October is the month of domestic violence awareness. October also marks a time of the year to acknowledge things that being about fear; with the celebration of Halloween. In honor of both of these observances, Domestic violence is an essential topic of discussion for all types of relationships. People have many opinions and myths about how some relationships becoming violent or abusive.
According to the national domestic violence hotline website “Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”
Also according to the national domestic violence hotline “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.”
People who find themselves in the midst of abusive relationships feel alone and are often fearful about sharing their experiences with close friends and families, for fear of being judged. The goal of abusive partners is to isolate the victim from people they are close to and who could provide the victim with the encouragement and support they need, to possibly leave such a relationship.
You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “What does any of this have to do with stepfamilies?” Stepfamilies just like all other families have the potential to become abusive and engage in domestic violence. In honor of October being domestic violence awareness month it is imperative to discuss the signs in the beginning stages of dating and how to protect yourself or a loved one from the destructiveness of domestic violence.
Some people believe that abusive relationships are easy to spot and easy to steer clear of in the beginning stages of dating and getting to know one another. Many people have the mistaken notion that women and men who find themselves being abused by a partner were given large blaring signs but just chose to ignore them. There is nothing simple about Intimate partner violence. Although important, many people are taught about the red flags that point to a controlling partner.
Domestic abuse is a very complex pattern of interactions that occur throughout a relationship. It happens slowly and gradually, interaction by interaction. Many people don’t consider the fact that, quite often the signs of a potentially abusive relationship often have subtle signs of danger.
If you are unaware of which, signs and behaviors signify a potential relationship there are some to consider.
6 red flags that signal a potentially abusive relationship
#1 Beware of someone selling you a fairytale
In the beginning stages of a relationship, it’s natural to put our best foot forward. We all want to be liked and eventually loved. Ask yourself if the person I’m dating is “too good to be true.” If you feel like you’re dating someone who always says and does all the right things listen to your intuition. Your intuition is there to protect you. All healthy people have a full range of emotions, including anger and the capacity to disappoint others. If your partner seems to be like someone from a book or a movie instead of like a “real person.” This is important because people who later become abusive need their victims to fall hard for them in the beginning by selling a fairytale relationship. It’s easier for an abusive partner to control someone who is head over hills in love with them. Meeting a great person is not necessarily a sign that the relationship could become abusive but look for this quality in conjunction with potential red flags.
#2 Fast commitment
The next sign that a relationship might become abusive later on is the fact that the person wants you to commit to them very quickly. They hold the expectation that you are to trust them without first really getting to know them. They want to place a label very quickly on the time the two of you spend together; such as making you their boyfriend or girlfriend quickly and trying to rush a relationship. Again this aspect alone does not signify the beginning of a potentially abusive relationship. This aspect in addition to other signs could signify an abusive relationship. You have to ask yourself “how does this person know that I am trustworthy?” “How do I know if they are trustworthy and why do they need to move so fast, what could they be hiding?”
In the beginning, it might seem cute that your new significant other wants you all to themselves but that behavior needs some serious examination. It’s nice to be wanted and to know that your partner really cares for you and wants you around, but try to slow down and think about the motive for this person always needing you all to themselves, is it because this is a new relationship and emotions are running high? Or do they want you close because they want to keep an eye on you, due to trust issues? Another reason someone might want you all to themselves is to isolate you from your friends and family. When you’re in an abusive relationship, the other person needs to change your perspective on how they are treating you. The more isolated you are, the more control the person has. As people, we look to others to validate our experiences if we don’t have people like friends and family to talk with about our experiences we might begin to normalize abusive behaviors and view them as normal experiences.
#4 Controlling behaviors
This behavior ties into possessiveness but possessiveness is about isolation where controlling behaviors are about trying to control your actions. Controlling actions could include making suggestions or demands about who you “should” hang out with, what you “should” watch on TV or read, and what you “should” be eating and wearing. Controlling behaviors can be any number of concerns that your partner brings up related to how you “should be” These behaviors are often masked as being concerned for you and your wellbeing. The difference between expressing genuine concern vs. controlling behaviors is that with genuine concern the other person is not tied to your choices. A person who is trying to control your behavior is tied to your choice, if you don’t want to take their suggestions or demands, they may become very upset and push the issue until you do things their way. Make no mistake this is not an act of concern, this is control.
#5 Bursts of niceness
We can all agree that no one is perfect and that we all have our good and bad days. With an abusive partner they are usually mean, rude, and will put you down behind closed doors on a regular basis, but on occasion or in public they might be sweet as pie. Partners within a relationship, who are intermittently nice, but angry the majority of the time can become abusive. Being put down on a consistent basis is not a part of a healthy relationship. When you’re in a relationship with someone who nice only sometimes, that is an issue that needs to be addressed. Your partner should be a soft place to land. The world has its share of harsh, mean comments for us. We don’t need our partners using words to tear us down. Another thing to be aware of is a person who belittles people they perceive to be beneath them, such as waiters, and other helpful staff. If your partner struggles to be kind to you, children, and strangers that may be a red flag.
It’s natural for us as people to search for reasons when something bad it happens. Many of us look for reasons, outside of ourselves to determine why we are experiencing difficulties. On the other hand, if everything that goes wrong in your relationship gets blamed on you, that’s a big red flag. If your partner is late for work, it’s your fault, or if they can’t remember where they put their keys, it’s your fault. This is a sign that your partner does not take responsibility for their actions and for their part in your relationship. In a healthy relationship, it’s important for each person to take responsibility for their faults and shortcomings. This is not always possible, because people are imperfect but everything should not be your fault all the time.
If you are dating a person or in a relationship with someone who has many of these behaviors you may be in an abusive relationship. If your partner displays aggressive actions such as physical assault, making threats or jokes about harming you, please reach out for help. Couples therapy is not recommended when there is physical or emotional abuse. If you think therapy is right for you, it is encouraged that you attend individual therapy without your partner for your safety and wellbeing.
The national domestic violence hotline is a great resource to reach out for help and someone to talk you and provide support if you are experiencing domestic violence. The national domestic violence hotline offers detailed information about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, statistics about domestic violence, referrals to domestic violence shelters and assistance creating a safety plan. You can read more about safety plans here on their website https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/ According to The national domestic violence hotline leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim and children, so a plan is imperative. Help is available you don’t have to continue to suffer in an abusive relationship. You are not alone.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, please consider reaching out to the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or their website at https://www.thehotline.org/