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By February 28, 2012 9 Comments Read More →

Saying “Yes” Without Reading The Small Print

This week my post is inspired by a throw-away comment from my son. We were sitting in the kitchen, eating vegetable soup together while he downloaded a new app for my iPhone that will allow us to stay in contact more easily when I’m in the UK. As is often the case, the carrier has updated their terms and conditions so, before I could complete the download, I had to agree the changes.

“You don’t really want to read the 55 pages of new terms and conditions do you Mum?” asked Dylan, just checking the seemingly obvious before checking the “I agree” box. I laughed and shook my head – of course I didn’t!  And that’s when he said “Did you know that’s the biggest lie that people tell – not just once, but time and time again?”

“What is?” I replied, not quite getting where he was coming from “What’s the biggest lie?”

“Well, it’s like this” he continued with a smile on his face “We tick boxes saying that we’ve read and understood any number of terms and conditions, when in actual fact we’ve probably not even read a single word – let alone the countless pages of legal jargon that we’re expected to confirm that we’ve absorbed and understood!”

Hmmm… OK, I’d never thought about it that way. And it got me thinking further. I couldn’t help but make the link between my son’s observation and my own experiences in dealing with people where I ticked the mental “I agree” box without going through the terms and conditions. How often I’ve said OK because I’ve believed that what is being offered to me is…. well, exactly what is being offered! How often also, that at some point or other I have been disappointed to discover that actually, what appeared to be one thing was in fact something entirely different.

Relationship Agreements?

Imagine, then, that we could actually be offered a full set of legal agreement papers right at the beginning of any new connection. I’m not talking about a pre-nuptial agreements here, because that deals with how things are to be sorted out in the unexpected event of a split. No, I’m talking here about the possibility of having a legal description, associated risks, and possible side effects when entering in to a relationship with the person in front of you. I wonder what might be detailed? Would it be like a CV (another of the worlds’ biggest lies according to one of my favourite quotes “the closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form”) where there would be a list of experiences together with references – both good and bad? Would the document include personal feedback or a scoring system from people who have already been involved with that person – and if they’re no longer a part of their life, provide the details of what happened? Might it be a list of beliefs, values and priorities? A set of requirements expected of the other person, or perhaps a vivid account of their hopes and dreams?

Of course, this is all just creative musings on my part. But then again, I wonder though… if there really was an imaginary set of terms and conditions that was offered to us each time we struck up a new relationship (friendship, business, romantic or anything else) – would we really take the time to go through the small print? Would we…? Or would we just skip through to the end and tick the “I agree” box so that we could just get on with it? Well, I know that just a few years ago I wouldn’t even have taken a second glance. These days, though, knowing what I now know through my own experience, I am tempted to believe that I would go through every last detail with a toothpick!

Personal Terms And Conditions

It made me giggle, imagining how my own personal terms and conditions might have developed over the years. How, before I learned about predatory people I might happily have signed on any agreement without question “Yes, I’d like to get to know you, I believe what you’ve shown me, and I’ll commit to this relationship wholeheartedly – in fact I’m looking forward to it!” And, being the kind of person I was – well, actually, the kind of person I still am in many ways – having made the commitment I would never even have thought about reneging on my promise!

These days, while I may well be willing to sign, I would certainly include a caveat that might read something like this: “Yes, ok, I like what I am seeing and hearing and, assuming things continue along these lines then I’ll be very happy to share my time and experiences with you. And… be assured…. should at any point any of this change, or I discover that what you’ve said is untrue, or you have misrepresented yourself in any way, then all previous agreements between us are absolutely null and void with immediate effect”

So these days, yes, absolutely I will keep my side of the bargain. One hundred percent. The difference is, though, now my answer is never just “yes”…. It’s always “yes… and…” because I will never again allow myself to be trapped in a situation that is damaging to my health and well-being. Never again will I remain so focused on my commitment “for better or worse” that I allow the worse to take over while better becomes a distant memory! Never again will I allow myself to be swayed by silver-tongued reasoning that excuses a behavior or situation that I know deep within is a bad thing.

