traffic lights

There are behaviours and situations that get presented in relationships that signal that you need to opt out or at minimum, slow down and address the situation before proceeding. What I’m about to explain are what typically make you incompatible, or signal a particularly unhealthy relationship or that there are things that you need to address about you.

The chief problem that I come across time and again with people faced with code red behaviour is that we don’t do what we’re supposed to – opt out.

Instead, we analyse the crapola out of it, blame ourselves, minimize the extent of the problem, assume we know better (we don’t), or decide that us and our love make us the exception to the rule. Many of us also see the perfect opportunity to be an emotional airbag or to fix, heal, help – we end up on a pedestal.

Even when confronted with code amber behaviour, we don’t process the information, pause, access what it means to us and the relationship that we have in mind or our vision of the other person. We don’t ask questions, clarify information, or assert boundaries – all things that should happen in an amber situation.

It’s time for you to decide what your line is – when you know the line and your limit, they know the line and the limit, either because they’re not crossing it, or you bounced them out of your life.

Following my original post ‘knowing when to bail – red flags’, I’ve now delved a little further because so many people try to be the exception to the rule and have little or no boundaries. Aside from there now been code red and amber situations, what helps to differentiate between the two or even change the status is context:

If you have previously been involved with the same or similar, or their behaviour is very similar or the same as a parent or authority figure from your childhood, or you actually have the same issue, you must abort mission. No question.

If you have not habitually been involved with someone similar or the same, no family history and whatever the issue is, they state and can show that it’s in the process of being dealt with for at least a few months, it’s a code amber.

If for whatever reason, the situation feels familiar to what has been previously unhealthy relationships, it’s code amber, or if in being involved with them you’re acting without love, care, trust, or respect to yourself, or would need to in order to continue, it’s code red. Some things are a flat out code red and I have marked it with FOCR.

Addicted to something (FOCR) – If you meet someone and they are addicted to something (gambling, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc) and not aware of it and doing something about it, this will impact on your life greatly if you continue. This is an especially dangerous situation for Florence Nightingale’s.

Married Or Attached (FOCR) -The moment that you opt into one of these situations, you communicate the wrong things about yourself. Anybody trying to pursue you while with someone else is shady. Decent people get their house in order – they don’t stock up on an emotional airbag.

Anger and aggression (FOCR) – If they have trouble keeping their anger in check or are physically aggressive, or very intimidating when they want their own way, this is an abort mission.

They play victim (FOCR) – Be careful of anybody that refuses to take any responsibility for their life and blames it on others – Be extra careful of people who when they experience a problem, don’t see their part in it. You will eventually become one of those ‘others’.

Not over the ex – (FOCR) – If they say they’re not over their ex, are recently broken up and hurting, are excessively angry with them (i.e not neutral), are hooking up with them, secretly trying to get back together with them, playing you off against each other, whatever – bow out. Fast.

Controlling – Steer clear of anyone that wants to control you. They start out with small stuff and then bit by bit increase their level of input. Jealousy and possessiveness is control, not love and especially when experienced early on or it increases bit by bit where you feel like you have to justify, explain yourself, and let them keep track of you. If you are unsure of what you’re experiencing, it’s code amber, evaluate the situation, throw some icy water over your feelings and plans, 100% eyes and ears open, and try to have a conversation with them about it. But if this is within days or weeks (certainly within the first 3 months), code red.

Problems with past/childhood – Pasts can be overcome (I have) but if there are issues from their past that impact on their ability to healthily engage, it’s code amber if they’re prepared to go to and stick to therapy, and code red if they’re not prepared to, deny, or play it down, or it’s coupled with other code red and code amber behaviour.

Dodgy attitude towards sex – This is about very different sexual values. If they’re into shady stuff in the bedroom, it’s at the very least a code amber, or depending on the nature of it, a code red. Don’t try and revolutionise the wheel and if you don’t want to have threeways, being watched by your neighbours, beaten etc – opt out.

Irresponsible – irresponsible with life in general – bills, rent, job and borrows money off you? Wants to move in after you’ve known them a wet week? Acts like a recycled teenager? Code amber depending on the level of discomfort. Not being good with money and having a weakness for shoes isn’t a code red but not being good with money and gambling it, their house, or whatever away is.

Sleeping With Others – If you’re OK with being part of a casual ‘relationship’, this is code amber as you still need to proceed with caution and ensure your own emotional and physical safety. If you’re emotionally invested, or think you’re in a relationship, it’s code red.

Nasty and spiteful – Mean spirited people don’t stop being so in a relationship and may attack your self esteem by latching on to what they think are flaws in you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’ll be this way with everyone else but you. This is code red and it also covers narcissists – while they will charm you and disarm you, when they turn, they turn.

Emotionally Unavailable – This means unavailable for a mutually fulfilling, healthy relationship. Unavailable people give limited relationships because they have limits on what they are able to give. If you don’t see the signs and recognise the disconnect, use this as a code red to check your own availability.

Bulk of communication by text and email etc – These lazy forms of communication are code amber.

They’re an assclownThere’s ten very key signs that you’re with someone who means you and the relationship no good. People who act with love, care, trust, and respect don’t do stuff like pressing the Reset Button, the Outrageous Principle, sneakily changing the goalposts of the relationship, the Dripfeed Manouver and telling lies/misrepresenting themselves. This also covers off anyone who is a narcissist.

If you’re experiencing more than one of these ‘issues’, that’s a code red, especially if you have only recently become involved with them.

These are the key things that you need to be very aware of and set as your limits. Anything else is down to your own boundaries so it’s important to recognise what has made you uncomfortable in the past and why, what your values are, and ensure that actions match words and that what you’re doing is congruent with who you profess to be. If you want to know if you’re in code amber territory due to how you’re feeling, use these questions.

Knowing your limits leaves you free to be available for healthy relationships. Knowing what’s shady keeps you emotionally safe and healthy.

Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.

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179 Responses to Understanding Code Red and Amber behaviour in Relationships

  1. Sandra81 says:

    I’m glad to be the first to comment on this one! :-D Being in a period of “emotional rehab”, this morning I was exactly thinking about what is acceptable and what isn’t. I don’t believe myself to be one who makes a fuss over the little things (once I heard about a girl who was mad at her boyfriend and wanted to dump him for not having called her for the last…2 HOURS!!!). Well, that’s exaggerated, in my opinion! :-) All the points on this list are very important and should be taken into consideration. But I would like to suggest another topic: what about “How to treat your assclown ex when you are forced by circumstances to stay in contact and get along”? :-)

  2. Natasha says:

    That was awesome Natalie :) I am soooo guilty of ignoring this stuff. In the case of the last go-around with my AC, I was getting daily text messages instead of one once a month, BUT they still weren’t freakin’ regular phone calls. Still amber I think, because it was technically a “step up”, however, there were a ton of “RED. DO NOT PASS GO UNLESS YOU LIKE MAKING AN ASS OF YOURSELF WITH AN IDIOT.” signs going on, so of course I chose to focus on….text messages. I’d like to add a red sign of my own:
    If you know they’ve had girlfriends, you can assume that they are capable of calling a woman, not disappearing, etc. If these things are not happening in your case it’s a RED in my opinion.

    • NML says:

      Actually you can’t make that assumption – If you’ve read enough of the comments on this site, you’ll know that there are plenty of women who consider themselves ‘girlfriends’ who put up with all sorts of shit behaviour. Him being capable of calling you has nothing to do with previous partners. The act of calling requires one to extend their arm, pick up the telephone, select your name in the address book or key in your number and hit ‘call’. It wouldn’t matter if he’s had 100 girlfriends or 0 girlfriends, if he’s not calling, he’s not that interested in you. If he’s disappearing, let him stay disappeared.

      • Natasha says:

        Natalie I love your description of the calling process – too funny! You are so right, I don’t know what I’d do without your no-bs wisdom. Thank you :)

      • Jo says:

        I JUST had this very conversation with a man – this week, in fact. He’s a serial texter and I have put up with it for a long time. I told him that the texting isn’t appropriate for the type of relationship we have (we have slept together but currently are not, but he wants to!) I tried to tell him that I don’t feel connected to him the way I want to for him to be my lover again and a (part) of that had to do with the texting versus calling – I told him it was too impersonal. He tried to turn it around to make it look like I was unreasonable and he’s so good at it that I moped around for a few hours thinking that I was unreasonable. Then I woke up. And I am not going to budge – if he wants to re-establish something with me, the calling is just a start!

        Natalie, do you think it’s at ALL possible to re-train someone? I am not referring to ACs necessarily, because we don’t want to be with them. But, a lot of ‘good’ men sometimes take the path of least resistance, am I right? Maybe I can answer my own question – if you communicate a specific need to a ‘good’ man (like calling versus texting all the time) shouldn’t he try to accommodate, to make you feel comfortable and like your needs and feelings are being considered? Thoughts?

        • Melanie says:

          Jo: “if you communicate a specific need to a ‘good’ man (like calling versus texting all the time) shouldn’t he try to accommodate, to make you feel comfortable and like your needs and feelings are being considered”

          Hi Jo sorry it took a while, I wanted to respond to this as I dealt with the same questions a little while back. My ex was a texter too. But mine only texted me once in the week to ask about weekend plans, then a few more times while we confirmed those plans. I suspect he spent the rest of the week texting with his female “friends

          Like you, I also felt the texting was so impersonal. And I couldn’t seem to understand why we weren’t getting to know each other better. Well because we weren’t having conversations during the week, that’s why! We only saw each other once a week because of our work schedules. So You’d think he’d be all the more keen to call me during the week to maintain a connection, maybe even let me know he missed me… Before him any boyfriend I had participated in conversations with me.

          It was LAME! Texting takes up a lot of my free time, and delays the conclusion of conversations that could’ve been over within just a few minutes but end up taking a whole day or two (since I’m not available at beck and call to respond immediately to every text I get, sometimes I didn’t get the message til hours later, then reply, get a response, can’t reply again for hours, etc).

          I felt like let’s just get this ONE conversation OVER with already! It shouldn’t be that difficult to make plans for the weekend. And the plans were always so skeletal too. If we’d used our voices to have a real conversation we could’ve discussed what we’d both like to do, events we’d heard about, our schedules, etc.

          Anyway while we were dating I dropped hints to him a couple times that I hoped he’d phone me during the week. One time he said something to the effect of if I wanted to call him I could. Sure I *could*. But I think I’d just asked HIM to call ME. Just like you, I have to think, “Shouldn’t he be trying to impress me? Wouldn’t a guy who liked me think ‘Oh, she wants me to call her… I’m going to do just that!’ “

        • Allison says:

          Jo,

          I don’t text at all. To anyone.

          Tell him if he wants to communicate, to call, as you are no longer texting. His choice.

        • grace says:

          jo
          no you can’t train him. the reason he doesn’t call is because he doesn’t want to.

          • NK says:

            Hey,

            I have just re-read this article because I am facing some code amber issues. These issues have arisen and mainly because I have let them happen. I have to say I am not that pleased with myself….

            The texting issue, the guy im seeing now only texts. He has called me but only if its when hes on his way to meet me or to find out whether im late or not. Until I have re read this post I did not have an issue with the texting and to be honest im still not sure why texting is so bad……
            I can understand that texting is impersonal and can be used to put distance between people, but I do not feel that this guy is doing this with me. I have to say that I initiated the whole potential relationship with a text….not a call.
            Am I exscusing his behaviour?

            • NML says:

              It’s all about what you’re ok with – texting all the time is a form of lazy communication but if you have been fine with it then rock on especially if there are no other issues present.

      • Natasha says:

        I should add that this is especially helpful because I have been trying to validate myself off of this guy for basically 5 years…5 years of yo-yo girl bs and trying to get him to say “Yes, you are good enough to date.” To say I could have spent my time better elsewhere is a massive understatement! If that itsn’t FOCR behavior on MY part, I don’t know what is!

        • Magnolia says:

          Hi Natasha,

          Sounds like you did answer your own question. But if you’re still confused, I think that a good browse around the BR site will challenge your notion that this guy is ‘good’, or at least ‘good’ for a relationship. The behaviour itself is what qualifies him or not.

          As I’m learning, “good” isn’t the issue. I believe we’re all God’s children etc etc and therefore forgiven in the ultimate sense, but we have to measure whether someone is “a good person to be in a relationship with” by their relationship skillz. Texting as you describe doesn’t cut it. And the 5yr yoyo history doesn’t sound like someone who is suddenly going to “accommodate.”

          • Natasha says:

            Thank you Magnolia! I was feeling a little vulnerable yesterday because I found out he’d gotten back together with an ex-girlfriend, so thank you for your note :) My attitude towards the whole thing is “I don’t care what he says this time. If he tries to slink back to me if it doesn’t work out with her, this time he’ll be in the shock of his life when he calls and there is no answer.” Strangely enough, it felt liberating when I found our…because I really didn’t care that much. I didn’t cry, I didn’t sit around wondering “why her and not me?” In yo-yo girl terms, I believe this is known as progress.

  3. Lady Grey says:

    I am a very passionate, emotional person with a natural flare for the dramatic. My feelings are big, my emotions are big…and I like that about myself. The man I am dating however, does not. He often complains about me being “over dramatic” and “too emotional”. He’ll say things like, “you need to grow up” and “let me tell you what life is like…”. Basically I feel he treats me like a child because he is “rational and logical” and I am emotional. He believes emotions are inferior to logic and reason. Everything that goes wrong between us is a result of my lack of ability to “control myself”, or my inability to “understand reality”. I’m an artistic person, very sensitive and very bubbly, but lately I just feel bad about myself. If I upset him he removes “privileges” (his word) like one day I was so upset at him for talking down to me I lost my temper, I had a key to his place and to punish me for upsetting him he took the key away. In the end he blamed my temper and I ended up apologizing.

    I just want to know where this falls on your list? I know this is a red flag so, would it be considered controlling behavior?

    • ICanDoBetter says:

      Sounds like controlling behavior to me.

      Also, sounds like you are dating Spock.

    • Allison says:

      Lady,

      Absolutel,y controling behavior! Also, when someone begins to make you feel bad about you, it’s time to move on.

