Many women in abusive relationships start their relationships on pink clouds. They find themselves in a relationship where they feel comfortable talking about anything and letting their guard down. The relationship goes from casually dating to boyfriend/girlfriend status in no time. Then within months abnormal things start to happen: an outburst, a demand, or a comment.
My life with my abuser started off fast. Looking back I can clearly see his need for control. Things I took as “adorable” in the beginning turned out to be my biggest nightmare.
You have the power to prevent becoming a victim of partner abuse! You have the potential to identify an abuser on your first few dates and walk away with your self-confidence intact. You can do this by learning to read some of the red flags an abuser will raise at an early stage while you are just starting to date. It could save your life and sanity!
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does he care and appreciate that you are a person with your own mind?
This should be a given. He should care about who you are! Things that indicate he actually may not care are things that may seem cute in the beginning. He may order your food and/or hint of what you should wear. No matter how cute it seems at first it could be a strong indicator that he wants things his way in all situations. Test it: Don’t wear what he tells you, wear something you wanted to wear and tell him exactly that if he comments on it. When he orders your food tell him that you appreciate the gesture but you’d rather order for yourself. What he says in response to those things at first may not represent who he really is, because that would give him away too soon. He may say: “it’s nice” or “go ahead.” What you should watch for is his mode for the rest of the date. If he is pouting you will know why. You didn’t listen to his demand. Now he is willing to make life sour for you like a toddler until you give him what he wants.
- When he talks about himself what does he select to share with you?
When you meet someone new you have opportunities to present your best self. You can select what you tell now and what you hold to be shared later. Pay attention to what he tells you, these are things he thinks will impress you. Is he proud of being someone that gets into bar fights, or who only dates women for their looks? Or maybe he always gets the short end of the stick even though he is such a good person? The hard part here is that an abuser can paint the perfect picture. He can make himself appear a hero or a victim. Pay attention to and beware of either extreme.
- Can he make fun of himself?
An abuser is often very self-centered. He likes control and needs everyone around him to worship him. He cannot admit anything he did wrong, mostly because he never believes he is capable of doing anything wrong. Everything that does go wrong is someone else’s fault. He will even go an extra mile to prove it to you.
- How does he treat women in general?
Most people treat others with about the same amount of respect. We are kind to our waitress; we say please and thank you. The waitress test is a good one. Does he treat your waitress with respect? Or can he spend the whole date talking about how horrible she is? How she does not deserve to get any tip and why? Also pay attention to how he speaks about his exes. Were they horrible women despite him being the most lovable man there is? Does he talk about his sisters, mom, grandmothers with love? Listen, listen, listen, because how he treats and talks about other women is how he will treat and talk about you in a short while.
- Does he say you are the one?
Most people, even though they may feel they have met “the one,” still tend to keep their guard up for a bit. They don’t commit too fast. Has he listed all the women he has dated, but no one was good enough for him? No one was as understanding as you, no one was as pretty as you, no one was as loving as you, no one was as perfect as you, etc.? The list keeps going. An abuser likes to suck you in early so they can start to control you. The “you are the one and I love you” is a fairly sure bet to get you to fall. Soon, the line “but I do it because I love you so much” will be used when he treats you badly.
- Does he have a hard time trusting women?
We all have trust issues from time to time, but we do not admit them right away. We go the distance and give the time needed in a new relationship to naturally allow trust to grow and barriers to fade. By contrast, an abuser may tell you up front that he has a hard time trusting women. That makes you want to prove that you are different from all those other women in his life. Believe me, it is a trap! You instantly become his to use.
- What do other people tell you about him?
Not everyone will like a new movie that is out, but the more positive reviews it gets the more you might trust that you will like it too. Likewise, if everyone you meet tells you that he is a wonderful man then he actually might be. But if some of them hint that there is something off with him, pay attention. Even if the “review” is from an old girlfriend – she might have some good information for you – I would advise to listen to her. The way he treated her is likely how he will treat you.
- Do you feel there are a different set of rules for you and him?
In a relationship there should be a mutual understanding of right and wrong. If it is wrong it is wrong no matter who does it. Do you find yourself running late one time and he gets upset, while he can be late and it is okay? Or is it okay for him to go out with his friends, but not for you to spend time with yours? Does he feel your priority should be him while his own priority is also himself? Is there fairness and integrity in your relationship?
Every abuser is a little different than the next, so red flags may look a bit different for each. Pay attention to words and actions. The most important red flag of them all, however, is your own intuition. We all have a soul that tells us when something is not right. We get that gut feeling. If that happens when you are with him or think of him – listen to it. You don’t have to understand why the feeling is there; just accept that it is there. Don’t ignore it. It is telling you something valuable that you can’t pick up if you are trapped in wishful thinking that you have found “the one.”
Love to you on Valentine’s Day and every other day,