There is usually always one. One relationship everyone goes through that they never forget. The one they grow up to one day warn their children about avoiding, to know the warning signs for and proceed to distance themselves as far away as possible. But it’s inevitable. Quite honestly, they will probably never see it coming, the warning signs they grew up recognizing, knowing, and hearing, will be hidden in the midst of charm, lies, and the feeling of new love -- the spark. It will sneak up on them until they become blind and never realize they are in the one relationship they always believed they would escape and never be naive enough to fall for…until they do. I was one of them. You see, I dated the manipulator.

You look all across the internet and you will see many sites listing the signs of a manipulative relationship. Some will give you 15 warning signs, some only three. But for me, the list I found to be the most accurate, was the one from beleifnet.com. To be honest, I never even realized the man I was dating was a manipulator until I was out of the relationship. Even though my friends and family all begged me not to fall for his mind games and tricks, I still never believed I was in a toxic relationship. That is…until I was forced to stand back and recognize all the warning signs were there…but I had missed them.

1. Emotionally unpredictable.

Even though it took about five months into our relationship, he began to distance himself more and more, and his mood swings were much more frequent. It was to the point that I always felt as though I was walking on egg shells until I found out what mood he was in this day when I met him for lunch or what his mood would be that weekend when I took him home to meet my family. He was emotionally unstable, and I was never able to rest easy knowing his mood and how he would treat me that day -- distant and cold as if I had done something wrong, or extremely loving and making me feel as though I was the most amazing thing he had ever had. No matter what, I was always unprepared and caught off guard.

2. Use affection and charm to their advantage.

Of course, the moment you say you have had it and will leave them if something doesn’t change, they will pull out all the charm and affection possible to persuade you from choosing otherwise. The random texts, the flowers sent, the extravagant dates and unexpected gifts…are all part of a ruse to make you believe they took your feelings and words into account and are trying to change. It’s charming, yes, and as sweet as you see in the movies, but it isn’t real. If it were, it would last longer than a week and it would have started long before you made your stand. You must remember that. They will do and say anything to keep from losing you.

3. The relationship will only progress on their terms.

If they are angry, they will stall the relationship or move it backward. Any move to upset them or even if it is just convenient for them, they will make it to where any intimacy is stopped, and may honestly blame you for their lack of interest and the fact they did not wait until marriage. That is not your fault, but theirs, just as it wasn’t mine as he tried to make me believe. In the other direction, the relationship will not move forward unless they decide. They will make excuses and plans and cancel last minute if they decide they don’t actually want to spend Valentine’s Day with you or meet your family. Anything you do will be on their schedule, never yours.

4. They are not dependable.

Again, going back to everything having to be on their terms. They are flaky and they will leave you hanging on plans. I was embarrassed for the longest time to admit how many times I waited up for hours waiting for him to text me or call me because somehow, he was always “too busy” even though I was the one with the job. The nights we had made plans together, only to have me completely dressed up and ready and him being an hour late…if he showed up at all without canceling. And the nights we did hang out usually were last minute and so unexpected I would get so excited that you would have thought he had just asked me out on a first date…almost as though he finally decided I was good enough to be in his company.

5. They only change when you’ve had enough.

Only the moment they know you are serious and take action will they start to change and try and make you believe they’ve changed. The second you end things, they will come back to you in a week or less begging for you to come back to them, that they will do better and have changed. It’s a lie. You may believe it and get back together with them, despite your friends’ advice, and yes, it may seem that they have changed and they really do care about you…for a while. Until they believe they have you back in their control once more, and they go right back to the manipulator you almost got away from. They won’t change. They never do. Every time you end things, they will always try to get you to come back, fill your head with lies and even go as far as guilt tripping you with suicide attempts to get you to come back to them. To make you believe it’s not their fault. And in some cases, maybe it's not. But that doesn’t mean you should have to endure it.

6. Lies are the norm.

They tell lie, after lie, after lie until they tell so many they begin to actually believe them. They will lie as to where they were and the people they were with. They will lie and say they have somewhere to be and no they didn’t drive drunk or dance with that girl. They will never admit you were right when you confronted them about the smoking and they will even try and make it a fight that they make you feel sorry for and at fault for starting. How dare you accuse them of such a thing? Except…the accusation was never an accusation at all but a fact.

I am sure many of you have stories very similar to mine and never believed you would be such a woman to be caught in such a heart-breaking web. It is nothing to be ashamed about. Easier said than done, I know. While these relationships are hard to avoid, we need to remember we are never alone and so many out there can relate to stories such as this. Maybe yours was a manipulator like mine, or maybe it was the emotional abuser or the physical. Perhaps it was the compulsive liar or the cheater, but whatever the case, they each take a bit of our confidence and souls with them. I still to this day have an incredibly hard time believing a man’s words of “I love you” and trusting them completely and their actions. It's even harder still for me to admit this manipulator I dated was someone I loved. Yes, loved. I used to be ashamed to say I loved someone who treated me so poorly and broke me down to the point of nothing and a woman with no confidence, trust, or self-respect. But you know what? I did love him. But I did get out. I recognized the toxicity and I refused to let myself go back a third time to get trapped in another tangle of lies and false promises. It took months and a lot of patience from my friends and family, but I got through it and in the process, I fell in love with myself. I learned what I deserved from a relationship and how to recognize signs of a relationship gone awry. I learned you can love someone and have them not be right for you. I learned to respect myself and that there are times when it is perfectly acceptable to be selfish and put yourself first. Afterall, you are the only one you can count on to do it every time.