    • Tanya Z. says:

      Lady Grey — His behavior could certainly be controlling. It also fits in the category of “Nasty and spiteful,” and “They play victim (FOCR)” – As Natalie said, “Be careful of anybody that refuses to take any responsibility for their life and blames it on others –

      ++”Be extra careful of people who when they experience a problem, don’t see their part in it. You will eventually become one of those ‘others’.”

      Being with your boyfriend shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself — either he’s controlling, spiteful, or unwilling to see how he contributes to problems between you — he’s or some combination of these three things…and you may just be mismatched or incompatible as well.

    • Magnolia says:

      I would focus on how you feel when you interact with him.

      Your current boyfriend sounds similar to my last boyfriend. I am a responsible person who is respected for what I do and (though I’m working on really believing this) I deserve that respect. In fact, what am I saying? I deserve respect inherently.

      The company of my ex was an environment in which I was never destined to be met as an equal. He saw me as weaker, weaker-minded, and weaker-constitutioned. His way of being ‘kind’ was to condescend to the “weaker” sex – i.e. treat women like children to be indulged, scolded, and/or dismissed.

      And when someone treats you like a kid – well, as I work on myself, I think, okay, then you opt out – but I was going to say when they treat you like a kid then you feel like one (and for me that meant confused, looking for approval, and trying to get attention from an unreliable source), which only leads to behaviour that they can continue to label.

      It is very hard to confront someone who has just made you feel bad when they are telling you or reacting to you as though your anger and hurt is ‘irrational.’ I kept thinking, is he right? Am I being unreasonable? Childish? I was always apologizing for getting mad at some mean remark he had just made that he would tell me I was overreacting to.

      It’s a red flag for me, now. I won’t put up with that again.

    • NML says:

      Well yes it’s a red flag of controlling behaviour. You also have incompatible values so your relationship isn’t going to work. He’s also nasty and spiteful and is treading into assclown territory. I guess my question to you is, why, in the face of this behaviour, are you still there? When you can answer that, you have the starts of resolving this situation in your own best interests.

      • Magnolia says:

        Wow, see, you name it as controlling immediately.

        I had to LEARN what counted as controlling. I was so used to feeling bad about making mistakes that I didn’t get it that I shouldn’t be feeling bad in a relationship. That behaviour simply was okay in my family of origin. My fam delivered a lot of ‘constructive criticism.’

        I simply figured I was making a lot of mistakes in the relationship and he was pointing them out or getting annoyed, the way I would with his jerk behaviour. The difficulty for me is knowing the difference between articulating/living boundaries and delivering said ‘constructive criticism.’ Maybe if what I think is constructive/corrective is actually controlling, then … hmm. Then I’m controlling, too? Thoughts for another thread.

        Maybe Natalie you might talk about where asking questions about amber behaviour, or stating boundaries, becomes controlling from our side?

        • Magnolia, there’s a mental disorder called OCPD (sometimes anankastic personality in the UK.) I’ve got a blog on it, but you can look up the term in wikipedia.

          A person who’s controlling is often very, very anxious at the root of it, and they try to control everything around them (including the people) to try to ensure safety. Of course, no one CAN, fully… but doesn’t stop ‘em from trying.

    • Audrey says:

      @Lady Grey: We should NOT have to change who we are to suit someone else and that goes for friends, family, everyone including boyfriends.
      Lady Grey, this guy sounds like a strict school master and you are like his pupil he’s trying to coach/teach/mould. He’s certainly not loving or kind.
      it’s time to abort mission PRONTO.

    • grace says:

      lady grey
      dump him, what an arrogant tosser!
      he’s worse than spock; spock was nice to people.
      and no child deserves to be treated like that either.

    • MH says:

      Lady Grey,

      He is not treating you with respect, trust, care and love

      Respect: He often complains about me being “over dramatic” and “too emotional”. He does not respect that you are who you are.

      Care: He’ll say things like, “you need to grow up” and “let me tell you what life is like…”. This statement does not demonstate that he is saying this with kindness in his heart and has your best interests.

      Trust: Basically I feel he treats me like a child because he is “rational and logical” and I am emotional. If you feel this way, you feel that you don’t have his trust enough to treat you like an adult.

      Love: He believes emotions are inferior to logic and reason. If this is who you say you are how will you ever feel loved by him if this is his thinking about you now.

    • GTash says:

      Lady Grey,

      You said you have big feelings and emotions and like that about yourself and in the next para you said his reactions and treatment of you makes you feel bad about yourself. Now you have to ask yourself why would you want to be with a person who makes you feel bad about yourself and is obviously not prepared to accept you as you are? Why on earth should you change yourself to suit his ideal? It sounds to me as though he wants you to be a totally different person to who you are and in the long run it is simply not emotionally sustainable to be someone you’re not just to keep some guy happy. This may or may not be controlling behaviour but definately a red flag and definately not the way you deserve to be treated.

  4. grace says:

    every man except my first boyfriend displayed FOCR red flags. i’m okay with that now, at least i know it wasn’t just random bad luck or that they were fantastic men who happened to turn bad. it’s oddly reassuring. they don’t come out of the blue – you can spot them. mind you, we have to DO something about it and dump him. my counsellor summed it up nicely. he said “it’s about what you will accept”.
    being involved with these men is a vicious cycle. they erode your self-esteem, you date someone else who is just as bad, or worse, that person make you feel bad about yourself, you find someone else who treats you poorly but feel too weak and helpless to leave. at some point you do have to take a breather and not date at all. use the time for yourself. i was a basket case so it took five years, two counsellors, and BR but i really do feel a million per cent better. not romantically (there is no romance) but in every other part of my life.
    the one good thing about these relationships is they are a wake-up call to get your house in order and take charge of your life.

    • NML says:

      Your counsellor is absolutely right Grace – it’s very easy for us to focus on the red flag itself, but what people are not asking themselves is why do I feel that this is acceptable in the first place. I think you have much to be proud of – you have taken the focus off them and put it on you. That takes guts, self-love, honesty, and consistency. Kudos.

  5. colororange says:

    Natalie, you mention people with addictions. What about if the person is working at a recovery program and has at least a year of sobriety behind them? Is that a go or an immediate opt out?

    • NML says:

      Hi Colororange, sobriety is different to what I said in the post which was that if they are unaware of it and if they haven’t already been working at it for several months it’s a FOCR. As they are sober, it’s not. However it’s still a code amber as you should proceed with caution and if you habitually get involved with people who have addictions, it’s a code red still, which is opt out.

      Refer to this part of the post:

      “If you have previously been involved with the same or similar, or their behaviour is very similar or the same as a parent or authority figure from your childhood, or you actually have the same issue, you must abort mission. No question.

      If you have not habitually been involved with someone similar or the same, no family history and whatever the issue is, they state and can show that it’s in the process of being dealt with for at least a few months, it’s a code amber.

      If for whatever reason, the situation feels familiar to what has been previously unhealthy relationships, it’s code amber, or if in being involved with them you’re acting without love, care, trust, or respect to yourself, or would need to in order to continue, it’s code red. Some things are a flat out code red and I have marked it with FOCR.

      Addicted to something (FOCR) – If you meet someone and they are addicted to something (gambling, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc) and not aware of it and doing something about it, this will impact on your life greatly if you continue. This is an especially dangerous situation for Florence Nightingale’s.”

  6. kirsten says:

    Thanks to Nat, you seriously are a champion. I even asked my boss for a payrise yesterday lol something I’ve never done before….looking out for me, me and me…at the ripe old age of 38!! Much loves xxx

  7. Cherry Kook says:

    Lady Grey,

    What you describe is complete controlling behaviour. He is like a child in the way that he sulks and removes your so called ‘privelages’.

    I totally know how you feel about being artistic, sensitive and bubbly. I was like that, once, and am slowly starting to get back. I was also told i was too sensitive and needed to get a grip and grow up. Its ironic because men like this are the ones that need to get a grip and grow up and stop treating women that love them and treat them kindly in such an appalling manner.

    I wrote a lengthy post on here not so long back about how I was stuck in an horrendous situation with my ex ASSCLOWN. He ticked every one of those boxes above on a large scale. And I chose to ignore all the RED flags, I wanted to believe I was different, that I was an exception to the rule. I must have went back over 50 times over a 2 1/2 year period. I didnt want to listen to the countless number of people, including BR members, friends, family, counsellors who told me to GET OUT. I should have left a long time ago. But I didnt, I wanted a return on my investment, on my loss of self.

    I was getting sick, and enough is enough. I couldnt keep hanging on anymore. Waiting and waiting for things to change, for him to magic into this amazing person despite everything he had done. I cant face another year with a shit birthday, an anniversary he didn’t want to celebrate, Christmas presents he didn’t want to buy. Planning every weekend with my friends because he didn’t want to spend it with me. Going on holiday on my own, because he never wanted to go with me. Waiting for phone calls and never knowing when I would hear from him next. Looking forward to seeing him and constantly getting disappointed. I couldn’t do it to myself anymore. I would have gone to the ends of the earth for him. I do not want to wait around for someone who ‘doesnt know’ if he wants to be with me or not. I am not sorry that I have finally stopped being that doormat he accused me of being. I am not sorry for deciding I deserved more in my life. I suppose now, the relationship is gone, it is over, it was dealt some very fatal blows, on his part. I know now that he is not my soul mate. A soul mate does not tear the other down. Does not say hurtful, demeaning things. Does not control, abuse and bully. Does not use the others love and generosity without returning something. Even if that something is only a kind gesture.

    I now realise that the more I stuck around, the less respect and the worse the situation got. I wanted him to feel bad for the pain and hurt he had caused me. I know now that he probably never will. But thats okay, because time will heal me and one day I wont care anymore. He text the other day asking if i would like to go away for the weekend and see who could get off with the most people?!??! I mean seriously. He is 32 YEARS OLD.

    I am definately a work in progress. But I will get there, its just taken me a while to realise it will take time. :)

    • Allison says:

      Cherry,

      The recovery will happen a lot sooner if you block ALL forms of contact.

      • grace says:

        cherry
        i agree with allison, i would even change your phone no. when i left my abusive ex, he was so manipulative, persistent and downright stupid that i just had to ignore him completely. we’d bought a flat together and despite his protestations not to get lawyers involved i flat out told him “get your lawyer to speak to my lawyer”.
        my lawyer asked if i needed a restraining order – maybe i should have said yes.
        ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore. since you’ve taken him back 50+ times in 2 years he’s got no reason to think this time is different unless you completely and utterly cut him dead.
        and there’s no “probably” about it, he will never, ever admit to his wrongdoings. “probably” is still giving him too much credit. with absolutely zero contact you’ll have the space to really see him for what he really is. and, one glorious day – like you said – you won’t even care. you’ll no longer be wondering about what he did, what he said, how he treated you, how someone could behave like that, what makes him tick, how he let you down. you’ll look your counsellor in they eye and, with genuine puzzlement say, “i don’t know what i was thinking”. it will be like a foreign country to you.
        right now he is trying to jerk you around. he’s making you angry with his stupid texts. at some level, albeit a reduced one, he’s still pulling the strings. don’t let him!

    • NML says:

      Well Cherry, you know how I and others feel and as you say, keep doing the work. Every move this guy makes just proves he’s a grade A asshole. When someone invites you on a weekend away to have a pulling contest, you know how they really feel about you. When they do it and they’ve already bitten your nose and abused you up, down, sideways and any which ways, he’s a sociopath. I will say it again – get into counselling and stick with it and don’t stop until you are not tempted to look for even a sliver of air from him. I know someone who wound up dead as a result of being with a man almost exactly like yours – you might think that won’t happen to you but actually, by the time you realise it can and will, it will be too late, so stop putting yourself in this position.

      • Cherry Kook says:

        Thanks Nat. I get the feeling sometimes that I frustrate you with my posts, maybe I am just being paranoid. Today I deleted all form of internet communication, blocked emails, skype, MSN etc. I have requested a phone number change (at the cost of £35, which all though a small price to pay for peace, still bugs me) and have contacted landline to block number. I really appreciate all that you do, you have gave me the courage to pave my own yellow brick road. It may be a bit wobbly on the way, but the road will ultimately lead to happiness and self love. With or without a guy. THANK YOU. SO MUCH, and to everyone on here.

        LOVE.

        XXXX

        • NML says:

          You don’t frustrate me at all – you worry me, which is different and anything I say is to ensure that you don’t forget what a ‘see you next Tuesday’ this man is. I hope when you see me and others fighting for you, that it spurs you to fight for yourself and I’m so proud that you have deleted him. £35 is a drop in the ocean of the world of pain that awaits you if you don’t do it. Hell, I’ll pay the frickin £35 myself! Be cool, be strong and don’t dare feel an ounce of guilt about what you’re doing – this man doesn’t deserve the steam off your pee, nevermind any concern for him. (((hugs)))x

          • Nevertoolate! says:

            Cherry,

            Please listen to everyone, NC Please, I look at you as if you were my own little sister. I want you safe and happy, hang in there. Love you lots!

            xoxoxo

        • Magnolia says:

          Good going Cherry. Feel proud of yourself!

        • grace says:

          cherry
          that’s terrific. well done

        • EllyB says:

          Cherry Kook: I’m not in your shoes, therefore it’s difficult to judge your situation. However, I have some ugly experiences with emotionally abusive people myself, and had to do no contact.

          Please be aware that there is always a temptation to take some of your steps back. Please don’t give in to that temptation!

          What helped me is that, whenever I felt tempted, I did exactly the opposite. I took no contact another step further. Whenever I started wondering whether he would try to get back in contact to me, I instead directed my thoughts to other traces he had left in my life, and busied myself removing them. Do you still have any pictures of him? Discard them, or delete them from your computer or phone. Don’t keep any single copy. Discard or donate his presents. Get rid of all his letters, emails and text messages, if you still have them (unless you think you might need them to take legal action against him any time in the future, use them as proof for the police or something like this – in this case, store them in a safe place far away from you, but don’t reread them). Don’t even think of turning the other direction again! Every single step might hurt, but believe me, it’s the kind of pain that leads to healing.

          I think with all the sad history you have with him, your life is probably entangled with his in many ways. If you used to shop at the same places, avoid those and go discover new ones. If you have acquaintances in common, turn to your other friends or get to know new people. Also avoid your own family members if you have a history of abuse with them, too.

