I’ve long said that consistency is a love language. It separates the opportunists from the committed. Anyone can behave a particular way to gain favorable positioning in someone else’s life, but it isn’t sustainable if not genuine.
Eventually, we revert to our true selves if putting up a façade as a means to an end. Anyone can be loving, thoughtful, and honest sometimes. It’s not difficult to demonstrate promising characteristics on occasion. However, habitual demonstration requires dedication.
It’s in those instances where commitment is lacking that we get the sudden feeling of not knowing a person to whom we thought we’d grown close. You can look at them and see a stranger once their mask comes off. Then, they may put it back on — only to take it off again. You start to question which side of them is real.
Perhaps every side of a person that you see is a part of who they are. Human beings are multifaceted. If someone demonstrates different elements of their personality, it doesn’t mean they’re inauthentic. It’s when the very essence of who they appear to be changes and behavior patterns are wildly unpredictable that it can cross the line into emotional abuse.
You shouldn’t have to wonder which version of someone you’re going to get from one day to the next.
If you’re on pins and needles waiting to see what kind of mood someone will be in every day, that’s unfair and unhealthy. You deserve to have a general sense of what to expect from a person most of the time. If they drastically deviate from this, you should know something’s wrong instead of being left to futile efforts of figuring out why, again.
If someone is up and down, and hot then cold, you don’t know what to think or how to feel. If you love, then despise, then love them again, you can never get comfortable in either state. The individual behind this constant battle likely knows what they’re doing, though they may not consider it abusive.
Therapist Andrea Mathews says, “Commonly, the perpetrator of emotional abuse does not know that (he or she) is being abusive.” She suggests that such behavior can stem from insecurity and not knowing how the other person feels. When you think about it, insecurity is frequently the culprit behind people treating others poorly.
Of emotional abuse itself, Mathews had this to say:
Emotional abuse is an attempt to control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control another person. The only difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical hitting, kicking, pinching, grabbing, pushing, or other physical forms of harm. Rather the perpetrator of emotional abuse uses emotion as his or her weapon of choice.
Sending mixed messages is a potent control tactic.
It’s considered a toxic, exploitive trait in any relationship. People will take your hand and lift you up only to let go and watch you fall. Unwarranted emotional neglect and isolation are especially disempowering. Think along the lines of someone withholding affection, tuning you out, or exhibiting indifference to the knowledge that they’ve hurt you.
Having someone go from being all over you to demonstrating an aversion to your touch is hurtful. It’s confusing. As is having someone physically engage but then show no concern for your feelings. The uncertainty can make you question yourself and wonder what you’re doing wrong. It monopolizes your thoughts and influences your actions.
If a person is consistently inconsistent, the behavior is likely to be conscious.
We’re not always going to be in a good mood. Sometimes we won’t feel like talking, going out, showing affection, or even being around people. It may not be anything personal. However, these instances should be rare — the exception and not the rule in a relationship.
You shouldn’t be on a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde trip. If somedays they love you, somedays they don’t — sometimes they’re interested and other times they couldn’t care less — or they call one day and then disappear for a few — it messes with your head.
Erratic behavior doesn’t allow you to find your bearings. You never feel safe or quite sure of your relationship with the other person. Once you start to accept that things aren’t serious, they send you flowers or invite you to meet their friends. Or, just when you think the relationship is significant, the other person goes MIA or becomes evasive and dismissive.
It’s an emotionally abusive game.
True feelings don’t turn on and off like a light switch. Perhaps the other person doesn’t even realize they’re playing. They may be afraid or unsure of what they want. Or, maybe they’re consciously, intentionally pulling your strings. Either way, unfortunately, the game often doesn’t end until they’ve left you broken.
Recognizing consistency as a love language helps avoid these back and forth shenanigans. You’ll know that anyone who doesn’t speak it is unlikely to have pure intentions. This awareness alone makes you less vulnerable to the manipulative power of fickle attitudes and demeanor.
Previously published on medium
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