I know for a fact that I went in to the relationship with my ex as an open and trusting spirit, fully prepared to give myself to what I believed was the promise of a fulfilling, loving, and life-long relationship between two people who loved each other and chose to spend their lives together. I hadn’t recognized that within his terms and conditions, any mention of the word ‘spend’ literally meant spending on himself…. Love, trust and material goods were going out (from me) and coming back in (to him). He’d ‘pay’ me with his usual smiles, cuddles, displays of devotion, and constant assurances that our life together was perfect. But in reality he was stripping bare every asset he could find and systematically destroying any spiritual, emotional or financial security. It was me who was left spent. Dried up, worn out, and on my knees.

I remember right at the beginning that there were enough subtle warning signs – the ‘small print’ if you like. His hand-wringing guilt when he admitted that he’d wracked up ‘a few debts’ before we met. His tears when explaining his unusually long string of failed past relationships – and the numerous troubled and unbalanced partners he’d encountered along the way. His sadness at having been denied access to his two small children. Perhaps the most telling, though, was when a couple of close friends advised me to check out his version of events – one even went so far as to tell me she thought he was either an angel or a devil, she wasn’t sure which. But I was hooked by then and I brushed all of these “red-flags” aside, dismissing their concerns as unnecessary over-protection.

So yes, I reckon it could be a good idea to have a set of legal terms and conditions that should be read though, understood and accepted before engaging in any new kind of connection – on whatever level. That way, even if things turned sour, at least the original agreement would be there in black and white. And if any of the points had been violated by the other person well, we could walk away with our head held high knowing that we’d done our best. That we’d kept to our agreement, and that the ‘bad stuff’ was not our fault. Instead of which (as so many of us have experienced) we have been left feeling high and dry; consumed with overwhelming emotions of shame and guilt, together with endless “what if” questions stabbing and pecking away at our very soul.

I don’t know whether having a terms and conditions ‘blueprint’ attached to everyone would actually make a difference. I do know I’ve found it quite interesting to consider the possibility! I also know that next time I’m invited to tick the box, sign on the dotted line, or agree to a load of complicated legalese, I will most certainly remember my son’s words and have a wry smile on my face while I at least take a good look at the headlines…. Well, it’s a start isn’t it?



9 Comments on "Saying “Yes” Without Reading The Small Print"

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  1. Yes – we all did it – jumped into the involvements with the sociopaths, assuming that other people were just like us, and we were honorable, to they must be honorable. We learned the hard way.

    The end of your post describes another experience most of us had – we saw the warning signs, were even warned by other people, but ignored the warnings. Why? Because we didn’t know what they meant.

    This is exactly the situation that I address in my new book. I hope many, many people read the book and commit the warning signs to memory. Then, if they see them – “Oh, I managed to acquire a few debts,” “yes, my ex was crazy, in fact all my exes were crazy” – they’ll know exactly what they are – big red flags urging caution.



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  2. Ox Drover says:

    Yep Mel, I agree that “we all did it” and maybe we should have a “pre relationship” signing of the terms and conditions after all! I know now that Donna’s list of 10 red flags is about what my list of terms and conditions are and the first RED FLAG I see waving is the last one I see becasue I don’t stick around to see #2.



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  3. tobehappy says:

    I think that the most important thing to stress when meeting people, is to LISTEN TO YOUR GUT FEELING.

    Everyone I know, who ended up with a con artist, liar, sociopath…said that they “knew” something wasn’t right.

    My bff said that she had this funny feeling that she shouldn’t be signing the marriage license the day that she did! A little voice inside was telling herself..”I don’t want to marry this man”.
    She did it anyway…and now, 17 yrs later…its a mess!

    When I met my xhusb…I told a coworker …(and I recall this as if it were yesterday)..”I don’t know what it is about him…but I think I’m either going to end up living in a castle..or a shack!”

    My divorce attorney said to me at the end of terrible divorce…
    “There’s something about that man that I cannot pinpoint..but if I were you, I would move as far away from him as possible and don’t look back or expect anything from him.” She was so right. And I did.

    A clinical psychologist told me that when you meet someone…bring them around your family/friends after a few dates. If TWO people do NOT like the SAME two things about this person….get rid of him.

