Recently, I was walking through campus, and I overheard two young women discussing a third friend, and how that friend wanted to take a small vacation with some of her friends. They went on to say that the boyfriend of this friend said he didn’t trust her and refused to let her go unless he could come too. I wanted to whirl around and say, “TELL YOUR FRIEND TO GET OUT NOW!” but it seemed like an odd thing to just jump into somebody’s conversation like that uninvited.
Either way, that relationship is clearly an abusive one.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, religion or any other category, are in abusive relationships, whether they know it or not. As such, it is good to know the signs of abuse. I’ve asked many of my friends and read numerous articles on the topic, and there are lots and lots of good suggestions for red flags, and many more incredibly stupid and asinine suggestions (I’m looking at you, askmen.com). Anyway, after this research, I’ve made my humble list of things to be on the lookout for.
1. They talk down to you and people close to you. This is huge. It simply shows an utter lack of respect, and it is an automatic dumping offense.
2. They play the blame game. If nothing is their fault, and especially if everything is your fault, get out immediately. This also applies to arguments. If they say that every disagreement you have is your fault, the odds are good that they are the actual problem.
3. They try to isolate you. I’ve seen this one first hand, and it is the classic sign of an abuser. I knew a woman whose boyfriend refused to let her go out and refused to let people visit her without his express permission. After they (unfortunately) got married, he immediately took a job in another state where he knew people, leaving her unemployed and at least a thousand miles away from anybody she knew.
4. They are physically rough or have anger problems. This one seems kind of obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. If your partner grabs, shoves or pushes you, that’s a clear sign that you need to leave them in the dust. Likewise, if they are always angry at somebody or something, that’s a bad sign, and violence may be a real danger.
5. They scream/yell/freak out. The Huffington Post said this one best: “Unless there is a fire or a real reason to scream, yell, send 100 rapid-fire texts and run around like Charlie Sheen at a Hollywood Hills after-party, take freak outs as frustrating proof that the person in front of you can’t control their emotions. Whether this is caused by anxiety, immaturity and/or a tendency to bully, it’s not something you need to deal with.”
6. They lie to you on a regular basis, or about important issues. This one’s pretty simple, as it shows that they are untrustworthy, and who the hell wants to date somebody who lies to you?
7. They are alcoholics or drug abusers. This one can often be rough. I’ve actually dated somebody who was an alcoholic and a drug abuser. Drug and alcohol abuse are indicative of emotional problems and a desire to self-medicate. While it can be easy to imagine yourself riding up on your white stallion to save them, I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t, and that it’s best to leave any rescuing to professionals. While it is not always the case, drug/alcohol abusers often take out whatever anger or problems they have on their partner, in addition to self-medicating with their poison of choice.
8. They become violent with any sort of regularity. If your partner gets into brawls a lot, has been arrested repeatedly or destroys property, it’s pretty obvious that they still think the world is a place where violence is the best solution to everything. It is worth noting that veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are a special case who deserve attention that I don’t have room for in this piece.
9. Your friends all dislike them, and/or they don’t make any effort to get along with your family. These indicate a lack of respect for you and the people you hold dear. If your partner doesn’t care enough to try to get along with people close to you, they clearly don’t think you are worth the effort either.
Similarly, if most or all of your friends dislike your significant other, LISTEN TO THEM. Another example where I know this first hand. My first girlfriend, the one who had the drug and alcohol problems that I thought I could save her from? Yeah, all but one of my friends told me that she was bad news and I needed to leave her. And wouldn’t you know, she ended up cheating with the one friend who didn’t tell me she was bad news. Which brings me to my next point.
10. They cheat on you. I know that many people believe in excusing partners for cheating, or want to try to just move on. I am not one of those people. Cheating shows a total lack of respect from the cheater. Furthermore, it is a complete violation of trust. I really cannot comprehend how people can trust anything cheaters say after the fact. Additionally, lots of abusers cheat, so I’m of the opinion that if they can’t be loyal, they aren’t worth your precious time, trust and love. If you do want to forgive a cheater? Well, you are either a kinder or more naive person than me.
Alas, this is something of a grim topic, so I am lacking in pithy comments to make. Just know that nobody deserves abuse, and that there are ways out. The easiest way to prevent abuse is to get out early, so if you see these signs in your relationship or a friend’s, strongly consider ending it. For a fuller list of red flags and professional help resources, go to theredflagcampaign.org.