6. Your partner demonstrates little interest in things that are important to you but not them, and may even resent them.
No, your partner does not have to be into everything you’re into, take up all your hobbies, adopt all your beliefs, or agree with all your opinions. But they should at least respect the fact that they’re important to you, and be willing to allow some time for you to pursue your interests and listen to you talk about them. If your partner repeatedly shuts down conversations about your interests, belittles them, implies they’re not worthy of respect, or even gets angry that you’re “wasting” totally reasonable amounts of time, money or energy on things you care about, there’s a problem. Do you feel reluctant to talk about these kinds of things with your partner? Are they able to respectfully disagree with you, or are they more prone to arguing with you until you’re too worn down to try and defend yourself? Do they resent you talking about things you like, especially if doing so makes you look more intelligent or cultured than them? Conversely, does your partner try to stop you from doing things because they’re “trashy” or “ignorant”? Does your partner only agree to take trips to museums or stores if they can be assured it will be just as interesting for them? If so, you can rest assured it’s not likely to change.
Side note: if your partner finds any of your beliefs truly unacceptable, they should still respect you enough to acknowledge that and end the relationship gracefully, without trying to force you to convert. And if you find some of your partner’s beliefs and behaviors fundamentally wrong and even repugnant, it’s always, always best to leave. You are never going to find someone who agrees 100% with all your convictions, but you can certainly aim for someone who tries to understand where you’re coming from and why you came to those conclusions, even if they don’t share your exact feelings.
7. You partner minimizes your emotions and implies they understand your wants and needs better than you do.
When you express negative emotions, or disagree with your partner, does your partner consistently accuse you of being irrational, hysterical, or even just plain silly? Do they attempt to break down how wrong you are, point by point, even if their points don’t hold up to scrutiny when you think about them later? Do they spend a lot of time talking about how much more experienced and worldly they are than you, and suggest that naivete is the only possible reason you would disagree with them? If you have a disagreement, do they insist on arguing until you feel completely worn down? Do they keep going even if you are visibly upset? Do they ignore you when you need support, even when you’re in actual physical discomfort or pain? When I was with my ex, I had a recurring issue with severe leg and foot cramps (that mysteriously cleared up a month or two after we cut ties, imagine that), and one night I had a cramp so severe that I could not straighten my foot or massage it away. He saw all of this, and responded by leaving the room and heading downstairs. I excused it at the time, thinking I just didn’t make it clear enough that I needed help, but my first reaction was shock at the fact that he just up and left. In retrospect, my gut reactions to his behavior were always the most perceptive; don’t rationalize them away.
8. Your partner seems to have a substantial number of “crazy” exes and other friends and family who have abruptly cut off contact with them.
This is very common. Unless your partner is very young, chances are they have dated someone before, and how they talk about those exes says a lot about what’s to come in your relationship. Yes, many people have had relationships that have gone badly, and it’s normal to express bitterness about them. Caution enters the equation when it becomes clear your partner views their ex as some kind of unnuanced monster, a utterly contemptuous person who did nothing but exploit them. The biggest tell is when they follow up these rants with a complaint about how that person cut them out of their life. (My ex once spent a good twenty minutes regaling me with evils allegedly committed his ex-fiancee, and ended it by wondering why she didn’t invite him to her recent wedding.) It should be noted that negative things are not the only ones to look out for; oversharing intimate details about their exes is a huge red flag. Keep in mind that if they do it to their exes, there is no reason to believe they won’t tell somebody else about your sexual habits or personal secrets. Lastly, beware of effusive praise; if your partner spends a lot of time detailing the sins of their exes and then telling you you’re a beautiful godlike being who is nothing like those others, they are in effect warning you to be on your best behavior at all times.
Bear in mind that people who alienate their exes probably also alienate other people. If they start complaining about friends who mysteriously stopped hanging out, adult or older teen children who have refused to have contact with them, estranged family who refuse to help them in times of need, etc., it’s time to start looking at the common denominator in all those failed relationships.
9. Your partner insists on being in constant contact with you and becoming extremely emotionally close after a very short period of time.
Were you initially taken aback by the amount of contact your partner seeks to have with you? Do they text/call/email/message you multiple times a day? Has this come to the point where not hearing from your partner for one day leaves you feeling extremely anxious or upset, to the point of being unsure about the very status of your relationship? Do conversations often come to a point where you feel obligated to share fairly intimate information, despite not having know the other person very long? Do you feel you are disclosing more info than you ordinarily would, and do you feel uncomfortable afterwards? Does your partner ever try to use information obtained in these conversations against you later? Do you withhold information from your partner solely because you are afraid it will be misused?
10. Your self-image has changed dramatically since you entered the relationship.
Does your partner focus on aspects like your physical appearance or sexual prowess/desirability to the point you feel enormous pressure to emphasize to aspects at the expense of others? Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your body, or think of it mostly in terms of how it interacts with your partner? Have you become insecure about your intelligence or your ability to interpret reality correctly? Do you sometimes feel as if you are running on automatic, rarely if ever getting the opportunity to engage intellectually with your partner? Have friends and family detected a change in you, and do you avoid them so it will not be commented on? All these things will make you feel less valuable as an individual and thus more replaceable, therefore increasing your need to excel at whatever it is your partner values and receive their ongoing validation. It will become very hard to accept your partner’s loyalty at face value. You may also begin to indulge in media that romanticizes the concept of suffering for an indifferent party’s love; even stories that end tragically can provide enough fuel to make the situation tolerable. Conversely, you may find yourself unable to watch anything that might force you to contemplate the healthiness your situation. The books you read, the art you look at, the songs you listen to, and the movies and TV you watch may all undergo a subtle shift as you look for new methods to cope.
There will be a Part Three up next week.