A man with his arms crossed looking irritated into the camera

Are You Dating a ‘Chronically Difficult’ Person?

by Jeannie Assimos - July 5, 2016

Everyone has bad days. Everyone goes through rough patches. You’ve been there yourself. Someone you care about is overwhelmed or stressed to the point of snippiness and name-calling, or worse, a complete meltdown.

It’s surprising and annoying, but you understand. You have compassion. You make an exception because you know that it’s temporary. Things will change. They’ll be alright. They fall into the “Momentarily Difficult” category.

But, then, there are the others: the “Chronically Difficult.” These are the people who suck you in and spit you out twice as fast. Their motto seems to be “Come closer. Go away!”

It could be an impossible-to-please parent. That family member who ruins every gathering could be one. Or a co-worker who makes you want to pull the covers over your head and miss a day’s pay.

What if it’s your partner? S/he started out so sweet, so interested, so interesting, and understanding. She did everything she could to please you. He showed his thoughtfulness in all the little ways that count. You really felt seen, heard, known, appreciated, and accepted. It was a match made in heaven and you were on Cloud Nine.

Except, there were these dark clouds, fleeting at first, and then they slowly moved in to stay. Your partner made promises and then forgot. At first, you got an apology. After a while, it disintegrated into, “You should never has asked me to do that for you. It’s your fault.”

In the beginning, you wanted so much to believe the excuses — to have them make sense — that you wrote it off as just being a bad day. Soon, it became apparent that it was going to be another bad year!


•Nothing you do pleases them.
•You cannot do enough for them.
•They change their minds on a dime.
•They constantly blame you for everything.
•According to them, nothing is ever their fault.
•They always keep you uncertain, never sure of anything.
•They are quick to tell you that everything they think, feel, or do is justified.

Erosion begins. They will keep it up until you are worn down and worn out … and, it never ends.

At first, you’re hopeful. You think that s/he just needs more love, understanding, compassion, or patience. You knock yourself out to please them. You do everything to sidestep possible eruptions and keep the peace. You do the opposite. Soon, you’ve turned yourself into a pretzel, yet, nothing improves!

I coined the term, Hijackals™, for these chronically difficult people. They hijack relationships for their own purposes while scavenging them relentlessly for power, status, and control.  Hijackals constantly make you second-guess yourself and question your sanity. Their behavior is crazy-making!

My mom was a Hijackal. She would smile and laugh, convincing her customers that she looked forward to seeing them. Endlessly manipulative, she was at her best at work. Even there, her co-workers knew differently. They avoided her, knowing that she could turn on a dime.

At home, she was the worst. Nothing was ever good enough for her. Even as an adult, it continued. If I was focused on my children, she wanted to know why wasn’t I making my mark in the world through my career. When I was at the top of my game in my career, she questioned why I bothered having children if my career was so important. No question she could keep me second-guessing myself.

Hijackals can dismantle your self-esteem and shatter your world. They do it slowly, adding insult to injury over time. Just when they’ve stolen your heart and garnered your trust, they whip the rug out and send you tumbling.

You think it must be your fault that things aren’t working out well. If only you were kinder, more patient, and more understanding, things would be different.  Wrong! That’s where the downward spiral starts. You take the responsibility for their unreasonable behavior. This is where the real danger of shattering your world begins.

You MUST learn to recognize the truth of what is going on, for your own sanity.

When you actually see the patterns — really step out of the relationship and SEE them — you can change your approach. Dealing with chronically difficult people in healthy ways requires that you have boundaries and be strategic.

They tear you down, wear you out, and somehow make you feel like the most confused, unreliable, thoughtless person on the planet. That’s what they want.

You are not responsible for making them happy, meeting their demands, or living up to their expectations.

If you think you may be caught in the Hijackal trap, escape. Don’t let a chronically difficult person destroy your sense of yourself and shatter your world.

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor, specializes in working with the partners, exes, adult children, and co-workers of chronically difficult people: Hijackals. If you have a Hijackal in your life, get help now. Visit Hijackals.com for resources.

More from Dr. Shaler at YourTango:

7 Ways to Spot a Hijackal

The Truth: Why a Good Guy Turns Bad


Original article posted at YourTango