There are obvious red flags to avoid in a prospective lover, such as angry, controlling, possessive, jealous, or violent behavior. Unfortunately, most abusers are able to mask these tendencies in dating. By the time many people notice the obvious red flags, they’re already attached to an abuser, which makes it much harder for them to leave the relationship.
More useful than a list of obvious red flags are guidelines based on very early warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship, signs that are visible before an attachment bond is formed.
Very Early Warning Sign #1: A Blamer
Avoid anyone who blames his negative feelings and bad luck on someone else. Special care is necessary here, as blamers can be really seductive in dating. Their blame of others can make you look great by comparison:
“You’re so smart, sensitive, caring, and loving, not like that bitch I used to go out with.”
“Why couldn’t I have met you before that self-centered, greedy, woman I used to date?”
“You’re so calm and together, and she was so crazy and paranoid.”
Very Early Warning Sign #3: Entitlement
People with a sense of entitlement believe that they deserve special consideration and special treatment. They may cut in front of others waiting in line, smoke wherever they want, drive any way they want, say anything they like, and do pretty much anything they choose.
Very Early Warning Sign #5: Pettiness
If he makes a big deal out of nothing or focuses on one small, negative aspect of an issue, a relationship with him will be disastrous. This might show itself as being extremely particular about how his food is prepared in a restaurant or seeming impatient if someone drops something.
In a love relationship, his petty attitudes and behavior will make you feel reduced to some small mistake, as if nothing you have ever done right in your life matters. You will feel criticized and diminished for the smallest of infractions, real or imagined.
Very Early Warning Sign #8: Minor Jealousy
Minor jealousy does not come off like the obvious red flag of controlling and possessive behavior. It looks more like this: He’s slightly uncomfortable when you talk to or even look at another man. He might not say anything, but he looks uncomfortable.
Research shows that if a woman has been mistreated in the past, even in childhood, there’s a good chance that she’ll be mistreated in her next relationship as well. It’s called, “multiple-victimization,” and it is often misunderstood.
This is not due to your temperament or personality; it’s a normal defensive reaction. After you’ve been hurt, of course you’ll put up subtle barriers for self-protection. Non-abusive men will recognize and respect those barriers. For example, suppose that you work with someone who’s attracted to you. But he senses that you’re uncomfortable with his small gestures for more closeness. He will naturally back off and give you time to heal, or he’ll settle for a non-romantic friendship. But a man who is likely to mistreat you will either not recognize your barriers or completely disregard them. He will continue to hit on you, until he breaks down the protective walls that surround your hungry heart.
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