Red Flags: Dating and Relationships

Nobody wants to be stuck in a miserable relationship – especially an abusive one.  No little girl dreams of being with a man who puts her down, tries to control her, or thinks about his own needs most of the time.  No woman wants to be pregnant by a man she thought loved her and find out before the baby is even born that he’s been “loving” somebody else. No young lady wants to have little kids that she has to raise by herself because her boyfriend/fiance/husband got caught doing something illegal and is now dead or in jail.  Nobody wants to be with a man for 10 years and have their car or house repossessed because he gambled or smoked up the payments…  I know this post is starting out hard, but anyone who’s been through this knows it isn’t funny.  Anyone who’s going through this now wishes somebody had said something earlier.  Sometimes we have to start our discussions talking about what we don’t want before we can have a conversation about our “dream wedding”.  Even though it’s obvious that living hurt and confused is the last thing that a woman would want, we must be doing something wrong because too many women end up with men (or friends) who are toxic.  And while people tend to blame it on low self-esteem, I believe there’s another, less obvious reason…

From the years that I’ve spent working with, counseling, and mentoring women, I promise you that women get into more trouble in relationships for this reason alone:  getting too close, too soon.  Getting intimately involved with a man (or anyone) who has not proven himself to be worth your life – and yes this is about  your whole life – sets too many of us up with people who were always crazy and we found out too late.  Getting too close, too soon makes us ignore red flags because we really thought he was nice or he was just having a bad week.    Getting too close too soon makes us ignore family members and friends that try to tell us that someone is trouble.  Getting too close too soon makes us ignore that little voice on the inside that says “Girl, RUN!”.  Unfortunately, society encourages girls to start dating way too soon.  Before they’re old enough to take care of themselves and establish their own boundaries, they’ve already been in and out of relationships.  Hurt and broken.  This causes damage that could have been avoided if they realized that they didn’t have to get into relationships before they (or he) were emotionally mature enough to walk away whole.  Unfortunately, seeing dysfunctional relationships all around them makes many young ladies believe that this is normal.  Abuse is not normal.

Below is a list of obvious signs that a relationship has gone wrong.  It never has to go here, though, if we follow the 3 Ways to Avoid Dating/Relationship Red Flags below.  Granted, nobody can avoid all relationship drama.  No relationship is perfect, but a lot of this can be avoided if we start right:

The RED FLAGS (a short list):

  • Calling you names; putting you down
  • Threat of violence, divorce, or suicide
  • Doing illegal things
  • Stalking
  • Destroying your property
  • Questioning or trying to control your activities
  • Being cruel to animals or children
  • Controlling Money
  • Stopping you from going to work or school
  • Driving recklessly to scare you
  • Blocking exits, taking keys; controlling
  • Taking money, bank cards, personal effects
  • DEMANDING replies to texts, phone
  • ANY physical violence or ANY overpowering

3 Ways to Avoid Dating/Relationship Red Flags:

1. Know and love yourself first. When you are taking care of yourself: your spirit, your mind, AND your body, it means you value yourself. You protect what you value. If you’re not investing in you, you’re not ready to invest in serious relationships. It can get too dangerous.

2. Understand the Four Stages of Friendship. When you recognize there are guidelines to follow in developing relationships, you’re smarter about how you deal with people. You are careful about who you let get close to you and you determine how close they can get.

3. Understand the Relationship Deal-Breakers. (Faith, Family, Future, Finance). Establish ahead of time that these are the areas that you won’t change over -period.  These four things must be established before you let someone become an intimate friend.

What if I’ve gone too far and I’m in the middle of these abusive behaviors?

Don’t think it’s going to get better. Talk to someone who can help: a friend, family member. Call a domestic abuse hotline (National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)  thehotline.org). Don’t be afraid to talk about it with someone who can help. If you can create distance, begin to do so. Start making yourself busy with other things while you’re seeking help.  If you’re being threatened, please call a qualified source ONLY when you are someplace safe.  The information provided here is not qualified to get you the help that you need, so PLEASE seek out someone to talk to who can actually help.  YOU ARE WORTH IT.

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