me behaviors that are not ok, or that indicate or potentially indicate a bigger issue. Especially in combination with one another, especially in hindsight.
posted by jitterbug perfume to Human Relations (67 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Lying just because they can - ie not because they are worried about getting in trouble but because they (I assume) genuinely enjoy messing with your head/being in control.
posted by The Toad at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2020 [24 favorites]

Enjoying making you uncomfortable.

Mocking you when you're in distress for some reason.

An angry reaction to being told "no", or ignoring that you said "no."

Blaming bad behavior on being drunk/high/you/etc. rather than taking responsibility.
posted by praemunire at 8:53 PM on February 3, 2020 [31 favorites]

Losing their temper – or becoming very irritated – over trivial disagreements or misunderstandings (or worse, over matters that are not remotely the fault of the person who is the target of the anger). Also, comparing you unfavorably to past romantic partners.
posted by akk2014 at 8:55 PM on February 3, 2020 [21 favorites]

Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It is about red flags and survival signs that protect from violence.
posted by parmanparman at 8:56 PM on February 3, 2020 [10 favorites]

Being critical of you, often disguised as “advice” or “I would want you to tell me if the situation was reversed!”

EG comments on your clothes, grooming, habits, hobbies, interests, friends, family.

In my previous abusive relationship it started with a “are you going to wear that?” within a few months of dating.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 8:58 PM on February 3, 2020 [17 favorites]

Keeping tabs on how you’re spending your time and with whom.
Attempting to control any medications you take.
Refusing to admit that they are wrong about anything.
A history of being abused as a child.
“Not understanding” why someone called the cops on them.
Insisting that your beliefs, opinions, tastes, grammar, factual knowledge, experience, and reasoning are all wrong all the time.
They describe all of their exes as “crazy.”
They enjoy putting you down in front of other people.
Showing up at your house unannounced.
Attempting to control what your appearance.
Isolating you from your friends and family, either physically or by making you doubt your relationships, especially with people who call them out on their behavior.
posted by corey flood at 9:01 PM on February 3, 2020 [22 favorites]

Inability to admit fault. Or in the face of fault, inability to say sorry or articulate what it is they are apologising for.

I'm sorry you're upset vs I'm sorry I did something that upset you vs I'm sorry I kept you waiting; if I'm running late again, I'll call to let you know.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2020 [26 favorites]

In the "Red Flags" section of the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, there is an image of the the Power & Control Wheel,* which is used to describe what may occur in an abusive relationship.
Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics an abusive partner uses to keep their victim in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other more subtle methods of abuse.

*Although this Power & Control Wheel uses she/her pronouns for the victim and assumes a male perpetrator, abuse can happen to people of any gender in any type of relationship.
There is also a Power & Control Wheel image that reflects how "abusive partners in LGBTQ relationships also reinforce their tactics that maintain power and control with societal factors that compound the complexity a survivor faces in leaving or getting safe in an LGBTQ relationship."

via the MeFi Wiki ThereIsHelp page
posted by katra at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2020 [9 favorites]

This just came up on reddit around invalidating statements.
posted by ellerhodes at 9:27 PM on February 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

Jealousy. Demanding you spend all your spare time with them, cutting you off from friends and family.

Keeping tabs on you you when you're at work or out without them.

Telling you that they are the only one who could possibly love you, no one else will want you.

Threatening to harm or kill your pets.

Getting extremely angry if you try to leave, sometimes shoving or trapping you.

Showing their worst behavior when drunk and then promising they'll never do it again. They break all their promises to do better and get progressively more jealous and controlling. The times I got physically hurt were when he was drunk and I tried to leave.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:42 PM on February 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

Lying for tiny mistakes, lying when s/he really doesn't have to, in order to get out of having to say "oops, my bad." Shows lack of character, wanting to dodge responsibility or handle any unpleasantness. Would rather establish a pattern of dishonesty than just admit they forgot to get gas like they said they would. Etc.
posted by egeanin at 9:55 PM on February 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

"Love-bombing", or overt displays of affection and proclamations of love very early in a relationship.

Treating you better when others are around.

Mocking, belittling, or invaliding things that make you happy (hobbies, time with friends/family, your favorite band, style of dress, etc).

Insisting or coercing you to look or behave in a specific way.

Making certain topics off-limits: refusing to discuss things like finances, household issues, past incidents, etc.

Changing their story. If you find yourself regularly thinking "things don't add up" and being confused about things that they do or say.

Double-standards: they're "allowed" certain behaviors that you aren't. Like they insist on knowing your cellphone or laptop password but they won't share theirs, or they stay out late without checking in but blow up if you do the same.

Pathologizing: they suggest or insist that you are "too sensitive" or are "no fun" for being upset with them, or that being upset is evidence of mental illness.
posted by mezzanayne at 10:04 PM on February 3, 2020 [30 favorites]

Absolutely nthing mezzanayne - difference in treatment and overly showing affection/ appreciation in front of others vs in "private."
posted by porpoise at 10:12 PM on February 3, 2020 [6 favorites]

red flags from a close friend's relationship:

1. ignored boundaries (sexual, but this applies elsewhere as well) they didn't feel like respecting
2. when confronted about 1, said that it was friend's responsibility to enforce the boundaries for them because they wouldn't do it themselves
3. when friend enforced the boundaries, whined about friend making them feel like a child in a parent-child relationship
4. complained constantly about the existence of any boundaries at all

red flags from a different friend:
1. pressured friend into changing boundaries (once again sexual)
2. proceeded to cheat on said friend

imo if someone doesn't immediately back off when you say you're not into something sexual, run for the hills, they don't care about you except as an object.
posted by Cozybee at 11:26 PM on February 3, 2020 [7 favorites]

On a slightly different tack, by far the largest red flag I ignored was my instincts. Intellectually I could go through a list and check some boxes and not others, but I really should’ve paid heed to my raw feelings.

