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One day, he is caring and loving and wonderful, and the next he is hateful and raging and mean. You are afraid to talk, or when you do talk you feel like you are never heard, your words are taken out of context, misunderstood, or blatantly ignored. In the beginning of a relationship they might seem like everything you ever wanted….usually this is because they are trying to act like everything you ever wanted. You have no support group and therefore your partner gains more power. He or she might be mean to people they think are “below them” or people who are defenseless, like babies or children.
Like flipping a switch, he can change drastically from one extreme to the next. He or she acts one way when they are around you, but completely different around your parents, and completely different around their friends. Slowly, you lose your friends until you feel like your partner is the only person you have left. Your partner cycles from mean and vicious to sweet and loving, then back again. He might set traps for squirrels or rabbits and then torture them.
Or, if they do something nice for you, they feel entitled to a reward, and if you don’t do what they want, they are entitled to punish you. Your partner embarrasses you in front of other people or talks badly behind your back. They might talk to other people about how bad they have it and how hard it is to date someone like you.
They might call you fat in front of your friends, or make fun of your clothes. You don’t understand what went wrong, or why your partner acts the way they do or what you can do to make things better.
It seems like your partner is two completely different people. Your partner finds faults with your friends or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable about any time you spend with other people. You want to believe that this is possible, but the cycle keeps repeating and each time your self-esteem is chipped away at, bit by bit. He might hit or kick your dog whenever he comes over.
Each time he hurts you, he apologizes and promises that it will never happen again or that he will change. Your partner knows your weaknesses and he goes after your most vulnerable parts, hurting you where he knows it will do the most damage. You feel ashamed, lost, alone, confused, numb, afraid, crazy, stupid, ugly, fat, worthless, embarrassed, unloveable, wrong. Your partner tortures animals, is mean to children, or nasty to waitresses.
You might want to go to the movies–your partner will make sure you go out to dinner instead. He or she might even brag about the fact that they have left a trail of tears behind them.
You might be terrified of what your partner will say or do if you tell them. He used to put you up on a pedestal…and now all he does is try to tear you down. From little things to big things, you feel like your partner never listens. They lie about things they don’t need to lie about. They can swear on their life that they are not lying. A healthy person is consistent in the way they treat people, regardless of their status. Your partner has a bad reputation or a tradition of “messy relationships”.
If he or she does something that is clearly wrong, they will find a way to turn it back around on you. They will even tell you this if they get the chance. The police have always been out to get them even though they never do anything wrong. If you are a peaceful person, you might find yourself constantly fighting. You feel like there is something seriously wrong with you. You might say that you aren’t comfortable staying overnight together–your partner does so anyway. He or she might get upset–especially if you try to break up with them or say that you are leaving–however, there is no underlying remorse for hurting you. He or she might say that they are sorry if they hurt you (hit you, scream at you, cheat on you…etc.) and promise that it will never happen again, but their apology is more manipulative than sincere. They might speak badly about a previous partner, claiming that their previous partner was crazy, or a bitch, or an asshole. They will make you feel like you are the one that is going crazy instead of them. You might worry about what you wear and what you say and freak out if someone changes your plans or something unexpected happens that you will have to explain later. You’re not quite sure what will set them off, but you are afraid that something you do is going to make them lose their temper… You might think that the Bears are the best football team–your partner will convince you that you are stupid for thinking so because they suck. They might talk about cheating on an old partner, or be proud of their reputation.They might lose their temper in the middle of a restaurant because they think you are flirting with the waiter. You’re not always sure what the problem is, but things never add up. If you follow what they say, things still don’t get better.They might bring up personal issues at inappropriate times. If you work hard to fix one thing, they will find something else that is wrong. They always have an excuse or a story or someone to blame: someone caused them to act the way that they did.
Before you embark on single parent dating, consider reading our advice pages: dating for parents, online dating safety and writing an online dating profile.