          Disentangle yourself, step after step. Embrace your artsy side again (but don’t pressurize yourself, go slowly, if necessary). Use all your fantasy and creative abilities, not to take revenge, but to imagine a life completely free from him and other similar-minded people, and then get busy implementing it. And, of course, seek professional help and stick to it!

          • EllyB says:

            Cherry, something else: Since I’m not a native speaker, I didn’t understand the meaning of your nickname at first, but I noticed that most other commenters in here call you simply “Cherry” without the second part.

            How about changing your nick? Believe me, you aren’t a “kook”. That’s one of the things narcissistic people like to do to us. They make us believe that there is something wrong with us, not with them. This isn’t true. Of course, you have to work on yourself now, but first and foremost, you fell victim to a bad person. It’s not your fault. It happens to perfectly normal people. Your only responsibility now is to get out. Stop diminishing yourself in any way. You can do it!

        • Audrey says:

          @Cherry… Well done on blocking him and changing your number. It’ll be the best thing you’ve done for yourself since meeting that dangerous assclown.
          “it may be a bit wobbly on the way but the road will ultimately lead to happiness and self love”.. Amen amen… i’m tearing up here..:-))). Yes, the yellow brick road – Dorothy found her way home after all didn’t she and so will you – home to yourself.

        • Allison says:

          Good for you! You’re on the road to recovery!!!! :)

        • Natasha says:

          Cherry, I am so happy for you that you are cutting this guy off. Getting away from someone who abuses you can be HARD. I’ve been there, so I totally understand and I want to congratulate you on taking the steps to get back to being you and feeling good about yourself. I had a boyfriend that when he had a bad day would call me up in the middle of the night to tell me explicit details of sex with his ex girlfriend just to upset me, so don’t think you’re the only one who’s been involved with a sicko like that. Before you know it, you will have your life back! xoxo

    • Audrey says:

      Cherry: You see him for what he is – alleluia is all i can say…. Keep going (away from him) and don’t look back. Ever.

  8. Kay says:

    Another great post,thanks.I’m getting so much better at dating with my eyes wide open,recognising the red flags,acting on them and opting out where necessary. It’s great to learn a new set of dating skills and master them.It’s really vital to have these guidelines,because otherwise we risk reverting to old habits and behaviours.

    • NML says:

      Thanks Kay! That is exactly the point of this post – knowing when to opt out or when to pause and access flushes shit behaviour out of your life.

  9. Melanie says:

    Love this list and you are right, once we recognize the red flag we need to remind ourselves it’s time to bail, not time to try to fix them. Also though sometimes it’s not ’til we look back over a period of several weeks, or a few months that we can take the isolated incidents that we’ve observed, and string them together, to realize that they form a larger pattern of behavior. Just one example is a man who has a beer or two on your date, by itself not such a big deal, but as you see him on several more occasions perhaps you then see that he actually abuses alcohol.

    • NML says:

      Sometime’s it does indeed take a little while to see Melanie. One or two beers isn’t a red flag. Not being able to get through a day without a couple of beers is certainly at best an amber situation. I’ve had readers mail me and tell me they’re involved with someone who drinks a bottle of wine a night to ‘unwind’. That’s 7 bottles of wine a week. In whose universe is drinking a bottle of wine a day considered healthy?

      • Melanie says:

        Yes agreed that’s not healthy! One time years ago I went on a blind date with a man I’d met on a dating site. So we met up on a Tuesday evening and he proceeded to order beer after beer, ( I had just one and didn’t even finish it) and he was flirtatious with the waitress. Naturally I refused a second date! If only ALL the unsuitable men would be so obvious about it, it would save us all a lot of trouble :-)

      • jennynic says:

        I am having an issue regarding this. My new guy always calls when he says, shows up, is nice, respectful, is easy to talk to about things, etc., but he drinks a six pack of beer a day ( sometimes more), every day. We have talked about it and he said up front that he knows he drinks too much and is an alcoholic. He said he wants to quit but that it is a struggle. He has health issues that are worse because of the alcohol, he admits this. We had a good talk about all of it. He isn’t in denial and has expressed wanting and needing to stop drinking, but also hasn’t been proactive in dealing with it. I have listened, and been supportive but do not tell him he has to change, only agree with him when he says it. I told him that I can be supportive but cannot fix him, he needs to do that. So, to me this is an amber light, for now, and think I should give it a little more time (not years) for him to make some changes, for him. I think he is a nice man, and I like him, enjoy spending time with him, but also don’t want to end up “hobbled” by his inability to make positive changes for himself. He said he drinks to numb himself, from emotional things in his past. He gets depressed about not having been a big part of his daughters lives after he got divorced. Again, amber but close to red. It gets confusing here. It’s not bad to feel bad about missing out on your kids upbringing, but to drink because of it is. What do you gals think?

        • Kay says:

          Hi jennynic.
          I would be very wary in your situation.It sounds as if it could become a Florence Nightingale as you’ve obviously been listening to his problems and baggage which are considerable.Alcoholism is a disease and even when they go into recovery the problems don’t end there.Alcoholics have major psychological issues to grapple with which generally makes them poor partners.I speak from experience as I was engaged to one.Think very carefully before you commit to this man.Best of luck!

        • Movedup says:

          Have to say it – sounds like he is telling you who he is – emotionally unavailable. Until that changes – your “relationship” won’t either. Don’t end up his emotional airbag because that where it sounds like you are heading. Closer to red than amber. Watch out for Florence – she has been known to rise from the grave.

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          jennynic,

          Here’s the catch. Right now, from your post, it sounds like everything is great EXCEPT the drinking problem. He admits he uses it to numb the pain.

          He stops drinking. Problem solved? Not so much. Now he is faced with all his issues and emotions he didn’t want to feel, and you have traded one problem for many. Maybe his numbness is what allows him to be so nice to you right now. But the truth is he is nice and numb, so you are not getting the real deal.

          • grace says:

            ICanDo
            I agree. One of my exes was an “alcoholic” who hadn’t had a drink in about 10 years. You’d think he’d be fine .. but no. Met him a few years ago when he hadn’t had a drink for over 20 years. Still not fine. Still mucking women about and feeling sorry for himself. Still mucking me about actually though we’d been “just friends” for years. Still complaining about his daughter. He claims to love her but resents her for having expectations of him. His AA group were like a wife-swapping/swinging party. I never met such a group of self-pitying irresponsible people who were able to justify every selfish thing they did. Another sober alcoholic I knew with no connection to this group visited prostitutes very regularly.
            I know not all alcoholics are like this but with my history I just can’t go there.
            Of course, this begs the question – why was I even dealing with these people at all? There really is such a thing as being too understanding, too nice and too forgiving. When there are so many great people in the world why would I associate with terminal losers.

        • Lynda from L says:

          Hi Jenninic, you’re dead right to be wary. Several years ago I left a thirteen year marriage to be with a charming functional alcoholic and in doing so put my own life on hold for 4 and a half years. Alcohol is insiduous and relentless and if the man you mention has been drinking heavily for a long time, including the start of your time with him….you haven’t actually met who he really is yet.
          Also,alcoholics will drink for any reason under the sun!the loss of children, to celebrate getting a new hifi, the death of a goldfish, their team winning….believe me unless he’s about to get in a reputable programme to stop, turn around and walk away. It will get worse. I can feel that you’re really into him and I feel sad for you…they can be joyful,dynamic,loving guys for sure but they have one mistress ‘lady booze’and she’s always gonna be there between you. Take care of your own needs, this is code red, red, red in my experience. Thinking of you.

        • Nevertoolate! says:

          I had a boyfriend like this, he was an alcoholic, kind, loving, but still an alcoholic, I lived with him, because I am responsible, this allowed him to drink even more, eventually he worked less, and because I was enabling him , he became out of control, I finally had to kick him out, never went for this type of EUM again. He was replaced by other “types”. But I am still a work in progress. Not to get off the subject, but your situation is still a
          FOCR, run like HELL!

        • Magnolia says:

          Unfortunately Natalie has good reason for labelling alcoholism a flat-out code red. If your guy says he’s an alcoholic, and you’ve witnessed what he needs to drink to stay ‘normal’, then you know what you have to do. Be sad, walk away, mourn, move on.

          I lived with a very high functioning alcoholic for years, a very good-hearted person, total ‘rescuer’ personality. A “Florencio Nightengale”! He won me back twice with when I said I wanted to leave, and it was truly disemboweling to finally get out after years of enmeshment.

          My god, we both had such issues. Neither of us were in any shape to be forging a good relationship.

          My guess is if you’re seriously thinking a relationship with an alcoholic could, maybe will, possibly might, hopefully will work then you might want to step back and ask yourself why you’d choose such a bad bet.

        • NML says:

          Jennynic, I’m not going to rake over the ground that the fantastic commenters have, so I will say this: It’s a flat out code red. Let me say it again – it’s a flat out code red.

          You’re rationalising, trying to get yourself to be the exception to the rule Florence Nightingaling, playing doctors, waiting for change, betting on potential, and hiding in his problems – they are all flat out code red’s in them selves. You are very comfortable with unhealthy relationship behaviour – this is shown by writing what you did and then calling it a code amber. He may not be in denial but you are. I would make it a matter of distinct urgency to speak with a professional or attend Al-Anon. If you would be OK with this from someone you refer to as a ‘new guy’, I am worried about what you would do with someone who you have known far longer. There is nothing whatsoever confusing about what he is saying and doing – you are confusing yourself by doing exactly what was described at the start of the article. You see a red flag and you ignore what that means and think you know better and look for reasons to stay invested. I don’t doubt he’s a nice man but he’s a depressed alcoholic who hasn’t and isn’t doing anything about it and expressing how upset he is about not being a bigger part of his daughters lives and then continues to make that part smaller by not doing anything and drinking it away. I’ve been that child – my father is still telling me how he wishes he’d been a bigger part of my life and how he wants to be…and then not. Harsh as it may be to hear Jenny, wake up.

          • jennynic says:

            Thank all of you for your responses. Of course you are all completely right. Natalie, I understand what you are saying, I know it can’t be a healthy relationship. I knew this in my gut after the first month and after really seeing the extent of his drinking. In all honesty, I have learned to ask questions, I studied and rewrote my boundaries as I learned more about myself. I actually learned so much from reading this site, examining myself and my past choices. I actually knew better this time, but I have stalled in doing what I know is right. I have to opt out, which breaks my heart. Why? He has been good to me. He is my friend. I like him. He hasn’t done anything but be nice to me. I have been in denial for a sweet little moment. I have always left men after they did something shitty to me or were complete AC’s. This opting out before they have hurt me is new to me. This may sound odd, considering I let it drag on a little (it’s been two months dating), but to me this has shown me that I have made progress in my own emotional recovery. In the past I wouldn’t have even hesitated, but would of felt needed or saw my opening to be needed. I stalled on doing what I know is right, but I knew it deep down. Acting on all these lessons I have learned and studied is yet a whole new step in the process. I am sad tonight, but will do the right thing. Thank all of you. Thank you Natalie. You are 100% right. Guess I just needed to hear it aimed right at me. It was my goal in a way, to hear exactly what all of you said so I couldn’t hide from this anymore.

        • Jo says:

          “I think he is a nice man, and I like him, enjoy spending time with him, but also don’t want to end up “hobbled” by his inability to make positive changes for himself.”

          Jennynic, I see many responses to your post already but I wanted to share my experience with an alcoholic whom I date for about 6 months. Yes, he admitted he had a problem, and yes he actually started to get help. However, what I started to notice was that his “problem” became my problem, even during his “recovery”. He would have good days and bad days, and they ended up becoming my good days and bad days. When we were at a restaurant, it wasn’t only he who looked nervously at the waiter walking by with drinks on his tray, I looked too. I was always on edge, always worried about whether he would fall off the wagon that day. I started to feel like an alcoholic myself! When I wanted to leave him, he pulled a guilt trip on me by saying that if I left him, he would surely fall off the wagon, so I stayed a bit longer, because I felt that I was responsible for this man’s recovery. Months later I started to truly become depressed as I realized I was fully on this journey with him, and if only I had not ignored my instincts when I saw the way he drank when we first started going out.

          So, I guess my point is, think of it not just as his problem and his recovery, but yours too. Because you will be dragged along and be part of his disease. Code BRIGHT red, for sure. Wish you the best.

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          Jennynic,

          I can hear the sadness and heartbreak in your response to all of us telling you to opt out of this relationship. I know how tough that can be, to think about what a good friend he has been to you, and how nice of a guy he is. It’s really hard not to want to stick by and help a guy who is such a charming mess. And I mean that sincerely. We are all human, and we naturally form attachments to each other.

          I hope you can look at it as a kindness to him and to yourself to opt out at this time. As hard as it may be to let him go, that act is much more loving than you sticking around and trying to “help” him. It’s so early in the relationship, and it’s already very unbalanced. He is the charming, lovable mess who laments his issues, yet does nothing to help himself change that. If you were to step aside, he would not have you to lean on and be his emotional crutch.

          If he can’t love himself enough to take the action he needs, to own up and be responsible, then there is no way he can love you enough. And the same would apply to us women who want to help these guys (believe me, I know). If we cannot be strong enough to let them stand on their own two feet, to not do for them what they really need to do for themselves, then we can’t love them either, in the true sense of the word.

      • Dee says:

        That would be the French universe – lol.

  10. Melanie says:

    Natalie, do you think a man who maintains a narcissistic harem should be a red flag of it’s own? It is for me! Unfortunately they don’t all come with a tag telling us that they have one though, it surely would be helpful if they did though, :-)

    • NML says:

      Narcissistic harem falls under assclown/unavailable. To be honest, if they have that, they’ll have other stuff going on as well so it’s a signal of other stuff.

