Red Flags pop up when you are in a relationship with a potential abuser. A date may try to explain them away, however, be on the alert when things seem a bit off One may have joined an online dating site and now has a string of first and second dates. While people put their best foot forward and hide their darker side – it is still possible to catch a glimpse of who that person really is. One may feel it is love at first sight, however, if something does not quite seem right, put the brakes on. Trust your gut instinct. Your subconscious is screaming at you to back away when these signs of a potential abuser appear:
· Are they disrespectful to anyone? While no one agrees completely with another, people can agree to disagree in a respectful way. When a date treats others callously so early in a relationship, this is bound to get worse. This may include name-calling or derogatory labels. If women are called obscene terms, hit the road.
· Are they controlling? They want to plan your social life and dictate whom you may see. They may tell one how to dress or where they can go. They want their dating partner to get their permission to do various activities.
· Potential abusers excel at using sarcasm with little jabs at others. They may mock what you say. They make “jokes” at your expense and say you are “too sensitive” if you are hurt or object. They are critical and judgmental. There do put-downs that may begin in private and progress to belittling you in front of family and friends.
· They are possessive which may seem flattering at first. One can mistake this for affection when really it means you are their property. For example, a person may keep their arm permanently attached to you in a group setting. Instead of love, it can be marking their territory. They may call multiple times of day to check up on you.
· They are jealous of your relationships and may attempt to isolate you from others. In some cases, the person is jealous of their date’s children. They resent the time the parent spends with their kids and competes for attention. These potential abusers want to be the center of the universe and get upset when forced to share their date.
· They blame you for their bad mood or blame others for any misfortunes. They cannot handle feedback that points to any mistakes they have made.
· The biggest sign is that they have violent behavior that may not necessarily be directed at you. They start with a small action at first, such as throwing a book across the room in a rage. It progressively increases in intensity, such as hitting the couch near you or tossing your possession at something. It is only a matter of time before you become the target of physical abuse. It is so important to get out of this relationship immediately and not listen to any excuses. Leave after the first violent act and not wait until you become the punching bag.
This true case illustrates several points mentioned above. Teri dated a medical student from a fantastic family. John appeared to be loving and caring, yet a few things bothered her. He blamed others for his mistakes or said they were wrong when his discrepancies came to light. He belittled Teri in front of others and her mum begged her to leave him. She did not. Right before her trip abroad, Teri asked John to drive her to a store to get some cosmetics. He refused –saying he did not want her to look pretty for other men. Then he gave her a prominent hickey on her neck which was very visible.
When Teri returned, John put a fist through a door inside her flat. Shortly after that, he threw her shoe at the wall, which resulted in a hole. The violence scared her and she realized what would be happening next. Teri realized she had given John too many chances and promptly broke up with him. A few years later an acquaintance revealed that John married and got divorced the next year. She knew why.
It is easy to fall into the trap of listening to excuses and giving extra chances as Teri did. When any act of violence occurs – no matter how small – end the relationship.
Originally published in The Divorce Magazine