On which note let me add another recommendation for The Gift Of Fear. Chapter 4 is assigned reading for all of my nieces and nephews before they leave for college.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:14 AM on February 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

Dismissing or sneering at your choices and opinions, until validated by someone else like a best friend or complete stranger. Example: Ex is whinging that my latest purchase is awful and boring. His two best friends ask “what the hell are you playing?” He starts apologising and they tell him to STFU. This is good — and then he’s all like oh yeah I knew that. Gary & Damien were my first allies; they asked “why you run her down?” It was Dummy by Portishead.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:55 AM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Compares you to other people, in a way that makes you at first think you're special. "You're not like those other girls".... that turn out to be put-downs of other people and isolating you.

If it's a straight man at least, has only close female friends/ex-girlfriends/flirty platonic friends. Male friends are acquaintences at best. Basically, has very few close friends other than Not Quite Hookups.

Leaves you alone when you are sick or upset and is angry that you are sick or upset because of the discomfort or inconvenience caused to them.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:01 AM on February 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

Says something vile, hurtful or demeaning and when you complain, say "It was only a joke".
When horsing around, do something that causes a small amount of physical discomfort (enough for me to say ouch, that hurts - maybe like grabbing a finger and bending it back a bit) and then DO IT A BIT MORE while smiling before letting go and saying "I'm only playing!"
Threatened to kill himself if I were ever to leave him. That happened about six months into the relationship and that was the point at which I felt trapped and the red flags started waving, but I was about 21 and naive and believed that it would be all on me if it happened. Well, I finished with him two torturous years later and guess what - nothing happened.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 1:38 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

A good time to reference this again: How to Keep Someone With You Forever
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:40 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

When their actions often need excuses or explanations in order to make sense/not be suspicious. If you are in a relationship with an honest person, their behaviours and motivations are clear and make sense, they rarely need complicated stories to back up what they do. When you are with a liar you'll constantly be expected to overlook obvious transgressions for all kinds of "reasons"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:57 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

When they are rude to the waiter, or other people in customer service.
posted by Melismata at 4:10 AM on February 4, 2020 [17 favorites]

Burning bridges with friends and family so that you are their only connection

A general sense that everyone is against them

A lot of anger, even if it's not directed at you

Hiding alcohol consumption from you
posted by ChuraChura at 4:29 AM on February 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

Withholding information about small things like whether or not they're available to hang out on a particular night until the last minute because they're afraid to make you sad. (Your negative emotions are scary! I won't tell you things if you have them!)

Saying that they'll do things and then never following through.

Only ever following through on your recommendations (for books, music, TV shows, video games) when their friends agree with the recommendation. When you recommend something, it's 'probably not their kind of thing.' When a friend recommends something, they buy it the next day and talk constantly about how great it is.

Their hobbies/passion projects are vitally important and cannot be interrupted. Your hobbies are 'just entertainment,' are interrupted whenever they need something, and anyway, they could probably do it better if they were at all interested.
posted by bridgebury at 4:33 AM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

I’m a woman who dates men, and this is from my personal experience.

1) puts you on a pedestal. “You’re not like other girls”. He thinks he’s found the answer to all his problems, but eventually he’ll realise you’re exactly like other girls, and hate you for it

2) all his exes are crazy. Won’t take any responsibility for previous relationship problems/breakdowns. If a previous relationship ended badly, he wont say “I used to be xyz and it was hard to live with” or “I realised I have a tendency to do xyz/be attracted to people who were bad for me and I went to therapy/started looking for relationships with people who were compatible”. No, it was all the mean crazy ex girlfriends’ fault. And he won’t even cop to going after the wrong people.

3) one or more ex lied about him being physically abusive. This can happen, of course, but it can also be deployed as damage control so that if you hear something about how he used to beat up his ex, you’ll dismiss it because he already told you she was a crazy liar

4) tells you a tale of woe very early on. Wants to find out what your boundaries are like and if he’s found someone softhearted to manipulate. Be really wary of someone who tells you really personal things within the few dates. It can feel really intimate and special (“wow, he’s so honest/vulnerable/open”) but it can actually be an indication he’s looking for his next mark

5) pushes too fast for sex, exclusivity, living together etc. Sulks or gets cross when you ask to slow things down. You’ll think it’s because he just cares about you so much and you might feel guilty or think “what’s wrong with me? I thought I wanted a boyfriend who was looking for commitment”. You might be tempted to give in to keep the peace, or because you think maybe it’s not a big deal- you can always break up/move out/get divorced if it doesn’t work out. But by that time it’s like getting out of quick sand. If something doesn’t feel right, stick to your guns. What’s for you won’t go by you.

6) anything approaching gaslighting. Pretending not to remember crossing your boundaries, or having a conversation about what your boundaries are

7) when you challenge him about crossing your boundaries, he’ll tell you that you didn’t communicate them well enough, or that it’s your fault in some way. He might turn it into a conversation about your communication problems, or how messed up/critical/complicated you are. These were not problems he brought up before you told him he’d hurt you. If you bring up being upset and he goes on the attack, and you end up defending yourself/apologising and not addressing the original issue

8) crossing sexual boundaries. Not using a condom or taking it off when you’ve asked him to. Doing risky or extreme things during sex without asking or warning- choking, anal, hitting. Might imply you’re a prude or a bore for objecting. Might apologise and say he thought you were into it, but do it again. Even if you happen to be into those things, a safe, kind guy will check to see if it’s ok before before doing something that could potentially hurt you/traumatise you. Someone who tells you they have sixth sense for spotting submissive women, or that he’s good at reading what women want without them telling him, could be telling the truth, but it’s much more likely he’s just doing whatever the hell he wants and sometimes he gets lucky and the person is into it. But he’ll keep doing whatever he wants until he does something you don’t want. This is particularly alarming if he does this in the guise of being a ‘dominant’ but won’t talk about limits or safe words etc.

9) he won’t apologise for hurting you. He might pretend nothing has happened, or take you out for a lavish dinner, or buy you something (love bombing). He might tell you he didn’t mean to hurt you, but you’re not getting an apology, or any emotional support to help you get over what happened.

10) seems to have a history of trauma/childhood abuse he hasn’t dealt with/had therapy for. It’s very difficult to grow up in an abusive family without learning some dirty tricks. I say this as someone who’s parents taught them a lot of dirty tricks, and it’s taken a tonne of work and therapy for me to be able to have a healthy relationship. If someone tells me early on a tale of woe (see above) about growing up with neglectful, violent or absent parents, and doesn’t mention or is dismissive about therapy, I’m going to be watching very carefully.

