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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?

After all, if you were better, cooler, or more desirable, you’d be able to stand up for yourself.

When you don’t feel as though you have anything to offer and you’re desperate for someone to complete you, you will tend to shift your boundaries and sacrifice your values for someone else in the hopes that this will prompt them to like you. They rely on obligation and allow themselves to be used – as well as live in fear of conflict or disagreement – because they don’t feel that they can rely on their own value.

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.

One of the most common signs of a predatory, abusive personality is the testing of boundaries: trying to push someone further and further out of their comfort zone, using a cycle of rewards and punishments in order to manipulate someone into being willing to knuckle under.

I’ve received many letters from women who had boyfriends who consistently tried to push the envelope of what they were comfortable with – demanding nude pictures, trying to bully them into sex they didn’t want to have (especially girls who were not ready to have sex yet) or into sexual practices they didn’t like.

Both men and women are equally capable of having weak boundaries and low self-esteem…

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.

I had been there for less than an hour before she showed up to quite literally drag me away (warning sign #3).

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.

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