If abusers treat their victims at the beginning of the relationship the way they treat them later on, chances are, the intended victims would not stay around. However, in many cases, abusers have honed their manipulative skills throughout their life and know how to entice the victim into a relationship before showing their true personality.
Let's look at how the start of a seemingly healthy relationship turns unhealthy. The red flags are in bold italics.
Good and many bad relationships start out in a honeymoon stage. She's met someone new and is excited. There is so much to share and learn about her new partner that the couple spends all their time together. He's attentive, thoughtful and crazy about her. He's talking marriage and kids. She feels rushed and uneasy, but he seems to be everything she's ever dreamt of in a partner. How could she not fall in love with this great guy?
Healthy relationship traits
In a healthy relationship, she feels safe enough to express her concern and asks that they slow down and take more time to get to know one another. He listens and respects her feelings by giving her the time and space she needs. They meet each other's family and friends, spending time together, alone, and with others. They negotiate differences so one person isn't always giving in to the other. They build a relationship based on respect, trust and communication.
Unhealthy relationship traits
In an unhealthy relationship, when she asks that they slow down, her partner may act deeply hurt or threaten to end the relationship. He ignores her feelings and continues to pressure her to become sexually active, move in together or marry. When she wants to go out alone with her friends, he moves to isolate her. He may show jealousy, saying, "Don't you love me? Don't you want to be with me?" It sounds romantic, but he's using her love to control her. She wants to please him and may yield to his wishes. He learns he has a tactic that will assure he gets his way. He coerces her to always give in to his wants over hers to prove she loves him.
He may begin showing up unexpectedly at her job or when she's out with friends saying he misses her. He may call her several times a day to see where she is, what she's doing and who she's with. He may begin telling her how to dress, who she can talk to, where she can go, and that she can't do anything right.
He creates and feeds the period of tension until he feels justified to explode, verbally and/or physically battering her.
After the incident, he apologizes and begs her forgiveness, promising it will never happen again. He may blame her for the abuse, saying, "If only you'd (responded sooner to my request, answered your phone quicker, hadn't been talking to that man, or cooked something else for dinner), none of this would have happened."
After his tearful apology, he becomes that loving, romantic, attentive man she first fell in love with. The man she believes he is. "The violence is over," she tells herself. "It will never happen again." But, it does.
In an unhealthy relationship, this cycle plays itself out over and over. The result may be death. About 30 percent of females murdered are women killed by their intimate partner.
How do you avoid one of these abusive relationships? When the first red flag appears you speak out. If his response sends up more red flags, close your heart to him no matter how much you love him. He is not the man you love. That man is a facade. If your partner apologizes and promises never to (insert behavior here) and he does, you must close your heart and walk away – for good. The longer you stay in this kind of relationship, the harder it is to leave.
The most important thing for you to remember: The only person you can change is yourself – you will never change anyone else, including the man who is abusing you.
Help support victims of domestic violence
Domestic Violence affects one in three women in the United States. This October, during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we hope you will join us in creating awareness and supporting those in need by watching this video about the "silent secret."
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