I’m going to take a short break from my usual poetry to shed awareness on an issue near and dear – Domestic Violence. Holiday season is also Get Beat Up By Your Partner season. If you or someone who know has been a victim of violence call your local shelter or hotline. Or 911 if it is an emergency.
I’ve compiled the following list of Red Flags from days of internet research, pamphlets from local shelters and personal experience. Some of these are not in and of themselves deal breakers but should still set off the Pay Attention Here Bell. Some of these are serious and mean Run Like Hell. I’ve used the standard male abuser female victim language because that is most common however same sex partnerships can be abusive and it does happen that women hurt men as well. They are in no particular order and several of these overlap. My only claim to expertise here is as a victim of violence who has spent years becoming a survivor. When in doubt, talk to a counselor or trained professional. Some of these are even things I have done in relationships. Being not proud of this I am in a 12 Step program and put significant effort into working on myself. None of us are perfect, there is no shame in seeking help.
Red Flags and Signs of Abuse
1. All past partners were crazy. Or insane. Or bitches. You will be too when he’s done with you.
2. Expects you to read his mind and anticipate his desires. True, people who share a deep healthy bond can sometimes know what the other wants. But this takes time to develop and it is unreasonable to be expected to cater to his whims. A healthy partnership depends on both people being willing and able to ask for what they want.
3. Does not apologize. To err is human. So is apologizing. We all make mistakes and are flawed imperfect creatures.
4. Plays hot/cold. One day it’s romantic and steamy. The next it’s frigid and icy.
5. Withholds love, affection, sex. We all have times we just aren’t in the mood or want to be alone. But if you have to jump through hoops to ‘earn’ his attention don’t do it.
6. Always wants you to apologize. Do you have to say you’re sorry a dozen times and beg before he lets it go? Should you ever have to apologize for actions that weren’t yours or for how you feel? No.
7. Has addiction or alcoholism issues and has not addressed them. “To love an addict is to run out of tears.”
8. Objectifies you. Does he pressure you for naked pictures? Do you feel like a doll? Does he speak for you? Would he still want you if you were in an accident and covered with scars?
9. Puts people down. Everyone gets frustrated with difficult people and vents from time to time. But is it a habit? Does he spend a lot of time complaining about other people or discussing why they are less-than?
10. Has no history of long term relationships. This only applies to people old enough to have time to have had them. But if his past is riddled with break-ups and he hasn’t gotten therapy beware.
11. Wants perfect agreement. No two people will ever agree on everything.
12. Comes on strong and fast. Quickly escalates to lots of contact. Pulls out all the stops to impress you. Sweeps you off your feet and doesn’t give you time to think.
13. Analyzes your problems. It doesn’t matter if he is a psychiatrist.
14. Puts words in your mouth. Claims you said something you didn’t. Speaks for you in public. Reads meanings into every conversation.
15. Tells you how to feel. You have the right to determine for yourself how you feel.
16. Doesn’t respect boundaries. Rushes into the bedroom too fast. You feel violated. You say slow down and he speeds up.
17. Doesn’t stop when asked. If you need to get out of the car you have the right to expect him to pull over. If you don’t want to have sex you have the right to say stop and have that be respected. If you don’t want screamed at or hit you have the right to say stop. And the right to have that respected. The same goes for No.
18. Easily angered. Yells. Throws things. Punches walls. Are you afraid of him when he is mad? Do you find yourself willing to say or do anything to get him to calm down?
19. Rapid mood changes. Shifts quickly from kind to cruel, amorous to angry, caring to selfish.
20. Punishes mistakes. You forgot one item on a grocery list a page long and he isn’t speaking to you? Or maybe you’re just not perfect? It’s normal to be disappointed. It isn’t normal to rub your nose in it.
21. Acts superior to others. God created all human beings equal. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. But a man who acts or claims to be better than others is trouble.
22. Only wants to hang out (no real dates) and only plans at the last minute. Spontaneous and in the moment can be a lot of fun but shouldn’t be all there is. A little bit of planning shows care and thoughtfulness. Even on a tight budget good times are totally possible.
23. Confuses intimacy with orgasm. Wants to make you cum, ties his sense of worth to the ability to force you to get off. Tries to make you feel bad if you don’t make him cum or have just the right technique. Intimacy is much bigger than just getting off.
24. Keeps the relationship secret. Doesn’t want his family or friends to know about you.
25. Is sloppy, doesn’t take care of things. How a man takes care of his living space is likely how he will take care of a relationship. I don’t worry about a bit of clutter or a few dishes but are there years of dust and pet fur? How about the bathroom? A few spots or three dozen moldy towels?