      • Melanie says:

        Thanks Natalie. I can see looking at this list of code red behavior that having a harem necessitates several of those behaviors. Unavailable, Attached to someone else. Mine had his mother living in his house. He also only texted me, claimed he didn’t like talking on the phone, even though I’d dropped hints to him a couple times that it’d be nice if he’d phone me. Instead I’d get a text from him about Wed or Thur asking what I was doing for the weekend or when he could see me. It was LAME having to schedule weekend plans via text. Couldn’t have a normal conversation to talk about options/ activities/ schedules. I guess he didn’t need to develop a bond with me or get to know me by having an actual conversation because he was already getting that need met with his “female best friend”, not not to mention all the other female “friends”. Don’t get me wrong I have friends of the opposite sex but I certainly don’t behave the way he does with his. I mean neither of us are kids, but he acts like one, at least with regard to how he interacts with his female friends, they all act just like a bunch of teenagers with each other (then again, some of his female “friends” actually ARE teenagers). Even text-chatting with them while on a date with me! Most of these girls and women by the way are actually married but have all been able to get away with flirting with him for years so obviously he’s encouraging it, women generally don’t continue to flirt with men who rebuff it. And I’m not sure if it is the same with all men with a harem, but my guy with a harem definitely had a ‘victim mentality’. He blamed certain of his harem for messing things up over the years with his girlfriends and/or keeping him too busy with chores thereby preventing him from having a life. haha. Of course I called him out on that claim loudly and clearly and informed him it was his own fault and responsibility that he had chosen to keep himself overly-enmeshed with these women and to look no further than the mirror and blame himself. I guess he must’ve expected me to side with him and come to fisticuffs with his harem over him. lol. No thanks. Oh and when you said the other stuff is going on, yes he doesn’t talk much so he never was very forthcoming with what he was doing when I wasn’t around. I got the feeling he was doing a lot of omitting the truth. I’ve got friends who told me things like, “Well it’s ok to have friends of the opposite sex!” As if I didn’t know that. They fail to grasp the big picture and the totality of the behaviors as they fit in a larger pattern. When I’m going through a break up I don’t need to hear people jumping to his defense, and have to wonder if that’s much of a friend. So that’s made it more difficult for me to get over this thing, this feeling of not being validated by people who are supposed to be my friends. (though there are some who supported me and my judgment) Thanks for being the voice of reason Natalie when so many people only seem to want to make excuses for these Peter-Pans.

    • mrldeyez says:

      My ex’s narcissistic harem was 4-5 female friends, that he said he would go to, when he had relationship issues. It seems he kept in contact with them on a regular basis. I said he was really emotionally unavailable to me for a relationship. When I said a healthy relationship works things out as a couple, not going outside for advice, he fought the whole concept. But finally agreed. Then in an outburst, about 3-4 months later, he accused me me being rigid, controlling and having too many rules. I guessed, he had continued to be in contact with his harem. And I said we don’t stand a chance. And that was it. He said I didn’t make him happy. End of story, end of relationship. So I agree, narcisstic harem is a red flag. But it remains a boundary for me to feel safe in a relationship.

  11. charla says:

    “Be extra careful of people who when they experience a problem, don’t see their part in it. You will eventually become one of those ‘others’.”

    Indeed.

    • Sandra81 says:

      Or, if accused, they go into flames playing the victim, accusing YOU of being unfair, and saying how your accusations make them feel bad, even though the writing’s on the wall. My current ex, apart from being a major flip-flapper, displays this FOCR behaviour. So, we have EUM/AC + playing the victim. Sleeping with other people? Hmmm… Not as far as I know, but he hasn’t refrained from flirting with other girls when we were together, including a mutual friend. :-( She didn’t give in , though!

  12. MaryC says:

    Love this post, going to refer to it daily.

  13. Magnolia says:

    Thanks Natalie. I simply should have opted out sooner.

    The other day I was looking at some old journal entries. I read one from when my last relationship was only two months into our being exclusive. I was stunned to find that I described, at two months, almost every red flag for which I eventually (seven months later) ended the relationship.

    I’m glad to know the signs of “A Waste Of My Time.” Let’s hope that if I ever encounter them again, I’ll recognize them right away and drop the guy post-haste.

    • NML says:

      Thanks Magnolia. The truth is that the reasons that break a relationship or demonstrate the incompatibility/dangerousness of a partner are all things that we see early on but think we know better, ignore, or minimise the true extent of.

  14. RCGlasses Off says:

    OMG I’m learning so much & after “my whole dating life” with Florence Nightingale syndrome (I’m in my 40’s) I finally have these guidelines to help me. Natalie you’re heaven sent! Thanks doesn’t begin to cover how much stronger I feel from your posts! Bless you :-)

    • NML says:

      You’re very welcome! Florence Nightingale is not a role that anyone should aspire to or continue – it’s a sign something is *very* wrong. Stay strong x

  15. debra says:

    I wish I had been able to be more honest with myself about how things really were in my last relationship before the fists starting flying (his). I am guilty of everything you list – overanalyzing, thinking I knew better, thinking I was the exception, projecting, trying to change him. I clearly remember two conversations with him very early on that, in and of themselves, should have sent me running to the door but instead illustrate how hard I was trying to change him and control the situation to get what I thought I wanted. The first was one I had with him in which I tried to teach an assclown that integrity wasn’t something you only have when someone else is looking. He has no pride, no moral compass, no sense of self and so will say anything to get what he wants in the moment and then refuse to be held to it later. Enormous red flag and not the type of behaviour that changes with a lecture or two. But, rather than run, I kept trying. The second was a conversation I had in which I told him that I was certain he was the type of man that beat women. I was certain. He denied it and I wanted to believe him. Two weeks later, he proved me right.

    I didn’t leave because I was trapped with kids or had no way out. I chose to stay, to keep trying to fix him, to be the exception. I thought that was what unconditional love was. It felt familiar, like what I had grown up with. I see now that love is when both people care, respect and are investing.

    I had no self respect, no boundaries and honestly thought I could change him with my love. Wow, what I fool I feel even typing that.

    The focus has shifted to me, and I am changing me. Learning to love myself enough to walk away from anything and anyone that means me harm. I am also trying to live honestly and without delusion, so that I can evaluate the situation as it happens. I could always see things days or weeks later but never at the time. I am getting better at recognizing what I am feeling as it happens. I have also learned that I deserve better but will only get it when I demand it for myself. I used to believe that, if he loved me, he would never want to hurt me. That should be true, but when faced with proof that he didn’t, I didn’t want to believe it. I believe it now.

    • NML says:

      Wow Debra, he really was a piece of work. I think something interesting to learn from that is much like asking someone if they’re a user, going to hurt you, etc, asking someone if they’ve beat women is a red flag in itself. It was highly unlikely he was going to tell you the truth. ‘Yes, I’ve beat all my exes. You wanna piece of me!’. My heart goes out to you with what you’ve experienced and I totally understand how it happened – I’m just relieved you have the strength and *enough* self-love to remove yourself from him and rebuild and recover. Someone beating you is a dangerous person and it is easy to see how we have a history behind you, you might think it was normal and look to love your persecutor. These people cause you to feel ashamed. You wonder how the hell you can be a smart, independent woman that works in the same place and is respected, and then be reduced to being beaten. You didn’t deserve any of this man’s treatment. In the context of what you’ve said in this comment, I am totally unsurprised that he subsequently turned on you in the manner that he did when you confronted him – he had to discredit you as he was afraid that he’d be found out. To so much as admit to even a drop of what he was being accused of or admit responsibility or say that he was sorry was too risky for him. (((hugs)))

  16. done as dinner says:

    Thank you, Nat!!! I think I might wallpaper my kitchen with your wisdom.

    • Sandra81 says:

      Hahaha…. Nice one! I might do that too, especially in these days! Anyway, the past week has been one of “consistent study” of Baggage Reclaim! :-D

  17. Leigh says:

    I look at that list and see FOCR for my ex husband from the start of our relationship when I was 19! (I’m 48 now and divorced him last year).

    I see that (and this is so hard to write) that having a Father (who although was a great Father) with a drink problem has led to me choosing men with addictions. My exH had a cannabis problem. If affected him greatly (I don’t care what he says about it) it affected our relationship. The manipulation, the games, the mental cruelty – the list is endless and I see it all now with hindsight.

    My problem is the NOW. He was still coming to the house because of the children. I was being nice and letting him in, Christmas’s, birthdays, Easter. The whole deal. I was doing that because I wanted an amicable split.

    He has abused that by being manipulative, nasty, rude, and lacking in respect towards me. He causes drama. He wants money from the house. We agreed to sell, but he is forcing me to do it. Last incident he was nasty towards me about our disabled son. Now I trust him less than before. Then he tells me he wouldn’t do what he said that if anything he would ask my approval to do whatever it is concerning our son. That I misheard and misunderstood.

    It just isn’t good enough. I told him that from now on I would take our son to him and pick him up on his allocated weekends. I started to do it. He got around it by brining him home Sunday by car. Just so he could cut my sons hair at home. He doesn’t NEED to cut his hair here. He doesn’t NEED to be in my house but he can’t let me the hell go!

    On top of all of this he asked me “Have you found another place to live yet.” and how he expected to get a certain amount from the house because he’s “keeping an eye on things.” His behaviour is ALWAYS aggressive, ALWAYS defensive and ALWAYS nasty.

    I rang my solicitor who told me what my rights are. But I just don’t want him in my house. Even his family get involved and tell him what they think he’s entitled to. Yet this man used MY solicitor to get divorced.

    He is the singular biggest ponce ever born in England and a financial parasite in huge debt – but he won’t leave me alone and I’m just about sick of it.

    Do I want to date now? No. I dated last year and the guy drank too much FOCR! I dumped him within weeks. I try to remain positive and to tell myself that a good man is out there. Part of the problem used to be me. I keep telling myself that I have to be tough to get my message across but right now I’m sick of being that too.

    I just want my ex gone!

    • grace says:

      Leigh
      In a civilised country there is an advanced, well-developed system for dealing with ACs. It’s the justice system. Police, solicitors, barristers and courts deal with ACs every day. They do this by enforcing rules and sanctions – something that an AC will respect far more than your kindness.
      Go back to your solicitor or get a different, more kick a$$ one.
      Child visits, maintenance, your home can all be dealt with but not on your own. Speak to a women’s shelter for advice on how to deal with him. You’re not the first person to navigate these tricky waters There’s a whole raft of people read and waiting to help you.

  18. EllyB says:

    I wonder how much all this matters for non-romantic relationships also. My best friend of many years used to constantly cheat on her boyfriends, sometimes having three at a time who didn’t know about each other. I only once dared to confront her about her – in my perception – bad behavior, and she got very angry at me, claiming that this was none of my business and that I had overstepped her boundaries. She made me believe that she would end our friendship if I brought that topic up again.

    She somehow made me believe that love wasn’t about decency at all, but rather about being either a winner or a loser. Of course, in her logic she was always a winner, while I was the loser, often not having a partner at all, or dysfunctional short-term relationships. For a while, I even tried to become like her (shame on me), but I always felt awful when I tried to play games with guys or flirted with them only to get validated.

    She also made me feel inferior because I wasn’t as “cool” as she was. I’m rather geeky and hardworking, while she was ever the party girl. She once even mentioned that many of her other friends didn’t understand why she was friends with me, because I was so different. I remember feeling humiliated because of this remark, but unfortunately, I am so much used to this that I almost automatically look for the fault in myself. My schoolmates used to bully me badly for being a nerd and a bore (and probably for being a well trained victim “thanks” to my abusive mother). This is probably the reason why, even as a successful working woman in her thirties, I keep thinking I’m inferior.

    I never dared to criticize my friend for not getting her life together, for living on her parent’s money for more than a decade before finally (and reluctantly) entering the workforce. She, on the other hand, was usually very critical of me. I think she was often right, but once she accused me of “caring only about money” when I got my first job and invested a lot of time into it, maybe not giving her all the attention she wanted anymore. I’m really not materialistic, but I certainly like the validation and security I get from my work, and most of the time, I actually do love it. Besides, only my job and income gave me the strength I needed to finally cut off all contact to my parents.

    Recently, I got the impression that she even somehow supported my bad relationships, trying to talk me into having “patience” when I pondered bailing out early because of red flags. She herself is now in what looks like a committed relationship. Is she maybe trying to justify her former bad behavior? Or does she find my misery somewhat entertaining? Or is she just as naive as most other people, and I’m overly sensitive? In any case, I find it difficult to discuss those assclown’s behaviors with her. She somehow doesn’t want to see how bad it is, and I can’t help remembering how badly she used many of her former partners herself.

    • Magnolia says:

      EllyB,

      Your ‘friend’ sounds like a grade-A assclown herself! You may not be sleeping with her, but it sounds like she uses you to make herself feel better (putting you down, telling you what you can and can’t bring up with her, criticizing you).

      Her version of ‘winning’ – dare I say it – sounds like Charlie Sheen’s and look what a prize he is! People like this think ‘winning’ is being able to string along a bunch of ‘boring losers’ with a party lifestyle.

      She may indeed find your kindness, hardworkingness, honesty and faithfulness ‘boring’ and your misery ‘entertaining’ because to her it proves that she doesn’t need to embrace your values. And look how she rains on your parade when your values lead to success in your work. She doesn’t want to see that you might be the ‘winner’ in any way.

      Why do you hang out with this woman? Are you looking for some validation from her?

      Dump her as you would any other assclown that makes you feel bad about you!

      • Used says:

        Elly–
        Stay away! She holds you back in life!

        And, yes, she IS trying to justify her own bad behavior!

    • Audrey says:

      EllyB@ this reminds me of a friend i had… who i’ve cut out of my life last year actually…..

      One thing i learned is that she really only wanted to be *my friend* when she felt superior to me – i would have been the weaker personality and she’s quite a strong character – very self assured and confident but could be quite manipulating in getting me to jump to her beat, go to the bars she wanted to go to, etc and i never felt strong enough to say no to her. She could also be quite cutting of people but i never felt strong enough to say i didn’t like what she was saying!.
      Funny enough, when I began to feel more like her equal, she didn’t really want to bother with me anymore and wouldn’t make an effort to meet up with me. It was actually through my attempts to meet her, for practically 8 months, and her showing resistance that prompted me to email her to say i was annoyed i couldn’t meet her. I had tried her phone and i’d never get her, i’d leave a message and she wouldn’t bother ringing me back.
      I honestly said nothing nasty to her in the email just expressed my annoyance. Well, I got a horrible nasty email back from her, a page and a bit long that was very attacking and nasty.