11) If you’re feeling confused/angry/conflicted and not sure why. Something doesn’t feel right, but you’re starting to doubt your perception of reality. Maybe this is just how love feels, and you’re not used to it, or you’re too demanding. He’s almost certainly gaslighting you (and/or you have a history of being gaslight/abused so you don’t know any different). Wanting to write detailed questions on askmetafilter or similar to check whether you’re crazy, or allowed to feel angry or upset about something. You’re friends tell you you’re allowed to feel angry or upset, and you wonder whether you told them the full story or if you misrepresented what happened to make him look bad

12) makes jokes about being an asshole or a bad person. Tells you you’re too good for him. this goes double if his FRIENDS tell you you’re too good for him.

13) seems to have a lot of conflict in his life, and/or talks about getting into physical fights as an adult either causally or proudly

14) sexist jokes, however mild. I don’t have enough information to judge whether it’s a joke or not, and it’s probably not.

ETA 15) tells you you’re too sensitive or can’t take a joke. This seemingly innocuous response is pretty much an instant deal breaker for me now- he wants to hurt you/say whatever he wants without consequences, and if you feel bad, it’s your fault.

And read Why Does He Do That for lots more of these.
posted by Dwardles at 4:56 AM on February 4, 2020 [69 favorites]

Oh and one last thing, probably- he has a history of dating women much younger/less educated/less privileged than him. Not saying everyone who does this is bad news, but if it’s a pattern it can be a sign of someone who wants power over their partner.

Sorry, another one. Jokes about killing you/hurting you. Especially when followed by “you can’t take a joke!” As above.
posted by Dwardles at 5:05 AM on February 4, 2020 [9 favorites]

I have two lists (woo, lucky me!) - red flags in a man who turned out to have been violent in the past and red flags in a man who cheated on me. Some of these flags appear in both.

Red flags for violence:

>> Immediately feeling like you've been put up on a pedestal as an example of all that is good in the world.

>> Heavy contrast with their still very present anger/extreme disappointment in their past relationships.

>> Nothing that happened in the past was their fault, or it was all a misunderstanding, or their ex lied about it.

>> Oversharing, overpromising, love-bombing within a few days / weeks / months. You feel like you're being rushed.

>> "I just want to spend every moment with you"

>> "Did you miss me? I missed you" and other guilt trips after you spend time away from them.

>> There's a moment when they get angry and you instinctively shrink away. For me this happened when the man I was seeing bumped his head on a cupboard and his face changed completely. LISTEN TO THE FEAR.

>> They drip-feed information about how aggressive they are capable of being, whether that's towards themselves (talking of past suicide attempts) or others (talking of fights, of breaking their ex's stuff).

>> Going from 0 to 100 over a small thing and then not letting the argument go even after an apology. Using the argument as illustration of your poor character or as an opportunity to make veiled threats.

>> They tell you about past abusive behaviour in a passive way, as if it were something unavoidable.

>> They are scornful about therapy.

Red flags for cheating:

>> Referring to other options during first few dates, e.g. other people they're seeing, people they might be interested in. Testing the waters to see if you'll work hard to 'win them'.

>> Avoids talking about the status of the relationship or devolves responsibility for the status of the relationship to you ("Well, if you say I'm you're boyfriend then I suppose I am.")

>> Very invested in how you look and the status of your activities as opposed to the qualities of your character and your values.

>> Their closest friends are known cheaters / have dodgy relationship histories. They will defend these friends' choices or not understand what your issues are with them.

>> Nothing that happened in the past was their fault, or it was all a misunderstanding, or their ex lied about it.

>> Your partner's friends and family aren't that welcoming, perhaps due to the fact that you're seen as 'just another one'.

>> You feel lonely when you're out together.

>> They don't like any discussions around "being a team" or "working together".

>> They tell you about past cheating in a passive way, as if it were something unavoidable.

>> They are scornful about therapy.
posted by doornoise at 5:12 AM on February 4, 2020 [15 favorites]

This was difficult for me to read through so apologies if this is a repeated item but perhaps it bears repeating - projecting their issues back onto you. An ex of mine, if I recommended therapy, for example, would say "YOU'RE the one who needs therapy". Or if I told him he'd hurt me with something he'd said, "Well, YOU hurt ME too!"
posted by wellred at 5:19 AM on February 4, 2020 [16 favorites]

Controlling the money. Especially, your money.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:33 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

- wants to be serious, a couple, official, right away, you're the best thing that ever happened to them

- flips out over minor inconsiderations on your part, something that would be a simple, 'hey please don't do that' to most people becomes a huge issue or how you don't care for them, respect them, humiliate them

- if you try to bring up an issue it somehow gets turned around on you, you end up apologizing or reassuring them

- any sense that there is a 'jekyll and hyde' to their character, they are normal really sweet, but they can say really mean/cruel things when they are upset, you are tempted to excuse this because you can see how hurt they are

- they do lots of nice things for you, acts of service, but there is an underlying current that you owe them affection/gratitude in return (and you can never be grateful enough, esp. in terms of praising them in front of others)

- they want a very enmeshed relationship, you are always defending your desire to do things apart from them, they can easily list all the things they do for you (including things you didn't ask for) and are always asking you how you've shown your love for them

- pouting or the silent treatment in response to you doing something 'disrespectful' or 'inconsiderate'

- arguments that are very confusing/circular/never seem to get resolved

- you feel more tired that usual when you are with them

- they seem to feel the most loved/appreciated when you sacrifice something for them

- you notice yourself start to self-censor when you talk to them

- you notice your self-confidence dropping, you start to doubt yourself more, maybe you are really a selfish person who's not being a good partner

- if you do discuss your arguments with your friends/family, people are shocked by your partner's perspective

- you are called sensitive for asking for basic respect (no yelling, put downs, etc), plus they accuse you of disrespect for not always catering to them, so you feel like even a case where they are clearly in the wrong becomes a mutual problem

- they seem to store up your vulnerabilities to use them against you, esp. in arguments

