Early Warning Signs That You’re in a Lemon Relationship

Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.

— Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you were willing to overlook major flaws just to get it?  Even though Reason and Wisdom warned you, you wanted what you wanted and no one could talk you out of it? 

A few years back, my heart was set on a certain kind of car. I wanted something sleek and black and foxy! I was approaching 40 and felt like I needed a Statement Car- you know, something that would say, “Wow, she looks good in that car!” So, I bought Stella. Born in Germany and trained for the autobahn, Stella was everything that I dreamed of. She was fast and powerful and oh. so. pretty.

But Stella came with some drama. Stella was a few years old with a ton of miles, but I didn’t care. People told me that German cars were expensive to repair, but I didn’t care. People told me that she’d be like a bob sled down icy hills in the winter, but I didn’t care. She was in the shop within a month of buying her, costing me $$$$$, but I didn’t care. She was just so perfect- black and tan, enough seating to accommodate visiting guests, enough style and prestige to turn heads. Stella the Sleek. Stella the Stylish. Oh, Stella, I love you. You make me feel so…. so…. important! 

But Stella loved the attention she got from the European mechanics, and she ended up in their garage… a lot. She loved to be in control, and regularly caused chaos just to stay at the center of my attention. She would break down late at night while on my way home from work. She would refuse to open her doors on one side of the car. Once one thing got fixed, another thing would break. She loved that my attention, my money and my schedule was occupied by her. She loved how her “complicated” engine baffled the mechanics and drained my checking account.

One year with Stella was enough to cure me from ever wanting Prestige and Style again. Spending all that money to repair Stella the Lemon was like eating too much schnitzel and getting sick. It makes you never want schnitzel again. When I saw Stella the Money Pit drive away with a new owner, I danced for Joy and shouted hallelujah! Auf Wiedersehen!

Now I drive Harriet the Chariot. Harriet the Functional. Harriet the Boring. Oh, how I love boring. Harriet is reliable. Harriet has no unexpected drama. She doesn’t like all that extra fussing at the shop. She prefers staying in MY garage instead of the other guys’. 

Stella was the ultimate narcissist. She glimmered and shined, but was a complete wreck under the hood. I was screwed, bamboozled, and used. She promised me one thing and gave me another. My life revolved around her high maintenance needs.  She took much more than she gave. Stella was my User.

How about you and your relationships? Who is your User?  Have you ever wanted something or someone so badly you were willing to overlook early warning signs of a Relationship Lemon?

Here are some Warning Signs that will help you know if you’re in relationship with a User.

1. Something doesn’t add up: Everything looks good on the outside but something just doesn’t make sense. Maybe there are too many secrets or off-limit topics that make you wonder if there is more to the story. Withholding the truth from you is just a tactic to keep you off balanced so your User can maintain control.

2. Love Bombs: In the beginning, you experience a high because of all the attention you’re getting from your User. He/she does over-the-top things for you so you feel obligated to him/her. Your User occupies your time, your thoughts and your text threads. You feel special because of the relationship intensity. But this Love Bombing stage is used to distract you from the User’s serious character flaws.

3. Hot and Cold: Your User may surprise you with his/her intense mood swings. You wonder if you did something wrong to cause his/her sulking, anger or silence. Your user keeps you guessing about his/her unpredictable needs and moods so he/she can maintain the upper hand.

4. Not taking No for an Answer: You don’t feel like you can say “no” to your User because he/she may get angry or try to punish you. You are afraid to displease him because of probable retribution.  Your User’s feelings may seem so fragile, that to contradict or suggest otherwise may cause a melt down, a pity party or temper tantrum.

5. Jealousy: You find yourself being careful bringing up other people for fear of making your User jealous or insecure. He/she is irrational about being the only important person in your life and tries to control any outside influences.

6. Possessive: You may find that your User feels entitled to your availability and attention at all times. He/she may become agitated when you don’t pick up the phone, as if he/she should have access to you at all times. You may also find that he/she has a “crisis” when you are with friends or family that requires you to tend to him/her right away. Other important people to you like friends or family threaten him/her.

7. Fragile Ego: Your User can’t handle truthful feedback, constructive criticism or helpful suggestions. He/she must be all right all the time. He/she can not tolerate being wrong, and blames others for their woes.

Stella drained me of my time, my money and my peace. Once I recognized I had made a mistake purchasing her, I knew that I had to do something drastic. I could have ordered her a new engine and done a total re-haul, because that is what would have had to happen for her to become a safe and reliable vehicle. But I chose to get out while the gettin was good.

You may have to do the same.

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