      So EllyB, it could be that your friend likes having you around to make her feel superior and better about herself. . .

      How much more of this assclownery are you prepared to put up with? Personally, she doesn’t sound like a caring, kind person. I mean, is she REALLY a good friend to you?

    • EllyB says:

      Thank you, Audrey, Grace, Magnolia and Used! At first, I was worried about my six-week-long involvement with an emotional predator, and now I’m seriously questioning an eight-year-long “friendship”.

      As some of you were pointing out, my relationship with her was probably in many ways similar to a relationship with a male AC.

      Did I seek validation from her? Oh yes, and badly.

      I think in a way, she acted like an emotional con artist. She always pointed to all the other “friends” and admirers she had and the tons of presents she got from them. I think that was how I got the message that she was a great friend, that she must be very valuable, that I was a bad person whenever I was critical of her. I dismissed any bad feelings I had about her. She was almost constantly either on the phone, dealing with several visitors or partying. I had to squeeze myself into the small niches she spared for me in her life.

      I first met her during an university exchange program abroad. I was kind of an outsider there, because all the other foreign students partyed like crazy teenagers, and I simply didn’t feel like joining in. I missed my “geeky” activities and the joy of discussing them with like-minded people. I was a little older than the rest of the group, had work experience and had already lived away from my parents for five years before. But as usually, I believed my reluctance was my fault and there was something wrong with me. Therefore, I felt I had to be grateful for any attention she paid to me.

      Years later, when I had that horrible final breakup with my parents during Christmas, she offered me to call her whenever I needed to, even if she was spending Christmas with her parents. I thought that was a great favor. I didn’t dare to bother any of my other friends/acquaintances with my worries, thinking I had no right to interrupt their holidays with their families. I had quite low standards for “friendship”, as it seems.

      Me jumping to her beat? I’ve never done anything else! I never asked her to join me in any activities I enjoyed. My only choice seemed to be to either join her in what she wanted to do or not. I often found her excessive partying extremely tiring for myself, and I had little in common with her other “friends”.Socializing was so much easier for me with people I met elsewhere than with her pals! But as incredibly as it suddenly sounds to me, I believed I had no choice. I thought I had to be grateful for such a “great loyal friend”. By the way, I almost never tried to convince any of my friends/acquaintances to do anything I liked to do. I considered this “controlling” behavior.

      “Winning” by being able to string along a bunch of “boring losers” with a party lifestyle? Yeah, that pretty much hits the nail on the head, although I used to believe I would be a bitch by seeing it that way. Thank you so much, Grace, for reminding me that a critical stance towards her doesn’t turn me into a bitch.

  19. grace says:

    elly
    don’t expect things from people they can’t give you. if they dont’ have it (empathy, understanding, kindess) don’t think that it’s your fault. life is easier if you accept people for what they are decide if they are worth your time.
    some friends are terrific for a night out on the town but you wouldn’t turn to them if your dog died; some are wonderfully supportive and kind but won’t give you a kick up the backside when that’s required.
    if this friend contributes something to your life, then keep her in it. if not … get rid.
    of course, it’s fine to pull someone up for the odd mistake – if they are being moody, or turn up late etc. but they are who they are.
    you are making the absolute classic mistake that many of us make of worrying about what other people think of you and what you can do about it. they can like it or lump it! and, no, it doesn’t make you a bitch. i can tell from your post you’re a nice girl who gets taken advantage of. being a bitch is the least of your problems!

    • EllyB says:

      I’m devastated… I’ve broken up this 8-year-long “friendship”. Basically, I’ve stopped communicating with her for some days, got an inquiring e-mail and (very simply and matter-of-factly) answered that I needed some time to overthink some things in my life and got a very aggressive e-mail with a lot of accusations back. I answered that I realized that we’ve been living in “very separate worlds” for quite some time and that I thought it was time to end the friendship.

      What did she answer?`She claimed I was an “ice-cold, emotionally broken, stupid cow”. She claimed that she now understood why I had those problems with my mother and in my relationships. She claimed that all her friends had already said I was “weird”, but that she had always defended me but now saw they were right. She suggested that probably nobody (including my newer acquaintances) would want to have anything to do with me over a longer time.

      She blamed me for a former relationship with a guy with whom she had paired me. That guy turned out to have totally controlling parents with whom he lived. For a few months, I obediently squeezed myself into the small niche between his parents and his other interests, but then I broke up (politely saying that it didn’t work out, but not critizising his relationship with his parents, because I figured this was pointless).

      She claimed she understood, but she always reminded me that she had paired us, which made me feel bad about breaking up. She also claimed I treated him badly by cutting contact with him after breaking up.

      She has also e-mailed me that she has thrown all my presents in the garbage.

      I now realize how much she sounds like my mother. This was the person who (I thought) was my “rock” for 8 years.

      Or am I really such a bad person?

      • NML says:

        EllyB, I think you actually know that you’re not a bad person. If you read back what you have written, you’ll also know that this person who by your own admission is not a very good friend, is showing you that…she’s not a very good friend. No friend, even one you’re experiencing cross words with speaks to you like that. I’m not one to pussyfoot around so I’ll say – Your friend is an asshole. This person seems to think you owe her the world because she has ‘dignified’ you with friendship and is using insights into your relationship with your mother against you. It is difficult to face the breaking up of a friendship, but your rock, is a mirage, and she was probably hugging you with one arm and twisting the knife with the other. You have to decide to what level you want her in your life. Recognising that someone crosses boundaries isn’t always about a showdown or falling out – it’s sometimes about a safe distance, doing your own thing, and demoting them from bezzy mates to ‘friend you see about from time to time but you don’t trust her with your deepest darkest secrets’. That said, it is important for you to recognise that you are repeating a pattern with her and it is time to evaluate whether you want her in your life at any capacity. Do not apologise to her and I would also not reply for now – she has completely overstepped the mark.

        • EllyB says:

          Natalie, thank you so much!!! Yeah, you’re pointing out something I somehow knew already, but anyway, I was still shivering and feeling weak and sick after reading her e-mail. It’s so helpful to get reassured that I’m not insane!

          I actually want her out of my life. Currently, we’re living on different continents anyway, and I used to go to great lengths to see her. I thought I “owed” her this effort because she had – as I used to believe – been very “loyal” However, this became more and more painful for me. With every visit, she became more and more abusive and tried to pair me off with new EUM/AC, even pushing me to ignore their bad behaviors, only to then accuse me of using her to get in touch with those guys (!!!!). Otherwise, we have nothing in common (which means nothing at all, I guess).

          Sorry to admit we’re both in our thirties. This sounds so childish.

          To be honest, I probably wanted her for “validation”. Although I never admitted that to myself until now, she is incredibly similar to my own mother. My mother used to throw the kind of stuff I described above (“you are ice-cold”, “you will never make any friends”, “nobody will ever like you”, “I tried to defend you, but other people say…”) in my face on a daily basis!

          I considered this “friend” a loyal, but critical companion on my journey to free myself from my mother. How wrong I was!

          I think I refused to acknowledge how bad my mother really was. I’m still unable to feel any anger. I’ve read somewhere that by blaming ourselves for abuse, we believe to have at least some kind of “control”. Otherwise, I would have to admit that as a child, I was totally helpless and unable to do anything to stop all this.

          • EllyB says:

            Thanks, Allison!

            My mother kept telling me that I was unable to exist on my own without her support. Therefore, I had to be incredibly grateful and submissive. Nobody else than her would allow me to survive, I used to believe… Truth told, whenever I really needed her, she wasn’t there for me. I got used to that and believed I deserved no better.

            I used to choose “friends” who were cut from the same cloth. They made me jump through hoop after hoop in order to “deserve” their “friendship”. I was constantly afraid to loose them and be on my own. Funny enough, whenever I really needed support, I WAS on my own. I didn’t expect any help from then. I was trained to do so.

            My mother got angry at me whenever I caught a cold or other children’s diseases, blaming me for them, claiming I hadn’t worn my coat, had, or scarf, and complaining about how much trouble I caused her… On the other hand, she called me ice-cold and selfish because I didn’t pity her enough for her migraine. It was devastating. I hated myself for my “bad character”.

            Same with praise. She expected endless praise for every little thing she did, such as taking a photo which showed only people’s backs. On the other hand, she dismissed all my achievements, like being the class-winner or winning awards. According to her, I was just “selfish” and “vain” and “neglecting her needs” because of my achievements.

            When I grew up, I used to think that I was incredibly selfish and had to become a better person. I thought I had to be deeply ashamed of both my achievements and my flaws while constantly having to boost other people’s egos. My “friend” whom I mentioned above catered to all those patterns. I was honestly thinking that she helped me to become a better human being!

            I thought I was fighting my mother for more than half of my life. In fact, I just tried to address the “flaws” she saw in me (and claimed I wasn’t able to change). For example, she claimed I would never make any friends. Therefore, I (at times) socialized like crazy. She also claimed I would never be able to stand on my own feet. Therefore, I became very ambitious and worked like crazy, but I was never satisfied.

            I thought I was fighting her, but…

        • Allison says:

          Elly,

          What she said was vicious, cruel and unnessary! When her ego is hurt she strikes out in a most vindictive way.
          As Nat said, this woman is not your friend !!!!
          Did you notice issues with passive-aggressive behavior? Her response to your e-mail is a big indicator.

          Good riddance to this one!

          • EllyB says:

            Allison: Well, I was considering an even more nasty background. Maybe she noticed that I had made up my mind and that she wouldn’t be able to (emotionally) prey on me anymore. Therefore, the only option she saw might have been to fire one “last missile” and make it as hurtful as possible. In a way, this was very helpful, because I finally saw her true face (I think).

            On the other hand, my mother used to fire missiles like that at me almost daily (as mentioned above), and I kept creeping back, full of tears and excuses. Well, I was a kid. Even as an adult, I kept doing this for many years. This is the nasty thing about child abuse (even if it is “only” emotional). You can’t react like a “normal human being” and fight back/run away, because it’s your mother.

          • EllyB says:

            Well, and thank you for the “vicious, cruel and unnecessary”! Does that mean my mother’s actions – which used to be incredibly similar – were “vicious, cruel and unnecessary” too? She has been doing that ever since I started trying to escape from her firm grip and her attempts to totally isolate me from the rest of the world. That was when I was about 16 years old.

            Even if I started to see flaws in her early and cut off all contact with her a few years ago, I kept blaming myself for her accusations, like “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Drives me crazy. I recently learned a lot about abusive parents, and it all makes sense, but I guess my heart doesn’t really want to believe it yet.

          • Allison says:

            Elly,

            The experience with the ex, and the site helped me recognize that I had poor relationship habits-romantic and platonic. I think the positive side of this, is that you are recognizing that you are responsible for others behavior, and have begun removing the toxicity from your life. Learn from this situation and grow, some day you will be thankful that this bitch was the catalyst for only choosing healthy relationships. There is positive from every painful experience! Learn!

  20. Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

    I hope that I am staying on topic for this one, because I do believe this is a situation that sets us up for missing those big red flags….I was dating (can you call it that??) a married man from my past. I typically do not fall for men easily but 26 years ago the first time our eyes met I was hooked on this guy. My college roommates thought it was hysterical that when this guy called I stopped what I was doing and left. He treated me great for 3 months, we had amazing sex all the time, and then out of the blue he just dumped me and I never saw him again.

    Every year, for 26 years, when the college girls had our yearly reunion we laughed about the hold this guy had on me. So after my divorce I made the huge mistake of looking him up on FB. He asked me to meet him for lunch and I thought “it will be fun to see who that 20 yr. old boy turned in to. I am a grown woman now, I can handle this…”. The minute our eyes met again I knew I was in serious trouble. We had an affair for 8 months, during which the first two were great and the last 6 he treated me worse than I have ever let a guy treat me in my entire life. Every red flag he threw at me I ignored. How’s this one: “I just want to f**k and you want my soul”. Are those running words or what??? And I didn’t run!! WTF? Of course, that was sandwiched in between I love you, I can’t stop thinking of you, I will leave my wife, blah, blah….but still!!

    So from there I ended up in counseling and found BR and did lots of research. I am convinced I had a condition with him called “limerence”. It is sort of like a crush gone bad, or an adult infutuation, but there is also a biological component and it actually makes those poor people afflicted with it IGNORE OR MINIMIZE all bad behavior, which we would typically not do for others. Anyway, I found it extremely helpful to understand that I was afflicted with this weird thing and that was partly why I went from being a rational woman to a doormat for just this one man. Some people never have this, some have it once or twice in their lives, and some poor souls get it often. I just wanted to share this with all of you, maybe you can google it and see if it applies. There is lots of info on the web.

    I have been NC with him since early Feb. and a few weeks ago he was texting me all day long and I did not respond, but mostly importantly, I did not feel the draw to respond. Yeah! I am cured from him! But I also consider him to be like the smoking I quit 6 years ago….he is to be avoided at all costs, he is my addiction and I never, ever, want to go there again. And if I ever feel that dramatic of an attraction to anyone I will run, run, run. I do not want to ever lose control like that again. There is no sex in the world great enough to put myself through that again! But the silver lining, it did drive me into therapy and I found I have big EU problems myself and didn’t even recognize what that was, so in the end it was to my benefit to make myself emotionally healthier. But oh, the price! :-(

    • EllyB says:

      Oldenough: This reminds me of my remark to Cherry above. People have a tendency to put labels on victims. Sadly, we even do it to ourselves (I had this tendency too).

      What happened to you is quite likely not your fault. Frankly, I think he manipulated and used you. If somebody was infatuated with me, and I didn’t reciprocate his feelings, I would avoid him at all cost. I won’t do a single thing to encourage it! My experience is that whenever somebody handles this decently, people get over their feelings quickly. No “limerence” at all.

      Maybe that was the reason why I didn’t have any of those ex-boyfriends who were full of despair because they lost me, like some other women have. I somehow used to think it had something to do with my perceived “lack of attractivity”. I doubt it now.

      But oldenough, your guy acted very differently. This is irresponsible behavior in my book. Don’t overanalyze it. Just try to see him as the person he his, and stay away from him.