- subtle manipulation/domination/controlling behavior that is hard to be sure of and they deny if you talk to them about it (didn't you know you're the dominating one because of x,y,z or they've felt manipulated by you too but they know you're not like that, so both must just misunderstand each other)

- some inner voice tells you this is all to complicated/exhausting even though so many things are wonderful and they seem to love you so much

- any criticism, no matter how mild or carefully stated, is treated like a full-blown attack

- you ever feel like they are punishing you, or giving you a taste of your own medicine

- they are very good a justifying their behavior and so nothing is ever their fault, always coming up with new interpretations of why they reacted they way they did
posted by orchidee at 5:44 AM on February 4, 2020 [16 favorites]

I think a lot of these have been covered already, but the four that stick out to me are:

-"Sarcastic" comments that aren't actually sarcastic. They'll make a comment that seems hurtful, and when you are in fact hurt by it, they'll say it wasn't serious, just "sarcastic". IMO sarcasm in general is pretty overrated as a communication method and should be used sparingly, but alas it persists. Unless it's immediately obvious that they're being sarcastic, they probably aren't; they're just covering up. Which brings us to:

-Justification instead of admitting fault, especially related to your feelings. If your partner hurt your feelings, their reasons for doing so don't really matter. They should apologize rather than explain. Maybe explain after apologizing, to work through the problem so that it doesn't happen again. But if you say "that hurt me", their first response should be "I'm sorry".

-Any appearance-related comments that aren't entirely positive, especially early in the relationship - the "infatuation" phase. This is the time when you should be excited about the other person. If they're not, it's a sign that it's probably not unconditional love. Kind of a subset of:

-Control stuff. There are a lot of ways this can manifest, and not all of them are red flags necessarily, but in general, your partner should not be making rules about what you can and can't do. You're allowed to eat what you want to eat, hang out with whom you want to hang out with, dress how you want to dress, and go where you want to go. If you have some problematic behaviors (e.g. alcohol abuse), it can sometimes seem like they're trying to help, and maybe they are. But restricting your choices against your will is probably a sign that they don't respect your right to make your own choices. This is especially true if you bring it up to them and they continue the behavior. The worst relationship I was ever in was when I was unemployed for a couple of months after moving to a new city. To be "helpful", my girlfriend at the time (for whom I'd moved to the new city) would email me job postings, like dozens every day. After I got a job (that I liked), she was unhappy because it wasn't particularly prestigious, and so she continued emailing me dozens of job postings every day. I asked her to stop, and she refused. I wish I could say then that I knew I was in trouble, but I stuck with her and learned the hard way that this is a symptom of bigger problems.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:01 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

This is also a really good list of 61 warning signs for emotional abuse that goes beyond the more 'straightforward' things in a lot of lists:

Also, from Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft (he writes from a context of male abuser/female victim, but adjust the pronouns as necessary) - the whole book is an excellent resource for this question

He speaks disrespectfully about his former partners.
He is disrespectful to you.
He does favors for you that you don't want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable.
He is controlling.
He is possessive.
Nothing is ever his fault.
He is self-centered.
He abuses drugs or alcohol.
He pressures you for sex.
He gets serious too quickly about the relationship.
He intimidates you when he's angry.
He has double standards.
He has negative attitudes toward women.
He treats you differently around other people.
He appears attracted to vulnerability.

No single one of the warning signs above is a sure sign of an abusive man, with the exception of physical intimidation. Many nonabusive men may exhibit a number of these behaviors to a limited degree. What, then, should a woman do to protect herself from having a relationship turn abusive? Although there is no foolproof solution, the best plan is:

1. Make it clear to him as soon as possible which behaviors or attitudes are unacceptable to you and that you cannot be in a relationship with him if they continue.

2. If it happens again, stop seeing him for a substantial period of time. Don't keep seeing him with the warning that this time you 'really mean it,' because he will probably interpret that to mean that you don't.

3. If it happens a third time, or if he switches to other behaviors that are warning flags, chances are great that he has an abuse problem. If you give him too many chances, you are likely to regret it later.

Finally, be aware that as an abuser begins his slide into abuse, he believes that you are the one who is changing. His perceptions work this way because he feels so justified in his actions that he can't imagine the problem might be with him. All he notices is that you don't seem to be living up to his image of the perfect, all-giving, deferential woman."
posted by orchidee at 6:13 AM on February 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

How do they handle you doing things they don't like?

I enjoy professional wrestling. I admit that it is dumb, and pointless, and often racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. But I still like watching it. My first spouse hated professional wrestling, and never, ever, not even one time failed to remind me of that. I didn't foist it on them at all -- after the first time, I didn't even bother asking whether they wanted to watch with me, I just told them "Hey, there's a big wrestling thing this weekend, and I'd like to watch it live on the TV in the basement by myself." And even then, I would still get, at best, a few snotty comments about it. Every time.

My current spouse just says "Okay" when I say that I want to watch it. They also disdain it, but they recognize that I enjoy it and don't need to be reminded that they don't.
posted by Etrigan at 6:41 AM on February 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

Great points above. For me, mistreating service staff, having a lot of "crazy exes," asking "how well do you take criticism?" early in the relationship, and ending relationships by ghosting or withdrawing rather than talking things through have all shown themselves to be early bad signs.

The bottom line: people will ultimately treat you the way they treat others, even if they seem to have an "excuse" for individual acts of bad behaviour (e.g. "I had to ghost her, she would have freaked out if I'd told her up front I was ending it and she is unreasonable/dangerous").

If you ever find yourself saying or thinking "You better not ever treat me like that," either brace yourself or walk away. Option 2 is usually the wiser choice.
posted by rpfields at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2020

It's not just what they do to you, but also what they do to others/ how they treat others. Apply all the comments above to how they treat others. It's about power, control, hierarchy/dominance. Do they suck up to people in power? Do they dismiss people they perceive as low-status? Listen hard. Do they show contempt frequently? They may treat you very well at first but that may change. How do they talk about and treat their Mom, sisters, cleaning staff, waitstaff?

