Most of us can spot red flags like verbal abuse and violence from a mile away, but how do you decide if someone who seems super nice is the real deal or not? When everything they say sounds right and nothing is glaringly wrong, it can get trickier to determine if they’re just awkward and slow or intentionally manipulative on the low. Here are 8 things that helped me see my ex clearly for what he really was and finally walk away.
I created a timeline. When we first started talking, he kept using how long we’d been in our relationship as an excuse for why things weren’t moving along. It always the same: “We’ve only been talking for fill-in-the-blank weeks.” It made sense to me for a little while, but when the months started adding up and we were still going nowhere, I had to get real about that reason no longer being a valid cop-out.
I made a concrete list of things I had asked him for. If I was going to tackle this guy head-on, I would need to come with receipts. I tend to avoid confrontation at all costs and let things go for the sake of keeping the peace. But with him, it meant the pile of unfilled requests was growing larger by the day. I never wanted to go back and bring up something he never got around to doing (that he said he would) because I felt like it would be nagging him. But over time, the list said it all for him when it came to revealing his true patterns and intentions.
I shifted the blame off myself for admitting words were nice but not enough. I feel like all the memes about girls never wanting a good guy and “nice guys finish last” just put pressure on women to tolerate more from a man who doesn’t obviously come off as edgy and macho. Like we’re somehow wrong and unappreciative if it doesn’t work out. I kept wondering if the issues I was having with him were all my fault because I was so used to being in toxic relationships prior. But manipulation and complacency, although subtle, can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Our interaction was still unhealthy.
I reminded myself of what I really wanted and needed. I was initially drawn to him out of attraction and interest. Then, it almost became a challenge I gave myself to be patient and “good enough” of a partner to see his words play out. I talked myself into believing what he said would happen and dismissing signs that showed otherwise. I had to step out of our relationship and think about what I wanted from life and a partner in general. I wanted marriage, a home, and a family, and these boss moves didn’t seem like something I was going to get from someone who couldn’t even fulfill basic pledges to me.
I reflected on how much I was still doing for myself. I’m all for being with an independent free-thinker type such as myself, but how alone did I still have to feel while I was in a relationship? There should be some perks to having a man in your life and, aside from the extremely occasional gesture, all I was getting was someone buzzing in my ear. Pillow-talk only goes so far—I got tired of hearing whispered sweet nothings while he was continuing to do a whole lot of nothing.
I gave myself permission to let go of something that was not overtly toxic. It was almost as if I was waiting for a solid sign of him being bad for me. I couldn’t accept that he could still be completely full of crap without him getting caught red-handed or escalating to a blatant red flag such as domestic violence. I had to stop waiting for “real evidence” and trust my intuition that something was off. My gut was telling me to be suspicious and that was enough.
I forced myself to stop comparing. One of the reasons I held on for so long was because I kept rationalizing his behavior through comparison. I kept telling myself he wasn’t “as bad” as some other guy I had been with. Just because he wasn’t a complete dud didn’t mean he was “The One” either. I deserve a life-changing soulmate who I share a cosmic-level connection with. I didn’t have to settle simply because he was a step up from previous boyfriends.
I labeled the lingering confusion itself a red flag. It was hard to feel confident about not trusting this guy without an “aha” moment. I wanted to catch him or find something out so bad so I could know for sure he was guilty. I had to allow the lingering confusion about our relationship to serve as enough of a clue of things not being as they seemed. If this were a healthy match, I should have more certainty about what we were doing. I spent too much “trying to figure out” if he was genuine or not and this was not OK.
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