When you first met him—he seemed confident, charming, and challenging (in an intriguing way). Now, he just seems like a jerk!
Or, perhaps when you first met her—she seemed mysterious, delightfully unpredictable, and she kept you guessing in the most alluring way. Now, she seems like an alien.
Love/hate relationships seem funny, and even romantic … in the movies.
But in real life, they wreak havoc on your health and happiness.
Once you’re seriously involved with a chronically difficult person, you’ll second-guess yourself constantly and question your sanity whenever you try to solve everyday issues with your partner. It’s important to know that behavior is a result of their early life situations.
You see, it’s not that your partner WON’T play nice; he or she CAN’T.
And you can’t make them or fix them, either.
Yes, it’s frustrating. You bend. You’re considerate. You overextend, make excuses, give them space, support them, and give in. You don’t expect too much, but nothing changes. It’s infuriating, and the happy relationship you hoped for feels miserable and, sometimes, even hopeless.
Even this Mother Goose nursery rhyme captures the problem:
”There was a little girl, Who had a little curl, Right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, She was very, very good, But when she was bad, she was horrid.”
Male or female, the issue is the same—you fall in love with a person when they’re being “very, very good” and question your judgment when they start acting horrid. And the longer you’re with them, the more “horrid” seems to show up, making you forget the good parts about them entirely.
Knotting yourself up like a pretzel to conform to the twisted expectations of your partner is crazy-making.
You might have been so well-raised that you think, “If only I was more patient, more nurturing, more kind and understanding, then this crazy-making would stop.” You look to yourself as the first source of the problem. It’s always a good start, but in this case it’s time to stop that.
You need to look squarely at these eight traits and see how many your partner has. Then, you’ll know why you may need more information and stronger skills to manage your relationship in healthy ways.
8 traits of chronically difficult people:
1. They make you question if you can trust them.
You tell yourself that you’re safe with them, but all too often you find there are cracks in the foundation, and misplace your trust. They go so far that you feel like a bad person for not trusting them, even though you know you cannot.
2. Communication with them is vague.
Nothing ever seems permanently pinned down. Everything is in flux. Decisions you think you made together get changed, negated, or twisted. That leaves you twisting in the wind.
3. They have no real interest in stopping the conflicts.
In fact, they seem bound and determined to keep them going … and you’re right—these people thrive on conflict and want to keep things in a state of constant chaos.
4. They won’t let you get close to them emotionally.
As soon as you get too close (by their definition), they do something to break the connection. Yet, strangely, they tell you that you are the one who is emotionally distant. People with these traits fear closeness, all the while claiming that they don’t get enough of it. Crazy-making!
5. They blame you for everything.
It’s always your fault. It’s NEVER their fault. If, by chance, you’re not the one blamed, then it’s the weather, the family, the office, the government, or God. For that reason, you often finally give up trying to solve problems, and too often, you give in. Attempts at being rational with them are exhausting. You can’t be right because they cannot be wrong!
6. They act on feelings, not facts.
Their response to any situation is how they feel about it, not focusing on what actually happened. Because they feel it, it makes it so, and what you think has no bearing on the matter.
They also make assumptions and presumptions about your ideas, feelings, motives, and needs. They won’t ask you directly. They honestly believe—and need to believe—that they know you better than and more in-depth than you know yourself. They have to do this because they are always right and you are always wrong. Right? For the high-conflict partner, the feelings ARE the facts.
7. They refuse—and are likely incapable of—self-reflection.
When you are so busy making assumptions about your partner, and knowing that your partner is always wrong, why bother with introspection? Also, self-reflection is for courageous people who are not afraid of life. People with the traits described here find the very idea of looking inward completely terrifying.
8. They operate from fear at all times.
That is why every disagreement is a possible war. They fear any conversation they cannot control. That’s why nothing is ever their fault; they’re petrified that the opposite is a possibility.
If these traits set off alarm bells for you, don’t panic. When your partner has these traits, you will either argue a whole lot, or one of you will shut down, withhold, and dish out the silent treatment. Neither strategy will work.
If you love your partner and you want the relationship to work, you’ll need some expert help to shift your thinking, move away from blame, and establish some new patterns of interaction. Unfortunately, you’ll need to change first. Only then will you know what’s possible for the relationship.
Partners with these traits are living in fear and fighting for their lives.
These very real fears play out in repeated patterns, and even an argument about where to have dinner is a must-win situation for them. They developed these traits because early in their lives they needed them as survival and defense mechanisms. That’s why they CAN’T play nicely, not just that they won’t.
If you are in a committed relationship with a chronically difficult person who has many of the traits above, don’t despair. I’ve helped many clients move from pain to possibility, even though their partners did not do much changing. Do the work; you’ll be better for it and you’ll understand the relationship dynamics in new ways.
Crazy-making behaviors may still persist, but you can put an end to second-guessing yourself and questioning your sanity.
Underneath, he still is confident and charming; she still is mysterious and delightful, but you need help. You cannot solve this on your own. Divorce is not the only answer. Get the right information and insights by getting relationship help right away. Don’t wait.