John Gottman has done a lot of research, and has recommendations on what makes marriages/relationships successful. or not. 4 Negative Signs and 7 Positive Signs
posted by theora55 at 7:05 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

In the context of early dating and just getting to know someone, I also want to echo that love-bombing is a red flag. Baggage Reclaim calls it fast-forwarding. If they tell you they love you and want you to be their girlfriend/boyfriend and/or want to marry you within the first few dates, that's a huge red flag.

Always, always trust your instincts. As women, we're encouraged not to, to be people pleasers and have deference for men, and that if we do trust our instincts, then we second guess ourselves "maybe I'm being too picky or judgemental or I should give him a second chance." NO. Ain't nobody got time for that, if you get a hint of anything of the above, just say "hey it's been nice getting to know you but I'm not feeling the chemistry or spark that I'm looking for. Take care." Hopefully he doesn't spew abuse in response; if you feel that will happen, that's why people ghost.

Also, our friends might encourage us to go against our instincts as well. I hate this! Friends are supposed to be supportive of us, not tell us how to live our lives because they think we're being picky and judgemental and not giving a guy a second chance. If you get that kind of feedback from friends, you have to wonder whose side they're on - yours, or the guy (whom they may have never met!).

Another clear cut red flag is saying no to something and seeing how he reacts. Say no to anything: no, I can't see you on Friday. No, I don't want to see that movie. No, I don't want to eat pizza. No, I don't want to come up to your place/invite you in. If he responds to your no with anything other than "ok, no problem" that's a red flag.
posted by foxjacket at 7:07 AM on February 4, 2020 [9 favorites]

Gambles more than a tiny portion of his income. Sooner or later gamblers come to a bad end and they almost always drag their wives and girlfriends down with them in a very bad way.
posted by MattD at 7:31 AM on February 4, 2020

Nothing is ever their fault or responsibility, not even the most basic of common shit everybody has to deal with as a human being who gets stuff wrong sometimes, and it's usually other people deliberately targeting them in some way that has caused the problem. (These people are always raging xenophobes, too.) They can't just be late because they got distracted at the office for a minute or there was an accident that snarled traffic, it's always someone made them late on purpose and it was definitely unrelated to personal responsibility in any way. They can't get ahead because everybody's got it out for them. They're always mad that yet another thing they think they're entitled to hasn't been given to them. This will all eventually be you stopping them from doing everything and "making" them be awful.

The flipside of that is the constant martyr. Everything is their fault even stuff that cannot possibly be, nobody appreciates all the work they do, everyone treats them like shit, nobody cares about their opinion/desires/well-being. Puts a lot of effort into things that's supposed to "make" other people react in a specific way, but their expectations are wildly unreasonable and the effort is often counter to the desired outcome. (Beware, in particular, boundary-crossing gift-giving and Grand Gestures.) A lot of people do end up here in the course of their lives, however briefly, as part of learning to be an adult, and honestly they should be single while they sort it out. Maybe next year.

Boastful adherence to toxic masculinity. Bragging about not cooking or cleaning, not making a fair contribution of effort to things like potlucks or group outings or non-sports team efforts. Refusing to see doctors or dentists (or only getting cosmetic dentistry for the status) as needed, all the way through to an aversion to basic hygiene like sufficient hair-washing, using soap, cleaning their ass and junk, hand-washing. Enthusiastic - even joyfully vicious - dislike of anything women like, sneering about feminism, sexualizing everything to do with girls or women, assuming women "got where they are" via sexual favors.

Being contentedly racist and assuming you are too. Ever uses the phrase "race card" and other dismissive catchphrases meant to disenfranchise people who aren't cishet white men. Doing imitations, fake accents, and other unpleasant caricature of people of other races. Sexualizing everything to do with people of other races.

Being an asshole for fun or sport or in-group cred, in person or online.

Never expresses any concern about doing their part, holding up their end of agreements, being a good friend/coworker/family member/partner. Blissfully free of uncertainty about themselves as decent human beings. Decent human beings worry about that, they worry about the world and their place in it. They don't have to be big bummers about it, there are ways to worry about this that are collaborative and thoughtful and even positive, but if they're never bothered by what seems like a sketchy power dynamic at work or patronizing a shitty company or a vulnerable person they know being taken advantage of, that's a sign.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:48 AM on February 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

They can dish it out but they can't take it
Threats, and when you point out that it's not appropriate they're all "that's just how I feel"
Pushing for commitment
Pushing you to move in and take a lower-paying job "that you'll love!" but that will mean you lose financial independence
Pushing you to stay on medications that give you serious side effects so you're dependent on them for support
Telling you they think your close friends are "creepy" or similar as a way of pushing you to cut them off
Telling you they don't understand why you need friends, "aren't I enough?"
Making you do all the emotional labor, but what you do isn't adequate
Changing plans without telling you
Sexist jokes
Going on about how your friends "don't respect our relationship" and you should manage them more closely / delete social networking comments etc
Getting upset when you mention exes in passing, getting upset that you've ever had sex or relationships before, getting upset that you are friends with people you've been involved with previously
Everything always has to be about them
Getting upset when something doesn't go the way they wanted, even if it didn't go badly
Habitual lateness that forces you to wait for them, like starting to get ready when it's time to get going
posted by bile and syntax at 7:48 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Signs of compulsive behavior. especially around sex or money. If you have self-esteem issues, a partner who seems to be insatiable for you will likely make you feel like you are special and amazing. 99% it's nothing to do with you (although you are very special) and signifies addictive behavior. Addictive personalities can flip a switch with regard to the subject of their addiction (sex, drugs, spending, gambling, etc), but it's a lifelong challenge and a ton of introspective therapy work to keep compulsive urges under control. With compulsive behavior comes shame and lying to cover up the behavior and that leads to trust and relationship issues. I've just made myself said thinking about this all over again.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:53 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Why are you complaining about that? That's nothing. Other people have real problems."
posted by bile and syntax at 8:07 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Saying that you are too “comfortable” on your beliefs. In combination with subtly criticizing your weight, your friends, your culture, your family dynamics, etc.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Saying that your feelings are wrong / invalid.
Always needing to be right.
Insisting that gratitude ( and other things, like apologies ) can only be expressed in one exact way or it doesn't count.
Making everything and anything into a contest.
Caring deeply about winning said contest.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some of this isn't exactly from personal experience but a lot of these are things I didn't see in the thread, so:

-Treating your relationship like something secret or taboo; "I shouldn't be telling you this" before confessing their feelings for you. Intimating that their feelings for you are wrong or dangerous but also uncontrollable and all-consuming. Implying they have a (vague, nebulous) darkness inside of them.
-Implying your friends are losers. Telling you you're too beautiful, smart, interesting, or cool for your friends.
-Only ever available to do things they want to do. Somehow, they're always busy when you invite them out with your friends and family, but they have plenty of time for you to hang out with their friends and family.