    • Pty says:

      @oldenough
      Unfortunately, sometimes we can put ourselves in a situation where biology takes over, a hormone dump takes place, and the brakes go off. As an attorney, I see many situations where some one has to get divorced right away to marry the next one. I don’t give them much hope. It sounds like you got over yours quickly. Sometimes people don’t get over it until the damage has been done. I wonder if it is stronger for “lost loves” as there is some connection already, and I think it makes us feel like we are young again. Wish you the best in the future.

    • done as dinner says:

      Old enough – I had a very, very similar experience with a lost love. It ended very badly and left me utterly devastated. For close to a year after, I found I could barely function. I have never been in a state like that before in my life. I honestly did not think I would ever recover. When you talk about the price you paid I know it well. I think Pty you are right when you mention lost love and the youth aspect. It was crushing and humiliating to think I’d finally screwed up the courage to tell him I’d loved him my whole life, only to have him take advantage of it with no care as to how hurtful it was. But the worst aspect was that it also left the memories of first love in utter tatters, and me no longer knowing what was true and real. It’s like being smashed to pieces twice. But, like you say, it led me to Nat and BR and therapy and forced me to take a good look at my perception of myself and others, so in a way it was a strangely positive experience. But not one I will ever repeat!

      • Pty says:

        See Dr. Nancy Kalish at lostlovers.com. Unless the old lover is free, it most likely end poorly. Otherwise, there may be a chance, but if it does end poorly, it does tend to kill the good memories.

        • grace says:

          pty
          it does kill the good memories. that’s not all bad though. i no longer think of this particular ex as the-one-that-could-have-worked. after all, he did turn out to be the married man who looks up his ex on facebook and propositions sex. blah, not for me.

          • done as dinner says:

            Amen Grace – that is exactly how I felt about the ex. He kept pushing for an affair that I kept resisting (thank god – because I am not, nor have I ever been, or will be that woman). Still it was heartbreaking to discover what a heel he was and had always been and that I had wasted my life thinking about him for years.
            Pty – thanks re: Kalish. I have read her books, site, forum etc. (unfortunately discovered in the aftermath). Find it v. disturbing – these people egging each other on and rationalizing affairs with “I was there first” mentalities. Anyway, all this to say I feel for you Old enough, been there done that, it hurts like hell, but it was also the epiphany “non”relationship Nat talks about.

  21. pinkslippers72 says:

    ok… this may not have been discussed as i havent been through all the comments… but the AC that i was obsessed with led me to behaviour that i did not even recognise… i was so desperate to be loved by him I made up sob stories to get him to feel sorry for me to be with me??? how freak is that??

    • grace says:

      pink
      i used to be a bit pleased when a tragedy befell me or my family , hoping my ex would sit up, take notice and offer some sympathy. fat chance.
      you’re not a freak but let’s give up trying to get these men to treat us well!

  22. Lynda from L says:

    This article is so specific,articulate and logical that I ‘m actually going to print it off to keep around me at the moment. I hope you don’t mind being stuck on my fridge for a bit NML?
    I was going from amber to serious red flag in areas of Sex:(different timbre, connection ,to what for me constituted a loving, respectful relationship. I realise now I only saw him when he thought sex was on the agenda.)
    In areas of Texting/E mails:( loved this at first, thought it meant he was consistent communicator…but he hid behind the distance, became ambiguous and spiteful,used text rather than face to face constantly)
    General Ass clownery of the Future Faking Kind:(This was most painful,nothing he promised came to pass, I was kept on toes most of time,name-called,lied to,lots of priorities before me, mates, sport,trips away, old girlfriends coming out of woodwork etcetera….)
    Despite this and this is perhaps the most glaring rosy red code of all…he still continues to maintain he is a ‘gentleman’. I received a text last night, (which I ignored) inferring that I was promiscuous,telling me what he was reading?? and patronisingly telling me to ‘Look after myself because I am very special indeed’ It took all my strength to ignore it but I did. This article helped and the posts of the caring,astute women on here. Thankyou.

  23. shyner says:

    A few days ago, having been in regular, mainly friendly, sometimes a bit intense contact with the man who dumped me in the street, I sent him a message saying ‘Don’t want to talk to you anymore. Take care’. It was a good move, despite the fact that we have ‘lots in common’ and ‘get on well’. He didn’t reply, which did make me a bit cross but then I had to remember that I sent the message for me, not him. I should have bailed from the r’ship far sooner than I did. I made a list of all the mean/crap things he did and any one of them on their own were a sackable offence – or at the very least, amber in nature! 2 whole days of NC is nothing to get excited about, but it’s a start.

    • Magnolia says:

      Good for you, Shyner. 2 days of NC IS a lot to get excited about, considering what a great decision it is and how you are at the beginning of a bunch of time taking care of and enjoying YOU.

  24. tryinghard says:

    This could not be more timely or appropriate for me right now. I am in counseling for healthy relationships (based on a lifetime of abuse) and I’m recently out of a short relationship with someone who I SAW the red flags and didn’t act on them. I was confused as to why and in a sense I still am. However, yesterday’s session with my counselor we discussed me making a checklist of my boundaries so that BEFORE I accept a date or get into a relationship I can check in with my checklist. I’ve been thinking about it all morning when I opened this email and it was 100% spot on for me. Thank you SO much for this!!

  25. Movedup says:

    What a guidebook – should be handed out in junior high!!!! Past relationships yep – mix and match – last EUM/AC relationship 8 code red. Way to nail it. Addictions is a biggy – especially when commingled with irresponsibility. Yeah – complusive gamber – led to foreclosure on his house – sex addict – could not get enough of online porn and sex sites. Never opened bills let alone brought them in the house -left them in the car. You have damn near described every red flag I ignored or found out about later or along the way.

    Current relationship – not a one! Thank God!!!! I don’t see myself in any of them either – no red/amber flags on either side. Always love the reality check Nat – check – all systems go!

  26. Layla says:

    After reading this post I reconize that most of my relationships had red flags, but I didnt have the confidence or inner self reliance to opt out as quickly as I should have. Im 56 now and was brought up to believe you had to ‘work ‘at a marriage (Ive had two) and that youre role was to accept ,deny and work around unreasonable behaviour. It feels like ive only just woken up to the fact that I deserve better and that is causing me grief. Counselling in the last year has also opened up blocked grief over childhood sexual abuse by my Dad. Then sadly my mother died recently .Also I cut contact with my married man a few months ago after a 7 year affair . He had been very loving to me and I know its not politically correct to say so but I miss him desperately even although he did not meet all my needs. Feels like too many losses at once, looking inwards has opened a can of worms and Im struggling with it all. It just seems that reclaiming youre baggage is very painful and some days I wish I could go back into denial. Any advice or book recommendations on dealing with grief and building a life when youre ancient would be welcome. Hope I havent depressed y’all

    • grace says:

      layla
      i think intothelight.org.uk is a really helpful website for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, or any other kind of abuse for that matter. the site belongs to a counsellor who i think was abused herself. anyway, she really “gets” it. she’s a christian but the advice is still relevant even if you’re not. she’s written a book as well which hasn’t been published yet.
      i also like wayneandtamara.com for their shorty, pithy no-nonsense advice.
      and this site of course!

      • Layla says:

        Hi Grace
        Thanks so much for info on those websites. Ive read Intothelight and am already feeling more enlightened about my issues – the book you mentioned is coming out in August (‘New Shoes’ by Rebecca Mitchel) and I m reserving it. Wayneandtamara is also excellent. It feels like Ive got more of the missing peices of the jigsaw puzzle that is me ! (and realizing Im not alone in being a late developer !)
        I always look out for your comments Grace, and Natalie you are doing a great job, thanks for letting me post and for youre insightful articles.

  27. christine says:

    i’ve been reading this blog religiously since my boyfriend of 3 years left me in december. i’m absorbing as much as i can, hoping to gird myself and enter another relationship intelligently. 49 years old, and i feel as stupid as a teen-aged girl heading out on a first date. these code reds and amber alerts are out there in high numbers, and it’s all i can do not to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. i get that we all re-enter the dating market with baggage, but the range of baggage is unbelievable…men who go out on a date, then expound on how they like to be alone. men who can’t get over their exes, men who, quite frankly, act like teen-aged boys heading out on a first date…lol. so keep the posts coming, say a few words of encouragement, and get me ready to head back into battle. it’s scary out there!

    • Kay says:

      Completely with you,Christine.At 51 it’s damn scary for me too and yep,the dating world is just as you say it is. But this is a brilliant site and just as we’re not too old to wear kick ass heels,we’re not to old to relearn and bag ourselves a decent man! Here’s to us!

  28. better_tomorrow says:

    It’s also valuable to look within ourselves and critically assess which reds & ambers *we* exhibit.

    Yes, others do have these faults, but often we externalize our own onto others. Sometimes it legitimizes our own behaviors and reactions. Or excuses them. Sometimes both people have the same behavior and enable each other.

    If we see them in men we *should* be wary and/or run away fast… but how many potentially good partners have run away from *us* due to these flashing colors?

    I’ve had, and have, things to work on that were & are holding me back from being fulfilled, both on my own and in a relationship. The progress I made has helped on both fronts. I’m not perfect. At times I was relationship radioactive. And by having clarity with myself it was easier, and more honest, to have clarity with a partner.

  29. Betty says:

    Now that my relationship is definitely over (and although I’m having trouble ‘moving on’) I can see that there were code reds and code ambers on BOTH sides, from the very start.

    When I think about how very much I was not over my previous ex I was when I met my recent ex, I’m amazed that we stumbled our way through four years.

    I’m still fighting my feelings of wanting him to call and everything suddenly, magically being different, but I know that even if that did happen, the past would still be the same.

    I’m working on learning to be happy in myself, get rid of my (very present) code reds and eventually maybe even have a relationship that’s healthy from the start…?

    Thanks, Natalie. This will take some time to digest but I really am glad you’ve written it for us.

  30. Alibi_10 says:

    This list has scared the life out of me. In essence I knew there were some huge red flags, but Cherrykook’s post about withdrawal of ‘privileges’ rang many bells with me. I have been struggling and struggling with NC for months now, and had managed well until before Christmas. This man has run me ragged for over a year – first pursuing me, then withdrawing .. eroding my self-esteem, saying he wants to be just friends, then giving mixed messages … I thought I had found a reasonable place where I could cope with his moods – but I am so confused about his behaviour. An example – he arranges to come and see me – all is fine. I text him to see what time he will arrive. He says he now has to work. I think he is not coming. He turns up and complains that he is hungry and I have not got food ready. His face goes all scrunched, and he looks like a child. I run around trying to make a meal, and he says he isn’t hungry anymore. I try to explain why I didn’t make the food – because he said he had to work. He says I am neurotic and that is one of the things he hates about me. Inside I am screaming that I don’t deserve this, but I find myself apologising and running around making different food. He looks at it and says he doesn’t want that because he has been eating pasta all week. I offer to take him to the pub. He says he can’t be bothered because I have spoilt the evening. Aaaaaargh !! He then gives me the silent treatment and won’t make eye contact with me. Another example – he rings at 6.30 in the morning when I am just leaving for work and asks my opinion on something. I say am just about to drive off and will talk to him a bit later – he screams that it doesn’t matter and tells me to go away before hanging up. But then there is the apology ……; He rings to tell me all about his day, then asks how mine was. I start to tell him, and he asks if I can hurry up because he has people to see and places to go !! He can take offence at the slightest thing, and I always end up apologising. These are only a few examples. He has even admitted that he is emotionally barren, but he scares me when he loses his temper – not because he is violent but because I can feel the anxiety washing over me in waves. So these are huge warning signs and I have tried so hard to distance myself, but he can go for months without an episode and I think he is ok. Reading this back, I am disgusted with myself for tolerating this because I am not a shrinking violet usually – he just makes me feel crazy, and I feel like I am walking on eggshells just waiting for an eruption. Sorry for the rant, but this article has just unleashed a lot of emotion.

    • done as dinner says:

      Alibi – Please start NC with this man and do not look back. He is controlling, manipulative and abusive. He knows how to push your buttons to keep you on uneven territory. He knows exactly what he is doing, and in all likelihood he has done this in previous relationships. And in all likelihood it will only get worse. And your self esteem will spiral down, your anxiety will skyrocket. He is training you like a Pavlovian dog to respond to his reward/punishment cycle.

      Many years ago, I was had a similar experience. This was exactly how it started, it then proceeded to isolating me from friends and family, abandoning me in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with no way to get home, and finally physical abuse. I moved out of the country to get away from the hold he had over me. So, believe me this can actually get much worse. Please save yourself now, and get out. NC is the only way. You are worth more than this. Take care ((hugs))

    • NML says:

      Alibi, Done As Dinner has given an excellent response. You’re trying to please The Man Who Will Never Be Pleased Because He Has No Desire To Ever Make You Feel Good In This Relationship. He’s Mr Rain On Your Parade, Mr Goalpost Shifter, Mr Abuser, Mr Control Freak. He is controlling through displeasure and exasperation – by communicating both through both what’s said and unsaid and what’s done and not done, you get the message that he *wants* to love you, he *wants* to be there, he *wants* to do things for you and be with you, it’s just that *you* keep fucking up.

      The truth is this man is an asshole. An abusive, controlling, weak asshole. It is his cowardice that has him pulling this pathetic behaviour with you. No doubt you feel very rejected and incapable because of his treatment of you. You probably think that with all of these things that he has found fault with about you, that you have something to be ashamed of or that there’s no point in moving on to someone else because who would want someone that couldn’t please this jackass?

      It’s not you; it’s him. What you have to own is continuing to be with him but you didn’t create or provoke this behaviour – by giving him the time of day you’ve given him room in your life and let him suck the oxygen out of it while he’s at it. Remember Sleeping With The Enemy? This is your guy.

      Cut contact, seek counselling, do whatever it takes but do not give this man so much as another word from you.

      • Used says:

        My aunt has been married to a man like this. For 60 years. She always wants to leave him, but never does. (Because she is religious. Her kids are well grown, one being in her mid-50s. I think she should still leave him, though!) She ALSO always talks about things she regrets, always talks about the past.

