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The two-faced smilers who would be pleasant to people’s faces but had no problem cutting them down when their back was turned.

How many times have you had someone – a friend, a lover, even family – pull a guilt-trip on you?

One good friend of mine had a husband who would continually badger her into being willing to participate in threesomes with various female friends.

Every time she would refuse he would “punish” her, either berating her for her lack of consideration for his needs, belittling her appearance and attitudes, or just becoming increasingly passive-aggressive.

I had few boundaries to speak of and even less self-esteem…

and I was willing to consider this treatment a fair price for being in a relationship. In fact, many people who are socially inexperienced – geeks and nerds especially – will have encountered all of these and more over the course of their relationships… Many will assume that these are just par for the course when it comes to relationships – platonic, romantic, or familial.

Of course, this is emotionally shredding and deeply damaging to the person who is letting this happen.

At best, you have a codependent relationship – one partner needing constant control and validation while giving up any personal responsibility and the other trying to shoulder the entire burden of both parties as well as take blame for any faults as an exchange for having the relationship. well, you’re prey for users, manipulative assholes and emotional abusers.

I forget what the excuse was, but it was some “togetherness” emergency – I had to go shopping with her for some trivial thing or other. In fact, that phrase – “I let her” – defined the majority of our relationship.

I wouldn’t take responsibility for what was ultimately my screw up and fix it – either through trying to work things out with my girlfriend or by dumping her and walking away – and so I instead tried to shirk the blame and refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong.

This is going to be a tricky section because what I’m about to say is going to sound an awful lot like victim-blaming, which is not my intent. People who have poor boundaries and low self-esteem are typically easy prey for abusers.

When I look back at my bad old days, there’re a number of things that stand out as emblematic of who I was – the fear of letting go of a bad relationship because I didn’t think I could do any better, being unable to relax and enjoy my time with one woman because I couldn’t stop looking for the shoe to drop… But there is one very specific night that, to my mind, was one of the most representative of how bad things were.

I had gotten permission from my girlfriend at the time (warning sign #1) to go play in a Mage campaign with my friends.

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