26. Does not communicated feelings appropriately. Screams. Withdraws. Blames. Only says “I love you” in bed or after you’ve done something for him.
27. Does not take responsibility for himself, nothing is ever his fault. It was yours. Or his bosses. Or a coworker’s. Or the kids’. Or the choir director’s. Or the police officer’s. Or the cat’s. Or the dog’s. But never his.
28. Only wants you to come to his place or never wants you to see where he lives. He’s to lazy to come see you and wants you to do all the work. Or he’s hiding something. Even if he has roommates you should still get to see his digs.
29. Lies, shades the truth, exaggerates. Tells you he’ll be there and then isn’t.
30. Changes jobs frequently or doesn’t have one.
31. Behaves differently in public and behind closed doors. Is he all sweetness at church and rude at home? Holds doors at a restaurant and slams them at the car?
32. Crazymaking. You feel like you’ve lost your mind.
33. Is possessive or wants you to be possessive. Jealousy. Flirts to make you jealous.
34. Doesn’t communicate about sex. Won’t tell you what he wants. Clams up at the mere mention. Is overly embarrassed. Uses derogatory words for body parts.
35. Unpredictable. One day you kiss him and he loves it. Later he hates it. And gives you no clue which it will be.
36. Irresponsible. Responsible=response+able. No one ever responds perfectly to every situation but he should generally be able to respond appropriately and own his part in a situation. Having mountains of debt is a bad sign.
37. Reactive. Over reacts to small things. Everything is a deal breaker. Reacts rather than responds.
38. Immature. Doesn’t act his age. Childlike can be fun and in tune. Childish is trouble. Dancing and singing and being playful is fun. Throwing temper tantrums or being obstinate is misery.
39. Lack of trust. If he doesn’t trust anyone he doesn’t trust himself.
40. Wants unearned trust. Insists that you trust him with too much too fast. Asks repeatedly is you trust him.
41. Manipulative. You find yourself agreeing to things you don’t want or being coerced in anyway.
42. You frequently feel insecure. It could be that you have abandonment issues. He will probably claim this is the case. More likely it is because he wants you to feel insecure and jump through hoops to please him.
43. Unknown past. Dwelling on the past isn’t so great either but if he refuses to discuss it at all he’s hiding something. It’s like hiring someone with a big gap in their resume, don’t do it.
44. Hurtful “jokes.” It’s not funny to imply someone is stupid. It’s never funny to use a slur or derogatory word.
45. Shares intimate information inappropriately. Tells his aunt you once had a bad PAP result? Bad sign. Discusses your sex life with his drinking buddies? Also a bad sign. It is one thing to share general or critical health information with family who need to know. Another thing entirely to gossip about intimate details or share without permission. If it’s private it should stay private.
45. Refuses to discuss certain topics. Sex. Money. Issues with the kids. Somethings might need to be discussed gently but they still need discussed. On the same note if there are topics you dare not bring up out of fear stop and really think.
46. Disrespect. In any form. If he spits in the toilet, fine. If he spits on you, not fine.
47. Too focused on physical appearance. Looks fade. People age. Scars and burns happen. If the package is all that matters run.
48. Always want something. Only wants to see you when he wants sex. Only calls when he wants you to bring over dinner. Doesn’t call just to see how you are or to enjoy your company.
49. Separates you from friends or activities. Wants you to cancel an appointment for his convenience or regularly skip meetings. Tries to make you feel guilty for having a life outside him. Belittles your friends or puts down your hobbies.
50. All texting or chat based. In our modern, mobile age texting and chat can be great tools to stay in touch over distance. But they should not be all there is. Does he text furiously for 20 minutes and then drop you cold? A healthy relationship needs time together to grow.
51. Give you permission or makes you ask for it. You can go to bed when you are tired. You can eat when you are hungry. No one needs permission to take care of their basic needs.
52. Checks up on you. Checking in can be good, making sure someone got home safe shows care. Needing to know your every move is stalking.
53. Monitors you. Checks your odometer or receipts. Snoops through your phone or computer.
54. Keeps you from the phone, car, computer. Wants to know everything all the time.
55. Takes everything personally. You’re stressed about work, school, PTA and he blames you for making him feel guilty. Wait, what? Life happens. Usually it isn’t personal.
56. History of violence or stalking. This is a big run like hell sign. You will be next. I have heard stories of men who realized they had a problem and made changes in themselves and never did it again. But I have never seen it and don’t know anyone who has.
57. Uses physical force in any way. Blocks exits. Holds you down in bed. Throws things. Hits. Punches. Grabs. Slaps. Run like hell as soon as you can. Call the cops. Call a shelter or hotline. It’s called assault and it is illegal.