        This guy is a Miserable Son of a Bitch. Get out, and now! Nothing will make him happy. He doesn’t want to be happy. My uncle has millions, healthy children, etc., and STILL is not happy. The last example I saw: his daughter was helping him out when we wer over, dropped a basket that was on a high shelf, and he rolled his eyes!

      • Alibi_10 says:

        Thanks to all for advice on this, and it is good advice. I am determined to be strong … yes I have seen Sleeping With the Enemy, Nat and it rang true for the marriage I was in at the time (guy even looked like him). I got out of that and had several years of another relationship in which I felt loved, but sadly husband 2 fell foul to mid-life crisis and left me for younger model when my father had just died. Since then, I have lost my way and somehow felt flattered with this guy until the mask slipped. But I do take on board how dangerous this is, because the few highs are not worth the desperate lows and I am starting to think that being alone at least is peaceful. I have many friends (none of whom like this EUM), so need to get a grip. Thanks all for the reality check. Hugs. I do not know what I would do without this place.

    • SaraK says:

      Alibi,
      Techniques of psychological warfare are being used on you, to keep you a prisoner. They were brought upon you gradually, and that’s why they are so successful. We understand that his behavior is heinous. One such “dinner” should be enough.

      You must resist. Your best weapon is NC. NC gives you the power to move forward. It’s bad for him, and good for you. Now shut the door, turn off the texts&other connections, and walk free. Get help. It will hurt for a time, but it’s a big, big step in the right direction.
      Good Luck!

    • Allison says:

      Alibi,

      This guy is a controlling, abusive creep! Nothing will ever be enough to please him.

      Get out now!!!

  31. Amizade says:

    I’ve recently been swimming in the EU Lagoon. It looked wonderful..cool, serene and very, very inviting so I just dived right on in. Trouble was that hidden under that calm surface was a very different story. The bottom of that wonderful lagoon was littered with old piles of rubbish, jagged and twisted, that would cut you if you swam too close. The only way to avoid getting hurt was stay shallow and not go too deep. Not a very satisfying ‘swim’ and I sure got cut up. I learnt never to dive right in no matter how inviting. I learnt that I need to dip my toes in then slowly check out the whole lagoon before swimming. I also learnt that I need to check for those red flags that warn that swimming in this lagoon is at your own risk!

    • NML says:

      Genius comment!

    • Minky says:

      Indeed – beautiful analogy. I will remember this one. It’s so important to go slowly and check everything you can about a person, see how they react to things and not see every potential relationship as a situation you can’t or shouldn’t walk away from.

  32. Authentic Me says:

    @Layla
    My sister recommended “How to Survive the Loss of a Love” to me as I grieved over my MM and my ongoing struggle to not be the “exception.” The book is available for free online. It’s short but powerful, and the poetry is amazing.

  33. Sar says:

    Hi Natalie… I just want to tell you how much I enjoy all of your articles.
    They have all been a tremendous help for me getting over situations, and ultimately not blaming myself – which I always do.
    I always look forward to getting one of your newsletters in my inbox. They always make me feel better :)
    I truly appreciate everything you do.
    Thank you!

  34. ICanDoBetter says:

    EllyB,

    I can relate to your situation with your friend. I am starting to realize that my patterns of relationship don’t just apply to romantic relationships. The friends I have chosen, or have passively let choose me, have not been the kind of support I need in my life. I am also realizing just how important it is to have a strong, healthy support system, as it will help me to engage more realistically in romantic relationships. In fact, until I have that in place, I don’t feel safe dating again yet.

    • EllyB says:

      ICanDoBetter: Yes! It’s the same with me. I have to learn how to draw boundaries everywhere in my life, even if it is very painful (because it might involve “dumping” people I considered faithful friends for years). A romantic relationship shouldn’t even be on the agenda until I’ve sorted all this out.

      Yes, my time might be “running out” and all that. But there are actually two kinds of risks: I might end up single for the rest of my life, or I might end up in another dysfunctional/abusive relationship which might adversely affect the rest of my life. I would choose risk no. 1 over risk no. 2 every time, no matter what people say about “unhappy, bitchy single women” and blah blah blah (another case where boundaries are absolutely necessary, by the way).

      • Allison says:

        Elly,

        Why does single equate to unhappy and bitchy? Life is what we make it, if we choose to be strong, independent and content, we will be. We are in charge of our own happiness.

  35. ICanDoBetter says:

    This was on the vanity card at the end of one of Chuck Lorre’s TV programs. I thought it very aptly described what Natalie is always trying to tell us.

    CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #335
    We tell ourselves stories. We weave together different plot lines, wondering if the outcome of the story might be different were we to have done or said something other than what we had done or said, all the while knowing that the various alternative outcomes are just more stories – fictions meant to distract us from what’s actually happening. And so we pause from weaving and commence breathing, gently and non-judgmentally saying hello to what is…

  36. shattered says:

    This site and all the posts have really helped me. Icouldnn’t understand what was going on, but realised I was with an assclown after reading this site. I’ve been NC (several times!) but feel better about not seeing him now. He still texts from time to time to ask why I’m ignoring him. Yesterday I told him that things hadn’t worked out between us and that we had different values. His response was to ask if I’m pining for him and he’ll be in touch to take me out for a meal. His arrogance is breathtaking! He has several women on the go and is very charming but a typical AC- blew hot and cold, cagey about what he was doing; wouldn’t spend a weekend with me – ever. Occasionally stayed the night but made a swift retreat almost as soon as he’d woken up. No presents for me – ever, although I bought him birthday and Christmas presents and even made him a cake! 18 months of confustion and bewilderment for me. If the meal invitation ever does materialise (I won’t hold my breath) I’m working out a suitable response. I’m having a break from men for at least 3 months and I just hope I won’t meet another AC, but at least I’ll know the signs to look out for.

    • Allison says:

      Shattered,

      Why would you respond at all? You should be blocking this guy!

    • grace says:

      shattered
      he’s good at this. he’s got you on hold now until/if he decides to have another go.
      i don’t think you should waste any of your time formulating a response. if he does approach you again, delete and ignore. if you can, like allison said, block him. you could always change your no. but it doesn’t sound as though he will harrass you. he’s just put you on ice.

  37. Sharon says:

    Thank you for this post. I just broke up with my BF of 10 months because i suspected he was drinking too much and then one night he got physical (pushed) someone when they tried to talk to me. Also he got a little more pushy over time. This confirmed for me that I did the right thing. Love this site. <3

  38. Sherry says:

    I was in a 5 year relationship with someone who displayed behavior similar to Lady Grey’s partner. He would never accept responsibility for problems in the relationship – in fact, I accepted blame and apologized for 95 % of our disagreements. I just felt that it wasn’t an equal partnership and that problems never got resolved constructively. He would punish me when he became angry after disagreements, e.g. one time, he went to a family wedding in another state by himself (we had planned to go together) because he was angry at me, and he would leave me at a store and go home if we got into a fight. I guess my main question is – are these behaviors a sign of immaturity in dealing with problems, or are they a part of a person’s character or personality?

  39. Sherry says:

    Thanks Grace, I agree. The sad thing is that he broke up with me after one of these arguments. As usual, I apologized yet again, but this time he refused to accept my apology and instead, said that I was getting what I deserved and that I would just have to chalk things up to “lesson learned.” I’m filled with regret and hopelessness and he is now in another relationship. I’ve read a lot about narcissism and I think he has a lot of narcissistic qualities. I just can’t help thinking that this was just our dynamic and maybe with his new girlfriend, things will be different. After 5 years, I had a lot invested and it’s just very difficult to let go.

    • NML says:

      Hi Sherry, I understand your hurt and frustration, but the moment you utter the words ‘I had a lot invested’ it means you’re living in the past and that your relationship is indeed over – you just haven’t accepted it yet even though he has moved on. The fact that you had a lot invested explains why you wouldn’t want to let go of the relationship when you’re in it, but your reasons to hold onto the relationship and how you perceive him and the relationship are not based on the present. If they were based on the present or even the most recent him that you dealt with in the relationship, you would recognise why the relationship is not working. There is no point reading up on narcissism unless based on even reading the barebones information on it, you recognised that is a fatal blow to a relationship and not something you can fix. Whatever you’ve been reading, it’s been a waste because you’re still holding onto your investment. Narcissism isn’t a dynamic – stop making his behaviour about you. A narc is narc, with or without you. He’s her problem now.

      • Sherry says:

        Thanks for the reply. Deep down I know I have to move on and that he’s not coming back. I forgot to mention the detail that we were engaged and the breakup occurred 2 months after getting engaged. It’s just so hard to reconcile with the fact that he wouldn’t accept my apology and just threw everything away after getting engaged. That’s what brought me to researching narcissism – I guess I was trying to find the answers to why someone would end an engagement in a such a cold and heartless way for an insignificant reason.

        • NML says:

          Sherry, I just wanted to say that I understand the confusion. My friend’s fiance called their wedding off 6 weeks beforehand. No argument, no forewarning, cut contact with her and has refused to have anything to do with her since. She thought it was something she’d said or done – practically on the day they were due to get married, he had to call her and tell her that he was involved with someone else.

          The fact is, you’ve answered your own question – he ended your engagement coldly and heartlessly for what you believe is an insignificant reason – that is forewarning you of how he would have dealt with things when you were married. Fact is, he likely meant well when he proposed but actually following through and committing via the marriage terrified him. He didn’t want to go through with it, he has orchestrated a conflict, and bowed out. Him not going through with it is his fear of commitment and he sabotaged it. While it is no doubt insignificant to you, that’s just to you. It was significant to him because he wanted out and the situation gave him that. If he’d accepted your apology, he would have had to find another reason. He had to be cold etc as he had to ensure that you didn’t think there was a hope for continuing the relationship. My friends ex cut her off because he wanted to start over afresh without a reminder of how he’d behaved.

          She now realises that hurtful as it was, he did her a favour. She doesn’t want to be married to someone who doesn’t want to be married to her or would behave in that manner. I suggest you reassess whether this is *really* the type of person that you want to make this type of commitment to.

          • gala says:

            This sort of behaviour from these men is so rude, so much without integrity, so cruel and selfish. And quite cowardly. It’s difficult to believe that we women sometimes put them on a pedestal and cannot get over them. It’s such a waste of time and brain energy. It’s almost like exposing your back to the enemy and letting him strike the blow…

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          Sherry,

          That is what messes with our minds the most, isn’t it? The way they skillfully (or not) turn a petty argument into something much more, just so they can believe they are free of blame, when the reality is they are too cowardly to just man up and say they want out of the relationship. When they turn the petty argument into something so significant that they simply “must” end things, it’s like they are creating a diversion. We get bogged down in the details of the “grievance” they have against us, and so our focus is taken away from the real issue.

          My ex used to pull a Mr. Freeze act when he got irritated with me. I would be almost to the point of panic when he did this, and I would apologize and apologize, just so I could get some relief from the fear of abandonment. After he did this a few times, that fear took up permanent residence in the relationship. Sometimes I would worry I had upset him, when I hadn’t, and then the times I had no idea I had upset him, I was blindsided by his Mr. Freeze act. I began to feel anxious all the time around him. The last time he pulled this act, I didn’t apologize, but I did call him out on his behavior. So, he managed to use that as his grievance against me, in order to end things. I really couldn’t win his mind-game.

          I know our situations may not be exactly the same, but I just hope it helps to know he is not the only man who behaves this way, and you are not the only woman to be tortured by all the what-ifs in the aftermath of such an abruptly cold ending to things. I have often wondered how things would have turned out if I had not called him out on his behavior, and just “made up and made nice”. I’m certain we may have gone on a little longer, but it would have been more of the same, and it still would have ultimately ended.

          • Sherry says:

            Our situations are very similar. I often wonder if I had placed boundaries on his behavior, would the relationship have been different, or would things have ended sooner? Was I just not assertive enough – is what he needs an assertive woman? When I stop to think about the all the things I had to put boundaries on, it seems neverending: I needed to dress up more, I couldn’t wear jeans to church, I couldn’t talk to my mother multiple times a day, I wasn’t taking care of the home, I wasn’t taking enough responsibility in the relationship. All this after moving across the country to be with him. I guess I was silly to have assumed that someone that asks you to move across the country for him wants you to a permanent part of his life. I know I would never ask someone that without being darn sure that he was the one for me.

  40. pty says:

    @ Grace: You may be right that killing the memories may be for the best. We all tend to long for the “one that got away”, forgetting there was a reason they got away. But even if that reason was youth, perhaps, that still makes things for an uphill battle. If this person has truly been waiting “25” or how many years to be with his or her true love, what unrealistic will their expectations be at that point. I think that is a recipe for disater, and usually is.

  41. ResJudicata says:

    Here I am again, after another seemingly normal situation goes code red almost without any effort. Here are some “red signs”.
    1. Steer clear if he says, “I don’t get along with my mother”, as he will carry out this theme of origin with you.
    2. Steer clear if he moves around alot — the person I thought was stable when I met him last April has now lived in 9 different apartments/houses in four cities in two states — and it hasn’t even been a year!
    3. Steer clear if he harps on how everyone has done him wrong: This boss was Fd up because he didn’t do such and such; this roommate was Fd up because she asked him to do such and such; you (me) are Fd up as “…I would never live in this part of town” (after he spends a whole month at your house before finding Location #7).

    4. Steer clear of someone who asks to temporarily borrow your car until he can get back on his feet and buy his own. Nine weeks later….and now he’s mad that you DARE demand that he return your car, which you have every right to do, even if you own other cars!
    5. Steer clear of someone so irresponsible that he gets a parking ticket in said car, doesn’t pay it, and you don’t realize it until the issuing authority comes after you for the ticket and late fee you didn’t even know existed!
    6. Steer clear of someone who stays out all night playing poker, even if gambling is legal where you live!

    WOW I wish I had read this last April!