    So, GUT FEELINGS are the best indicator. Don’t doubt yourself. If “something” doesn’t feel right…it ISN”T!



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  4. Louise says:

    tobehappy:

    GREAT post! Love to you!



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  5. skylar says:

    Mel, you have a sharp kid!
    The spaths pressure us to make decisions quickly. I was 17 when he said, “I want to be a one-woman man.” There was no fine print, it was just lies, lies, lies.

    He even went as far as to dressing up in a cheap suit one day and telling me he had gone to see his attorney about handling his debts! ROTFLMAO!! I can’t help laughing because it was over and above any thing he needed to do. At 17, I didn’t actually care how he handled his money, that was beyond the scope of my thinking. I had my own job and money, which is all I needed to know. As it turned out, that’s all HE needed to know also!

    When I think about those days, I see how much work he put into the facade he presented me and it blows me away. I WAS ONLY 17!!! It was completely unnecessary. So I’ve concluded that he just enjoyed the con sooooo much that for him, it was a joy to create his image.

    With someone like that, we really are at a disadvantage because EVERYTHING, I MEAN EVERYTHING is a lie. Every word, every expression, every action was a prop to create an illusion. It’s incomprehensible that someone could have that kind of energy outside of a movie production!

    When he told me he was a one-woman man, well the truth was he would screw anything or anyone, man, woman or child.



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  6. Shelley says:

    Mel,

    Thank you for such an awesome post. It has greatly helped me clarify things I’ve been currently thinking on…red flags, instinct…new contacts/friendships etc.

    The only thing I can think to add…is time. Give it some time…things will show themselves…but it might take days, weeks..months…so go slow.

    My recent experience was a co=worker returning off maternity leave – I’d heard great things about her from some co-workers..and yes, the first while, it was very good working with her…….hmmm…and then things started showing up. So now…can’t flee, it’s my workplace…but boy, am I alert and careful.

    Ox – that’s where i want to be – one red flag – you’re out. I am getting there. I was sloppy b/c it is the workplace…and I’m kicking myself…because one red is one red – regardless of where it presents itself.

    On/off topic…the book I recently read “Dangerous Instincts”..kind of put down our ‘gut feelings’..and suggested applying logic instead…….I think we need both…b/c an unhealthy person – spath or not – may cause us to override our gut – for our own conditioning…or whatever is our personal thing…but standing back…detatching…seeing the red flags…and then asking our gut…perhaps more reliable.

    (The author’s gist was that “gut feelings” can be contaminated by any emotional distress, stress etc that we’re feeling)

    So to detach enough to re-ground ourselves without that contamination…….and then feel the gut…is what I’m proposing.

    I’m learning this.

    Shelley



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  7. Ox Drover says:

    Shelly,

    In the work place sometimes we have to “tolerate” them or even co-operate with them, but it is difficult to do so, and sometimes we have no choice other than do it or leave ourselves.

    I have left more than one job because of a psychopath, and I have seen them destroy large companies, drive them into bankruptcy and destroy them completely. I’ve also seen psychopaths who were very competent CEOs and successful in their jobs. SCARY, but some of them do succeed in business.

    Learning how to spot them though is helpful to you no matter where you are encountering them. So learn those red flags, and when you see one, pull back emotionally even if you are not able to pull back otherwise, and DO NOT TRUST THEM or be hoodwinked about them. They are dangerous.



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  8. skylar says:

    Shelley,
    to add confusion to the mix, there is the issue of semantics. Gut feelings might mean one thing to the author and a different thing to you or me. Any emotion toward someone you don’t know well, should be a gut feeling. Spaths know that we do respond to our guts so they use the love bomb to “anesthetize” us. It really Works!

    I agree with what you are proposing: intellect followed by the gut feeling. Between the two, we should be able to spot the spath IF WE ARE HONEST WITH OURSELVES ABOUT WHAT WE SEE.



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  9. anam cara says:

    Problems with logging on.
    I’ve been infected with “spathilitis” for most of my life.
    Symptoms…depression, palpitations, confusion…etc.
    So often mis-diagnosed! Particularly severe over last 18 mths. Best medicine LF…x



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