The rotten apple spoils his companion – Benjamin Franklin
I am sitting around a restaurant table with several friends, sharing tales of our worst relationship ever. The stories, including my own, are of verbal and physical abuse, infidelity, drama, inappropriate boundaries with other women, lying, emotionally pushing away and then pulling back in, and more. I am astounded. We are a talented, smart, strong group of women, I wonder, how did we get in these toxic situations and talk ourselves into staying in them, even when our instincts were screaming at us to get out? As I listen, it occurs to me that in each case, the worst relationship was different than all the others – there was something off about her that was shadier than just being a person who makes mistakes and who has some issues. In each of our worst relationships we were dating the rare, but destructive, bad apple. After 20 years of dating, I have come to understand women as falling into 3 buckets.
1) The amazing and compatible with me woman
2) The amazing but not compatible with me woman
3) The bad apple
The bad apple is a woman from a very small pool of women that we are likely to encounter in our dating lives only once. We may date her for a short period of time, but much damage is done with the bad apple, and it is likely our worst relationship ever. From my perspective, the bad apple isn’t necessarily a bad person, but rather a troubled person who acts like a jerk much of the time. The bad apple is different than the incompatible woman. It’s more than someone who makes mistakes. We’re all imperfect. The bad apple has more deeply rooted issues that go beyond what most people have, character issues that will make the apple rot. And if you spend enough time with one, you’ll feel yourself getting sucked into a toxic cycle of drama. The bad apple shows a pattern of behavior that is bizarre, inappropriate, and leaves you wondering if you’re crazy.
How to spot a bad apple
We all have our own special brand of what makes a bad apple to us. But there are some general behaviors that I have found are consistent among all bad apples to watch out for.
The bad apple:
- idealizes you or is overly seducing in the beginning
- believes people are all bad or all good
- doesn’t take any responsibility for things
- exhibits punishing behavior when you do something she disagrees with
- behaves impulsively and may have addiction issues
- experiences extreme mood swings – Jekyll and Hyde
- blaming, fails to say I’m sorry
- pushes you away and pulls you back in
- expresses little emotion during conflict, particularly when you’re upset
Since everyone exhibits some of the above behaviors from time to time, the biggest thing to watch for is a pattern of these behaviors over a period of time. We all have bad days, go through transitions, and make poor choices. What differentiates a bad apple from a regular apple are those behaviors over a period of time that reveal a pattern – the pattern you’re seeing is the person’s character.
Can a bad apple be reformed?
I would wilt away from pessimism if I didn’t believe that it’s never too late to change. But here’s what I’ve learned about dating: a woman can be a bad apple despite having many good qualities. And it’s not up to me to help her. Her healing or recovery from being a general asshole doesn’t have to happen on my watch. I had to create the boundary in my head that says, “You may not be a bad person, but you’re a bad apple for me so you go be you, but I’m out.”
From my perspective, most women are regular apples. What I learned from dating a bad apple is that the toxic rot and drama only spreads and brings out the worst in me over time. Part of committing to taking excellent care of myself is spotting the signs earlier and walking away so that I can open the door for the right one.
I believe we are all better when we can learn from each other. If you’d like to share, post a comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you! Want more dating musings? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.
Kim Baker is an educator, freelance writer, and blogger whose writing explores lesbian dating in the digital age. Drawing on 20 years of dating, she redefines dating through the lens of mindfulness and connection. Kim is writing a dating book that offers a healthy approach to dating, beginning with self-care. Follow Kim on Twitter: @sdwriter girl, or visit her website: www.sdwritergirl.com.