On the boundary violation stuff, note that it can start really small: telling you to try a food without telling you what it is. Telling you to show up for a date and surprising you with the location. Tickling you when you don't like that. Rescheduling dates at the last minute more than once because of an "emergency". Unsafe driving/speeding!
posted by capricorn at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

Thinks "I was mad" is a reasonable excuse for doing a horrible, crappy thing.
posted by WaywardPlane at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Threats, and when you point out that it's not appropriate they're all "that's just how I feel"

Along the same lines, anyone who says something like, "Aren't I allowed to have feelings?" is apt to be full of shit. If they are saying this is response to someone having trouble with their displays of anger they are likely to be rageful control freaks. You'll usually know them for a while before they start doing this though.
posted by BibiRose at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2020

When you ask them to change a behavior or you mention something they did that made you feel bad, they act sad/injured and need to be comforted. Also: "I guess I just can't do anything right," said in similar situations.
posted by wryly at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2020 [10 favorites]

The constant barrage of criticism. The way they put you down to bring themselves up or at least make you as "bad" as they feel. I spent years being told how ugly I was; how no one would ever want me; that I was stupid.

Constant suspicion. Accusing you of all kinds of things you didn't do. The same person who told me how ugly and unattractive I was also accused me every day of cheating on him.

Financial control. My ex would not give his share of money to the household, then blame me when we got behind on utilities (because feeding the kids came first, then their preschool/nursery school, then the mortgage). He demanded to handle all the lasted a month and he made it even worse than it was before.

Irritation with you for no reason. I hated trying to talk with my ex, and he'd roll his eyes and make his hand in a circular motion (like, "Hurry it up") and I knew he wasn't caring at all what I was saying. You end up feeling worthless.
posted by annieb at 11:26 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Always has suggestions or criticism for how you’re doing [thing] wrong, no matter what [thing] may be. This can start as constructive criticism, but then it starts to feel like everything you do is somehow wrong.

Sets themselves up as an authority figure who knows how to do things the right way, is always empowered to judge you, and always does judge you. You find yourself internally double-checking everything you do and say for whether it will earn their approval.

Prides themselves on being “blunt and honest,” because politeness is just stupid socially programmed dishonesty, man. This means you aren’t allowed to be hurt or upset if they say something mean or rude to you, because they’re just being honest. Hey, they would be happy if you spoke to them the same way! Except that if you do speak to them just as bluntly about something you don’t like, they’ll always have a bunch of arguments about why you’re wrong and a horrible person for even thinking such a thing.

Implies they have some unusual, special, vaguely supernatural ability (like being able to know what you’re thinking, or sense from afar if you’re upset, or doing something “wrong”).

Implies that you have an unusual, special, vaguely supernatural connection with them. You’re soulmates, destined to be together, bonded by the universe. This is love-bombing and it also means that breaking up is unthinkable, because how can you walk away from the cosmic purpose of your life?

Has a very prescriptive idea of who you are and what you value and enjoy, based on what they think you ought to be and do. Often this may be a real part of your personality (the part they approve of), but not the whole of your personality. If you break out of this mold in any way, they are shocked and horrified that you are acting so “out of character”. You aren’t allowed to grow or change at all, ever. “I thought you didn’t believe in enforcing gendered beauty standards. Why are you wearing makeup? You look disgusting with that crap on your face. Are you just giving in to social expectations after all? I thought you were stronger than this.”
posted by snowmentality at 11:33 AM on February 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

Similar to what snowmentality is saying about claiming vaguely supernatural powers, my (emotionally abusive) ex told me early in our relationship that she had never not gotten something she wanted. At the time it was darkly alluring, because I knew she wanted me, and I was sort of excited about being "gotten" by her. When we were breaking up, it was terrifying, because I was sure that if she wanted custody of my child, she would magically get it.

I believed this woo-woo crap even though I generally only believe in things that are observable in the material world! That's how powerful it was.
posted by unstrungharp at 11:47 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Picks fights with your friends/family, or comes up with some other reason why you can’t see/talk to them. It’s isolating you from your support structures so you don’t have anyone to turn to when their true colors shine through.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:08 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

When something is an issue for them, it needs to be discussed and fixed. When something is an issue for you, it's not worth getting into because they don't agree that it's an issue.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

The two people in one body can horrify me. Pretty voice, regular voice, and the other angry/negative voice manner of conversation is weird too. Or like others have said; one person at home; and then a different type of person around others.
posted by Afghan Stan at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Signs of serious discomfort with autonomy:

Being really hung up on needing to do the same things and make the same choices all the time, even in circumstances where it probably doesn't affect the relationship. Do they get annoyed when you order a different entree than them, for instance? Can't eat a snack if you're hungry and they're not?

This can also have to do with family of origin stuff, but do they insist you split everything even when there are more than enough resources to go around? Can't have your own beer, you have to split it with them or else you're selfish?

Are they judgemental about how you spend your time alone/without them? Are they disapproving of your hobbies in a way that goes beyond joking?
posted by blerghamot at 12:56 PM on February 4, 2020

Can't apologize without a "...but". No matter how innocuous that "but" statement is, if they just cannot manage to say "I'm sorry that I did that" and leave it there, that's a flag.
posted by Etrigan at 1:10 PM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

These are brilliant, so to avoid repeating I will share some that are super-specific but can hopefully be more generally applied:

-being attracted to your online persona which happens to be weak, fucked-up, lonely, etc. and hating when you're actually a strong, multifaceted person irl

-being jealous of your successes and seeing it as confirmation that they have shit luck and everyone else is charmed (even with dumb little things like winning $2 on a scratch ticket)

-not condemning or even criticizing a relative who abused his gf; "both sides"ing the situation

-objectifies you and other women; all women in a category or a type rather than taken individually and as whole people, labeling with porn categories (silver fox, milf, etc.)
posted by kapers at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2020

Discourages you from pursuing your own interests if it doesn't involve them.