  42. Getting_by says:

    first, thank you so much, Natalie, for creating this site. I don’t know how i would have survived the last few months without BR and your readers’ posts. It’s so empowering to know that I am definitely not alone on this journey to “recovery”. Been NC for two weeks now and hoping i won’t cave this time as I have in the past. i’ve had the unfortunate experience of falling hard for an AC and have acted in ways that i never imagined: throwing jealous fits, checking his phone msgs. Whenever i confronted him, he would always say it was all in my head! I’ve been insecure most of my life so part of me felt like he was right. I also felt like i needed to be more patient with him, knowing he’s been through a lot. I know that i have to address some of my own insecurities if i want a healthy relationship but i also know now that i shouldn’t put up with BS. I think what’s helping me cope better now is the realization that his actions have nothing to do with me or the other women in his life. He likes juggling women — that’s his choice. I don’t want to be with ACs — that’s my choice. We don’t share the same values so it would really never work out. I just hope i can stay strong :(

  43. oriana says:

    Hi I just stumbled upon this blog and want to start by saying it’s delightful to read so many intelligent, insightful posts from so many amazing, strong women!

    I just extradited myself from a Code Amber situation, but have to admit that I was a deer caught in the headlights and let it play out for a while. Why? Because it was the first deep, intense connection I’ve felt in many, many years (I’m talking at least 10). Despite the obvious that low self-esteem can cause us to put our blinders on and look past the signs, there is also this “haven’t felt a connection like this in years” syndrome that so many of us experience.

    Why does this happen way too often with the wrong men? What dynamic is happening here? Is the universe playing some cruel trick on us – I haven’t met anyone in years and when I finally do they’re bad for me? No wonder we allow ourselves to get sucked into Code Red land so easily. I was fascinated by the “connection”…

    • NML says:

      Well Oriana, it’s a bit like if you hadn’t eaten for a very long time and I came along and gave you a cracker. You’d probably think it was the best cracker, the best *food* you ever ate, but over time, you’d see that it was just a cracker. It might not even have any butter on it.

      • oriana says:

        Too funny! So true! Well I’m going to take the good things about the connection and run with it, hopefully it’s a lead up to something better – I think that’s the lesson here.

  44. Getting_by says:

    Oriana — that’s exactly what happened to me and i’m still trying to make sense of all that’s happened.

    great analogy, natalie. spot on!

  45. Lily says:

    This is just such a definitive post, that lays out some real fundamentals to watch out for.
    My ex bf was very attentive straight out of the gates when I met him. He called consistently, which was nice. What worried me though was in the first two weeks he wanted to introduce me to his mother and all his friends. The first real red flag came when, in the first month, he casually handed me a paper and asked me to sign it. When I inquired as to what it was, he said “oh it’s nothing, just my death benefit policy. I want you to be the beneficiary.”
    I said, “no I am not comfortable signing this, I have just met you”.
    He proceeded to make a case for me to sign it, and I refused. He was disappointed , but he always careful not to show his real feelings.
    At the three month point, he suggested we move into together….he had not even met my family, as they live in another state. I said, it was too premature, again he was disappointed and started to hint that I was “difficult”.
    Initially it was hard to pin down that he was controlling, because it was always couched in “loving gestures” designed to solidify us as a couple.
    I was starting to feel increasingly suffocated as we proceeded and suspected he was very controlling. In the end I was right, as more revealed itself. Good thing I got out when I did.

    • NML says:

      Jeez Lily, I’m thankful you’re shot of him. Gave me the shivers just reading about him! He was indeed controlling and manipulative – FLUSH! He really had no respect for your feelings – he was just asserting his position and railroading you.

  46. Sandra81 says:

    I have a question for everyone – it’s still about the issue of warning signs. I heard certain people (only women – mind you), when they meet a potential dating partner, saying “If he’s single, there must be something wrong with him”. Or it was said to me when I was the one to meet someone new. As if he might automatically be an assclown, a psycho, very picky, or with God-knows-what-else hidden faults! :-O Personally, I believe that with this kind of thinking we’ll never find someone. If he’s attached – we stay away, if he’s single – we get suspicious – what else are we left with??? Has any of you ever experienced this way of thinking? Do you think we are supposed to address the problem like that?

    • grace says:

      Sandra81
      it’s a stupid saying. if you take it to it’s logical conclusion, the only men we should be interested in are married. good luck with that, ha ha! you’re single – does that automatically mean there’s something wrong with you?
      I think there’s more something wrong with the people who believe this stupid saying (and I say it as someone who used to believe it). It just feeds into a cycle of pessimism, cynicism and helplessness which 100% leads to crappy dating outcomes. It’s self-fulfilling, I’ll say that for it.

    • Allison says:

      Do you mean, never been married, or just single?

      If just single, that’s a ridiculous thing to say, and a very negative attitude to carry- This type of attitude only attracts the AC’s and EUM’s!

      Think positive ladies!!! There are terrific men out there! :)

  47. Sandra81 says:

    Ladies, I’m happy that you also think like me! ;-) Yes, that way of thinking makes you paranoid, and, as Grace said, we would end up chasing married men… :-D What is true, though, is that the people whom I heard saying such thing are people who find it hard to trust people in general, therefore they have a tendency to get suspicious about everything.
    As for your question, Allison, I’m talking about “just single”. Being in my mid to late 20s, and talking about guys close to my age, having never been married is not an issue at all. Although, mind you, I live in Italy and here quite a phenomenon is taking place: you get to meet many people in their late 30s or early 40s who have never been married, and who are in no hurry to do so. And they are not seen as strange or uncommon. Some of them are in stable relationships, some of them are not. From this point of view, it’s quite good that there is no such thing as society pressure when it comes to marriage. :-)

  48. Jennifer says:

    You are brilliant. Thank you SO much for writing all about what I know deep down, but can’t always wrap my arms around well enough to spit it out myself. You’re the voice of reason and common sense and I am sure you’ve helped 1000’s with these articles. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have suggested your articles to many friends and I know what you write reaches them as it does me.

  49. mrldeyez says:

    Thank you so much for all your articles, blogs. I am learning more and more about myself. I had ended a relationship about 1 1/2 years ago to
    Mr. Unavailable, and recently started a relationship with another man, long distance, someone I knew from high school. I now see the similiarities, though didn’t really know how to label it. I was uncomfortable with his narcissitic harem, and told him so.
    And told him that I was uncomfortable with his contact with these women, particularly when he told me they had helped him out giving him advice with his past failed relationships. You would think I asked him to cut off his arms! He argued with me, ad nauseam, about how they were his friends, for years, happily married, some his ex’s, etc, etc. When I first saw him, he failed to tell me he was at least 100 lbs. overweight, and very active in his overeating disorder. So now we have code amber, and amber red. I addressed the need to talk about feelings, in a relationship, and I would get stonewalled with silence. He started to not respond to texts, or phone calls, he said he forgot his phone, or he didn’t think the texts deserved a response back, but that was changed behavior. And I brought it up, he always had a plausible excuse. I failed to mention I now know he was a fake future, fast forward guy. Was hot and then went cold. So the last time I was out there, a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to talk how I could feel better about this long distance thing, ( because he has had several LD relationships another flag) He said well it’s not working out, you’re not making me happy. AND that was it. Done, end of conversation, end of relationship.

    So I am no contact, day three. And doing some soul searching about why I attract those kind of men. It’s like the dating process, backwards. I am not beating myself up too much, because I did put the boundaries in place, and confront the behaviors, and it only lasted 5 months. I need to work on my availability.

  50. Liberty Belle says:

    For the duration of my relationship with my emotionally abusive, narcissistic ex I ignored sooo many red flags it’s unbelievable. I finally went no contact and started to heal. A few months ago we ran into each other and he gave me a heartfelt apology and for the first time actually listened to how I felt and showed some measure of empathy.

    He asked if we could make a go of the relationship again as he had done some introspection and realised that I was the woman for him. I was apprehensive but he said he really wanted to try.

    He accepted responsibility for his actions and admitted that he was so scared of being in love and feeling sooo vulnerable that he acted like a jackass by being mean one minute and sweet the next. He said that the relationship’s demise was his fault as well because he was careless with my feelings, he didn’t spend enough time with me and that he was verrry sorry for cheating. He added that I was the one he loved and that he wanted to “make it with me.”

    That was 6 months ago and today I am happy with my new and improved man who loves, values and respects me. And if you believed this post, gothca! April Fools Day!

    These men NEVER change and the best thing that you can do for yourself is to go/stay no contact and put the focus back on you. *Bless*

    • NML says:

      Liberty Belle, I think I love you. You made me laugh till my sides hurt – brilliant!

      • Movedup says:

        I second that!! Good one! Best prank I have seen all day. If you believe they will change because you have a magic wand – that is foolish everyday of the year!

  51. NK says:

    Code amber behaviour?

    I am seeing a new guy (3-4 months). He compliments me often and has expressed wanting to take photos of me (the playful/sexy kind…..). I straight away said no. But after spending a couple of days with him recently he took a picture of me fully clothed, but later on took more pictures of me not fully clothed. They were quite playful and my face was not in the picture. I jokingly said he needs to delete them, but I stupidly did not make sure he did it in front of me. Now I’ve gone back to him and asked him to make sure they are deleted, he says they’re on his computer. I’ve asked him to delete them from his computer. He says he will.
    Now the pictures are not that incriminating really, thats not the real issue. The real issue is that 1) I asked him not to and he still came back and tried again, on the third time he succeeded.
    2) I did not re assert my boundary and let my guard down, even though I am not a fan of ‘sexy’ pictures of me and I feel that it is too early in the dating to let him have this.

    This has happened with a couple of things, where I have said no intitially, but let that turn to a yes later on. Im slipping back to old patterns and I hate it! if only there was a little angel on my shoulder whispering mantras and advice in my brain on these days……

    • NML says:

      But of course there *are* other things that are giving you cause for concern…following on from my previous comment to you. I’d say texting is the least of your concerns anyway…. You said no and he started taking pics and you went along with it but have asked him to delete. In the meantime those pics have made it from the camera to the computer? What the what now?!

      But sexy pics aside the bigger issue here is that you state that something is a boundary/not wanted and he disregards.

      You’re not comfortable having nude photos taken of you whether your face is shown or not. It doesn’t matter if *he’s* ok with it – you’re not.

      A lukewarm boundary is as good as no boundary so now you need to be very direct and go around there and ensure that he has deleted the photos. Say “I know I said that I don’t want these photos and then ended up letting you take them but being totally honest, I was caught off guard when you did take them. I need you to delete those photos and I will endeavour in future to be direct with you so that you don’t get the wrong idea and in turn I’d really appreciate it if you take me at my word”

  52. Lisa says:

    I think the guy I was ‘involved’ with probably had some code/red ambers and arguably behaved like an assclown with me in a lot of ways. But I also know that men treat women that they are ‘into’ differently so I always had a hard time separating his disinterested behaviour with his character thinking that if he found me more attractive/was more into me, he would want to be with me, wouldn’t lie to get out of stuff etc.

    Having said that, as I obsessively read through the posts on this blog, I feel so humiliated and desperate because he told me fairly early on he didn’t want a ‘relationship’ but he didn’t just want a booty call, he wanted to come over and cook for me and talk and stuff. But I can’t say he blew hot at the beginning or future faked and romanced me like so many of the women on here that are now understandably devastated. I feel like it took so much less for me to create so much more in my head and that makes me feel like such an idiot.

    I was on and off with him for 3 years. He would tell me that he loves me and for periods he would call me daily (emotional airbag-never asked about me) and then it would drop off some when he felt more secure/didn’t need me as much. When I would try to set boundaries (like I can’t talk to you every day if you don’t want a relationship) he would ignore what I said and then blow somewhat hot by saying (even though he doesn’t want a relationship right now) he does love me, “when you care about someone, you want to talk to them everyday”. I am 38 with no kids and he would often say we should have a baby (but had no intention of showing up for me first). Sometimes he would say, if you have my baby I will be your partner. I don’t know if he actually ever would have done it if I called his bluff but saying this to me when I know my child rearing years are coming to a close and that I loved him felt very self-serving and manipulative. I know that fits into assclown and it is also normalized for him in his family/cirlce to have kids with women you know will be a good mother but not necessarily partner with them.

    Just a few slices of lots of crazy things running through my head. But ultimately, he never promised me anything, didn’t…

    • Natasha says:

      Lisa, don’t feel like an idiot. Yes, ok, you should have bailed when he said he didn’t want a relationship, but you’re only human! This guy sounds like the classic “I want to have my cake and eat it too” dude. In his mind, he’s said he doesn’t want a relationship, so therefor he’s entitled to say and do whatever suits him that day/minute/nanosecond, but because he’s put that disclaimer on it, it’s therefor your fault if get the wrong idea. If you buy into this, it’s like saying that he’s a toddler that doesn’t understand what the impact of his actions are. Obviously, if he says he loves you, you are going to get the idea that this is not a casual relationship. In my opinion, he sounds incredibly self-centered and like he doesn’t have his sh*t together. Also, is there a greater future faking comment than “We should have a baby together”?! Having a baby together would imply that you are in each other’s lives for at least 18 years. He sounds like the type of guy that saw a cute baby on the street that day, and because he’s all whims and of the moment “ideas”, he busted out that statement. This guy is in no way a loss and this kind of behavior tells me that it has little to do with him not being into you. Hope you are feeling better soon! Stay strong :)

      • Aimee says:

        I called my AC on that one. Although I hesitate to write about cause stupid me stuck around for 2 years after. He pulled the baby card with me, and at first I thought this was too soon, so I decided to call him on it. I told him my doctor said it was not too late for me to have a baby – isn’t that good – boy did he start eatting his words – it was rather funny to watch him squirm. RED FLAG – and I stayed for more – man do I have tons of work to do!!

      • Lisa says:

        Thank you Natasha. Your reply was helpful and thoughtful. I loved him and was so incredibly attracted to him and wanted to believe every word he said despite his actions not indicating much interest. I just can’t shake the feeling that if I were more attractive, he would have committed to me. It’s hard to recover from this break up because you feel the loss and the longing and the sting of rejection. He’s love women before, just not me.

  53. NK says:

    Thanks for replying Natalie. I have said to him that it was my bad for letting him think it was ok and that I be upfront with him next time. I would like him to not disregard me again. But I can tell already that he gets caught up. I have after 3 months let my guard down because he has shown me some very respectful behaviour.. ..all a show? But then ive almost forgotten all my good work and slipped into a couple of old habits. I’ve shown him how to disarm me. This won’t be happening any more. Ive got to
    keep up and see if he sticks around..

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!