You experienced an abusive relationship before, and your favorite personal goal is to avoid abuse entirely in every relationship from now on. Unfortunately, your experience tells you that you could be in love before you find out that your new mate is abusive!
You’re smart enough to know that abusive people keep their true face carefully concealed until they know you’re hooked. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it could happen again.
It could happen to you again.
The risk of heartache and fear of abuse is enough to keep some people from seeking romance at all. Yet most healthy people desire someone special with whom to share life’s ups and downs. You want to experience love again. You want to trust someone implicitly. You want to live fully, passionately, inter-dependently, and joyfully. You want someone with you for the ride.
So let’s rewrite our goal from “I will avoid abuse entirely in every relationship” to
“I will carefully monitor my feelings and note my potential lover’s reactions to small commitments before promising myself to larger ones. In this way, I can see signs of abuse early.”
Although this goal does not prevent all abuse, it certainly limits the strength of it and how many negative effects of abuse you will experience.
What Are Small Commitments?
Let’s tick off big commitments first: marriage, moving in together, sharing bills or loaning money, and becoming so familiar to your partner’s children that they start asking if you’re their new mom are big commitments.
Small commitments are things like:
- You choosing where to eat lunch, what movie to see or what to do on a date (how does he react to your choice when and after you make it?)
- Choosing who drives, pays, cooks, … (is he a stickler for traditional roles?)
- Keeping promises to call or visit as expected and showing respect for you by calling if he can’t make it on time (emergencies excepted, of course).
You get the picture. Small commitments are things that we may overlook if our hearts are getting ahead of our brain.
YOU are the first person to pay attention to in any new relationship. In your abusive relationship you “learned” that your feelings and ideas didn’t count. In any new relationship, make sure that your thoughts and emotions are respectfully understood (especially if he doesn’t agree with them).
Take care of yourself first.
Avoid Abuse By Watching THEM For These Red Flags
- They want to hurry you into big commitments. Despite popular media, sex is a big commitment for many people today. Know what your “big commitments” are before venturing out to meet someone new.
- They are racist or sexist. Anyone who can look at you and think you’re like “all women” or divides people by skin color has the capability to look at you as an object.
- They think that people in general are stupid. Except for him. And you (at first).
- They abuse or brag about hurting animals. Hunters do not necessarily “hurt” animals and probably wish for a swift kill, not a torturous one.
- Their sense of humor is mostly sarcastic or mean.
- They are rude to waiters, taxi drivers, plumbers, or anyone they consider beneath them. Considering anyone “beneath them” is a very bad sign.
- They insist on entering your home, car, or place of business uninvited. Meeting on the front porch is perfectly fine until you feel comfortable with them seeing your pictures, belongings, and personal spaces.
- They insist their schedule is more important than yours. If he’s late, it was because of something important. If you’re late, you were doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
- They become obsessive about your time. He should not blow up your phone, show up at your home or a friend’s home uninvited, or insist you reply to his every text the minute you receive it.
- They say mean things about your family and friends and/or insinuate that you would be better off without the people you love.
- They are jealous when you spend time by yourself or others.
- They do not invite you over – ever – or show other secretive behaviors that make you wonder if there’s someone else in their life.
- They make sure you know their sob story. Sharing intimate details of our joys and pain is natural, but using that story to make you feel guilty for something is unnatural.
- They blame their exes for every past relationship’s troubles. How they talk about them tells you what he will say about you.
- Compares you to his exes, mother, sister, favorite aunt, etc. He shouldn’t be comparing you to anyone.
- They exhibit “shows of power” in front of you. Shows of power include bar fights, verbal cut-downs of strangers and friends, humiliating others, etc. These shows bother you, and they should, because he’s using them to show what he could do to you.
- They accuse you of cheating or flirting in irresponsible, demanding, or angry manner. It’s okay to be hurt, but it’s not okay to abuse you for imagined offenses.
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How do you avoid abuse? What are your red flags? What are your relationship goals? Please tell me what you think below.