Playing up your similarities and making you feel like the differences are your fault because you're not more like them.

Making your loved ones seem inferior to them--they always know what's best for you over people who have known you for a very long time.

Giving you the silent treatment when you offend them.

Pitching a fit when you have friends the same gender as them because they think you're going to cheat on them with your (totally platonic) friend.

Making you feel like their vision for what your life should be is actually what you want your life to be.
posted by luckynerd at 1:50 PM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm a cis woman who dates men. The big one for me (mostly just a warning of future problems, not necessarily abuse) is stories that don't check out. Like a lot of people have odd lives or may have weird/bad/odd stories in their past. What I want to know is: if I asked his friends or family about that situation would the stories more or less line up?

So maybe he says he has a "crazy ex." That is more of a red flag if his friends don't support that and just are like "Eh it was just a relationship full of drama, what can you do?"

Maybe he hates his mom. That's less of a red flag if his friends or other family members are like "Yeah she's terrible/abusive/neglectful to him"

If he says he dumped his ex and everyone else says she dumped him? Red flag.

If he tells you that you're the first woman who has ever made him feel this way and his friends are like "He was engaged to be married to someone else up until a month before (or after!) he met you."

Like... when I met my guy, he was in a somewhat complicated partnership with his son's mother. I was concerned because OF COURSE a shady guy would say they were no longer together and hadn't been for a decade and blablabla. But, once I met and got to know his friends, they all said basically the same thing. His son's mom had a disability, he was supporting the family so that his son would grow up with his mother nearby. Seemed like a standup thing to do.
posted by jessamyn at 8:10 PM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Something I witnessed more than once (personal experience, loved ones' experiences) is the dangling of a commitment when you start to question the health of the relationship or pull back. I had some truly deranged telephone conversations with a long-distance problem dude, where I would try to say "let's just take a break" and he responded by talking about engagement rings, what kind of stones would look pretty on my finger, etc. A few months after we were finally done, he was engaged to someone else. Now he's engaged to yet another person (and we keep getting younger...almost like his age peers can tell something's up!).

For my loved ones, it was in the olden days of landlines and answering machines, and it'd be a pattern of multiple calls, hang-ups, answering machine messages--that he knew the entire family could hear--saying things like "and to THINK that I was just about to propose. you blew it, babe." There was also the guy who confiscated my sister's birth control pills, and when she pushed back, he offered her a diamond ring.

These are all reasons why I am deeply concerned whenever someone gets engaged via "popping the question" and it seems to come out of nowhere (rather than as a series of reasoned, bilateral agreements). The idea that it "should" be a total surprise can so easily be weaponized. And in my experience, it often is.
posted by witchen at 8:45 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been out of a rough relationship for the last few months. These are looking back to when it started a few years ago, and thinking about what I should have paid more attention to then. Some are behaviours in the other person, some are behaviours in myself. My take on toxic relationships is that it's rarely one person alone, that over time enabling behaviour can feed into the destructive situation as much as the behaviour it's enabling, and that a feedback loop can establish of toxic enabling behaviour enabling toxic enabling behaviour (etc, etc, etc).

I think one of the main flags to look for is how many of their stories they were in the wrong. Doesn't have to be completely that they were the bad guy, but there should be some situations where they're aware their behaviour wasn't great. If they're not good at seeing themselves as part of a problem, you might be seeing yourself on the other side of that later.

Tying into that is one I need to watch myself on. If you catch yourself excusing things, you're going to teach them that you're okay with that behaviour. Having a healthy boundary does take some work from yourself as well. I'd love to be able to just say that my ex should have been able to know where mine were, but that's expecting someone else to mind read. If you give too much leeway because they're in a really bad situation at work, health issues, whatever, how do you expect them to know that certain things are really not okay for you?

An ability to compromise is important in a relationship, and I think this one that applies as a cyclical one as well. Both in that the more forthright partner needs to be aware of the other's needs/wants, and in that the more reticent one needs to make their needs/wants known. Can easily build up resentment and frustration otherwise, one person sees it as agreements with their needs/wants, while the other feels unheard. So the red flags here would be seeing things as black or white, or being too willing to please.

The final red flag is probably the most important in my mind - compatible arguing styles. Myself and my ex are extremely different in this. When things are getting heated/emotional, I need time alone to get away and to sort my head out, while they need to work through things together. Neither of these are fundamentally wrong, but the two of them together caused massive frustration and problems.

Combine all the above and others, and you've got a cycle of toxic behaviour feeding on itself.

Need to be honest with yourself about what you need, what you want, what your boundaries are, and what your faults are. From there you can probably figure out your personalised red flags to look out for in a new relationship from either side.
posted by MattWPBS at 5:11 AM on February 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fucking with your sleep; not letting you go to bed/sleep when you want, waking you up to fight., etc.
posted by tristeza at 7:55 AM on February 5, 2020 [9 favorites]

Fucking with your sleep; not letting you go to bed/sleep when you want, waking you up to fight., etc.

This is huge. Also, wanting to know what they can do to be supportive around your disability, but only is those things are minor and likely to be performed in front of other people. If you point out that the big thing you need help on is housework and they get mad because they think “they do enough” bad sign.

Something else I’ve experienced is having people pick bizarre fights and then insisting that you’re the one picking fights. I’ve also had an abuser insist that I had had a personality shift (my friends did not agree) and was acting differently.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:31 AM on February 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

For me, it was very gradual and very subtle. Here are some things that happened and how they escalated:

My ex-husband never controlled *my* money, but we opened a joint checking account together. We both got debit cards for that checking account. We both used those cards. Only one of us contributed money to that account. When I asked about closing his other checking account or getting his check direct-deposited into the joint account, it was always something. He forgot the form. The HR person was out. He didn't have the number with him to change the paperwork....for 10 years. Then, when I came up short to buy diapers or pay daycare or bills or whatever, he'd make me ask him for money, and then remind him when he didn't write me a check, and then get upset at me for nagging him. I left my marriage many tens of thousands of dollars in debt due to his spending on joint cards, his refusal to pay bills, and his manipulating our finances (like paying for work trip out of our joint account and then cashing the reimbursement check into his personal account).

