There’s an old tale about cooking a live frog by starting it in a pot of cold water. The frog could easily jump out of the pot, but the water is comfortable so it stays put. The water heats up so gradually that the frog doesn’t recognize the danger until too late, and it is boiled alive.
There are many classic warning signs of codependent and/or abusive relationships. Some are very obvious, like physical violence, verbal abuse, and alcohol or drug abuse. But some early signs are more subtle — they creep up on you so gradually that you are in hot water before you know it.
- You change your plans for him
This usually surfaces during very early stages of a relationship. It may be anything from sitting home, waiting for that call, to cancelling standing plans with friends when he does call. This is a problem with your own behavior. I knew I was finally over this flaw when my new guy called to ask me out and I told him, “Sorry, that’s the night I go out dancing with my friends — but you are welcome to join us.” I did that because I had vowed to never disrupt my life for a man again. Surprisingly it worked out well. The new guy showed up to join me and my friends, and got hooked on dancing. I ended up marrying him.
- You change your appearance for him
Sometimes this is the earliest sign of a control freak. If he demands that you grow your hair out, or always wear high heels, or a particular color or style of dress, watch out. It’s okay for a guy to have a favorite outfit for you to wear, but if he wants you to wear nothing else, or if he sulks when you do, then watch out. Stick up for your own sense of style!
- He cuts you off from your family, friends, and even coworkers
This can begin subtly, with last minute cancellations when you were supposed to meet with family or friends or coworkers. He may use a variety of excuses: not feeling well or being “too tired” at the last minute, claiming he feels left out because he doesn’t know the people you work with. Unfortunately, after repeated no shows, you may stop getting invitations at all. He may “forget” to give you messages, or even delete messages from the answering machine and destroy incoming mail.
- He does stuff without you, but doesn’t want you to do stuff without him
When my second husband started “stopping off to play darts with colleagues” after work every day, but complained about me taking a painting class one day a week, I knew our relationship was in trouble. This exclusivity can take the form of jealousy, or just be that he always wants you home waiting for him.
- All his problems are somehow your fault
I can’t jog because I get really bad shin splints. When my first husband started gaining weight, he declared his weight gain was all my fault, since I wouldn’t jog with him (even though I offered to accompany him on a bicycle instead). That kind of specious reasoning is definitely a bad sign.
Take a look at your relationship–don’t wait till you are being boiled like that frog. My first book, The Comet, has more examples of bad relationships–told as metaphors using a comet, suns, planets, moons, etc. as the players in different types of relationships. it has a non-traditional happy ending that I think you’ll like.