58. Makes threats. Threatens to end the relationship if he doesn’t get his way. Threatens to hurt you or someone or something you care about. Threatens suicide or any type of violence. Threatens blackmail or uses something against you.
59. Uses ultimatums. No ability to compromise or to accommodate.
60. Mean to service workers. Expects perfect service or won’t leave a tip. Berates the guy at the register. Is rude to a salesperson. Teases the hostess. Makes an sexual or suggestive comments to a server or clerk.
61. Mean to pets. Expects animals to behave perfectly. Is rough or unkind. Whips a puppy that had an accident. Over reacts to getting scratched after teasing a cat.
62. Mean to children. Expects mini-adults. Teases or is cruel. Uses punishment rather than discipline.
63. Has children he doesn’t see. Either he’s not allowed to see them because he has mistreated them or he doesn’t want to see them. He might blame their mother. It’s rare for a single mom to deprive him of visitation without reason. Every mother I know bends over backwards to encourage her kids to have a relationship with their dad. If she keeps the kids from him she has a reason.
64. Attention seeking. Wants to be the center of attention. Demands your full attention. Likes to preform and needs applause.
65. No close friends. It’s normal to have a few close friends. Even just one or two is plenty of close friends. But none at all? Bad sign.
66. Always have to be right or win. Politics on Facebook. An argument about the dishes. In a relationship either both win or both lose.
67. Vengeful. Wants to hurt people over perceived hurt or insult.
68. Needs constant validation. We can all do with a little building up, compliments, and appreciation. It’s nice to know we look nice, did a good job, are making use of a talent or skill. But it’s not normal to need to be reminded all the time.
69. Needs praise for regular stuff. Takes the trash out and wants praised for it. Picks up his dirty socks and pouts that he didn’t get an atta boy. Wipes his ass wants a sticker. Don’t move in with him.
70. Lack of empathy. Or misuse of empathy. Does not understand others emotions. Or does understand and uses that to manipulate them.
71. Self centered. This is different from taking care of himself. Self centered people tend to hate themselves. They maybe be so busy looking at their own trees they cannot see their forest.
72. Other centered. Is so focused outside himself he can’t take care of himself or understand how he relates to people.
73. Never compliments you. A compliment costs the giver nothing. It takes very little effort to find something nice to say.
74. Score keepers. Remember that one time you were sick and he picked up OJ? Are you still paying it off? Does he know exactly how many times who initiated sex?
75. Uses sex as reward/withholds as punishment. It is normal to need to have the basics taken care of before having much sex drive. Illness can be quite the turn off. But to use sex as currency is a dangerous game.
76. Doesn’t make effort. Little things can go a long way toward a healthy relationship. Effort doesn’t have to be huge and heroic. But if he can’t manage manners and doesn’t try don’t bother.
77. Can’t take feedback. Even simple things, a little slower please, set him off.
78. Disappears. Comes and goes with no warning. Drops a conversation randomly.
79. Compulsive behavior. Is 24 years old and can’t step on a crack? Sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, overeating. It’s an endless list. Some compulsions may be small and harmless. Some are giant elephants in the room.
80. Watches porn. I’ve watched porn. Every adult I know has seen at least a bit. But it encourages unhealthy expectations and objectification. There’s something sick in a man who would rather watch porn and masturbate than have a real relationship with a real woman.
81. Is too good to be true. Then he probably is. The mask will fall off sooner or later. And it probably covers something unpleasant.
82. Doesn’t want you to meet his ex. Chances are she’s a perfectly nice, sane girl.
83. Has any restraining orders against him. Run. Run like hell.
84. Doesn’t introduce you to people. You’re with a group and he leaves you to meet his friends or family on your own. He has a long conversation and can’t pause to introduce you.
85. Doesn’t include you in conversations. Rarely give you room to speak for yourself. Expects you to wait quietly while the grown ups talk.
86. Doesn’t give you a chance to talk. Has monologues. Might accuse you of interrupting after you’ve listened patiently for half an hour and want to excuse yourself to the bathroom.
87. Is intolerant. Of anyone for any reason. The only things that should not be tolerated are hate and violence.
88. Has poor hygiene. Doesn’t take care of the basics.
89. Is rude or has bad manners. Abruptly ends conversations. Doesn’t use please and thank you. The basics go a long ways.
90. Can’t take a compliment. Healthy people smile and say thank you.
91. Treats you like a queen. Sooner or later there will be a rebellion.
92. Treats you like a doormat.
93. Is forgetful. You do the forgiving, he does the forgiving. Will claim not to remember his mistakes but knows every one you’ve ever made. Says things like “it never happened.” Or “you’re making it up.”
Well, my short break appears to be the longest post yet. What have I missed? Are there any other red flags or warning signs I didn’t include?