He wouldn't respond to text messages or answer the phone, like, ever, so I could never get a straight answer on if he could stop at the store on the way home or if he could pick up our daughter or whatever. Sometimes, he'd come home with the thing I asked him to get and sometimes he wouldn't, but he was always kind of making me chase him down about stuff, like all the time. Eventually he became the holder of all the information, the person with the majority of the disposable income, and I ended up asking his permission for EVERYTHING in a way that really fucked with my personal and work relationships. FWIW, he still does this after our divorce. I'll ask him if he can make it to some thing that we both need to be at--a teacher's conference, a doctor appointment, and he'll ignore all emails and calls about it. Sometimes he shows up, sometimes he doesn't, sometimes he pops in to ask that the appointment can be changed less than 24 hours before it's scheduled so I incur late fees.

He presented himself as more intellectual than me. So if we disagreed about something, anything, he'd go into this long-winded intellectual, college debate style argument, and I'd say that I didn't know whatever reference he was making, and the conversation would end. Over time, this shifted into him refusing to answer questions or explain what he meant by a comment or tell me about his work day because "you wouldn't understand anyway, you never do" which then turned into me asking a question and being met with a response of "are you f'ing stupid?" Reader, eventually you do start to feel f'ing stupid. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The other thing that happened a lot was that he'd manipulate situations in this really intentional way. Like, he didn't like my family that much (which is a whole other red flag). I am close to them, and I love Christmas, and they do like a big day-long Christmas thing. So he'd, like, wait until we were parking the car at church on Christmas morning and be like, "we have to leave by 5" , and then I'd say that dinner wasn't until 630, and he'd be like, we have to get the baby to bed or whatever excuse he came up with and ultimately pick this GIGANTIC fight where I'd end up crying and he'd storm off INTO THE FAMILY GATHERING. So I'd walk in super upset and in tears, he'd fume or glare or give me the silent treatment for the entire day, and no matter what time we left, he'd have succeeded in ruining my entire day anyway. He would do this in different ways for many, many family gatherings. It was traumatic.

I mean, I guess these are all different forms of gaslighting, but I always find it helpful to hear specific examples because not everything progresses the same way for everyone.
posted by cheese at 3:13 PM on February 5, 2020 [11 favorites]

Unhappy changes in your own behavior, especially suppressing previously normal expressions of your ideas and values. The stress of tamping down the need to speak up and object. If you were to look at yourself from outside, as an observer, would those changes, that stress alarm you?
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:01 PM on February 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is a very specific example, but that is what you asked for right?

One ex kept picking fights / disagreements with me over things that were relatively minor. I told him my opinions without crying or yelling and then changed the subject. After this kept happening, he told me that since I did not react emotionally, it meant that I did not care enough about our relationship and he was thinking about breaking up with me. At that point I did start crying and he was dismayed by how emotional I was. This started a pattern where with every fight/disagreement/time that he did not get his way, he would drop into the conversation that he was not sure about the relationship and thinking about leaving me. I can't believe how long I tolerated such childish behavior.

Another example is the typical sexist/misogynistic comments, for example "women comedians just aren't funny", "you are actually pretty smart for a female" etc.

Another example is someone who enjoyed putting me down in front of his friends when he never behaved that way otherwise. I think he felt the need to do that to look cool and powerful in front of others since deep down he was just an extremely insecure person.
posted by seesom at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Flags I didn't recognize in the only friendship I had that went sour, because I loved this person dearly and had been close with them for many years and didn't want to think ill of them or lose that friendship:

* Black and white thinking.
* You're continually smoothing things over for them and making their excuses.
* Lots of burnt bridges.
* Lots of time spent ruminating on wrongs done to them by others.
* Lots of critical remarks directed at other people in general; in hindsight, no empathy or compassion for anyone they don't like, for any little reason.
* But you get put on a pedestal and can do no wrong. You are special and wonderful. That will change abruptly and unexpectedly, day to night. (Look up "splitting.")
* You find yourself reluctant or afraid to do/say something they will be critical of, which is an enormous number of things. You try to make yourself in their ideal image of you. You are walking on eggshells. Red flag symptom.
* An unexpected thing causes a big blowup and you have to scramble and make multiple abject apologies. Additionally or especially a red flag if expectations were never communicated in the first place. This happens repeatedly.
* Every time this happens, veiled threats to end the friendship, couched in confusing "I am a victim here, I will go sadly and not bother you anymore" tones. Or "I can see you must want to end our friendship, goodbye" tones. I have a lot of sympathy for where I think this was coming from, but it was hurtful and confusing. Also in hindsight, downright cruel to put me in the victimizer role when I was no such thing.
* They have little or no awareness of their emotional reactions and patterns. They are baffled that people think they are an angry person. This part is really sad to me, but there was nothing I could have done about it.

This person wasn't a bad person, and had many wonderful qualities. In many ways, at most times, they were a wonderful friend. I feel a great deal of compassion for what they must have been dealing with emotionally. But this relationship was unhealthy for me in ways I wasn't even aware of, and when things inevitably ended in a really, really ugly way that had me questioning all of reality, it did me lasting damage, particularly due to my own past. History got rewritten in the most bizarre, alarming ways. I mostly kept all this to myself but I actually had to contact a family member to tell them what was happening and that no, I was not neglecting my child's health and education or being an awful spouse to their brother. This happened when I was finally feeling a little more solid in myself and communicating boundaries. Probably not a coincidence. The friendship is unrecoverable, and it's a shame.
posted by moira at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Negging or teasing your appearance, including the way you dress, style your hair, etc.
posted by amaire at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add that being jealous of any children in your life is a very big red flag, from “well, how often do you really need to see your niece?” to “I don’t understand why everything has to revolve around the baby.”
posted by corey flood at 3:11 PM on February 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

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