Abusive relationships seldom start out that way.
You wouldn’t allow a perfect stranger to be rude to you or to hit you. It’s when that stranger becomes your boyfriend or husband or partner* that he has the power to hurt you. But by then, you’ve invested in the relationship and sometimes you’re too involved to think clearly. It helps to know the warning signs so you can stop abuse before it starts.
Here are some things to look for:
1) Charm. Of course every suitor tries to charm, including abusers. They bring flowers. Buy chocolate. Pour on the romance. So how do you tell the difference between a really great guy who’s trying to woo you and a dangerous creep? Listen to your instincts. Try to remain objective while you’re the object of such attention. Does it feel like he’s using his charm to control you, to get you to feel like your world revolves around him? Do you think he has an ulterior motive when he showers you with attention? Does the situation feel too good to be true? If it does, then maybe it is.
2) Speed. He moves a little faster in the relationship than you’re comfortable with, and that keeps you off balance. He tells you he loves you, and he’s ardent in his expression, even though you feel it’s way too soon. He wants to have an exclusive relationship and you’ve just met. He wants to move in together before you’ve had a chance to think. He may even want to get married before you’ve really had a chance to get to know each other. Perhaps because he knows once you do know him you’ll want out of the relationship. Again, listen to your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with the speed with which things are progressing, you should put on the brakes.
3) Exclusivity. He wants you all to himself. And he makes you feel loved and wanted as a result. He questions your relationships with your male friends. And he makes you feel special because he’s a little bit jealous and isn’t that adorable? He complains about the time you spend with your family and friends. And isn’t it wonderful that he wants you to spend more time with him? He calls you and texts you. What are you doing? Where are you going? And it’s only because he loves you so much he wants to be near you, emotionally and physically. But soon, if he has his way, he will be the only one near you. He will want to cut you off from others so he can control you completely.
4) Contrariness. He showers you with affection, except when he doesn’t. He’s sweet and adoring in public. And in private he puts you down. Makes you feel guilty. Makes you feel bad about yourself. He’s on again, off again. So you recharge your efforts. Try to get back the guy who used to love you nonstop. You hang on to the relationship even when he’s verbally and emotionally abusive. Because you hope against hope that he’ll love you again. And he’ll come back, say he’s sorry, beg for forgiveness. All will be well again, until it isn’t. The good times become fewer and fewer. The bad times become more and more painful.
Even if physical abuse hasn’t happened yet at this stage in your relationship, chances are it will. And consider this: emotional abuse is already taking place. You deserve better. You deserve a truly loving relationship, and this is not it. Add up these warning signs and end this. So you can free yourself to find real love.
*Abusers can be women, too. We are using males as the example in this article.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.