9 Unacceptable, Red Flag Behaviors in a Relationship

"It'll never happen to me." That's what countless women have said about abusive relationships. Or, "Never again." And yet, many women find themselves caught in cycles of abuse despite their intentions. Are there red flags we should look for? How do we know when a partner is going too far? Are there certain behaviors no woman should ever put up with, no matter what?

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Unfortunately, you can't always spot an abuser on the first date, or even in the first month. "There's not any one-size-fits-all rule for how physical violence starts in a relationship, as every relationship is unique," says Dr. Christine Murray, associate professor and coordinator of the Couple and Family Counseling Track in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Department of Counseling and Educational Development and cofounder of the See the Triumph campaign.

"However, often physical violence does come after a period of escalating emotional abuse," she says. This can happen gradually over time, or suddenly. 

Here are some abusive behaviors no women should tolerate in a relationship.

1. Excessive jealousy. He doesn't trust you, and he doesn't recognize you as an empowered woman with the ability to make your own choices. It's not enough for you to choose him over and over again. He wants to control you.

2. Frequently losing his temper around you. It's not a little character flaw, and it's not a sign of deep passion (you can have that without the temper tantrums, believe me). A hot temper can quickly become a dangerous situation for you. 

3. Frequently checking up on you. This is different from checking in with you, which is a healthy habit for couples. Checking in is making contact to express affection and wish your partner a good day. Checking up is when he tries to keep tabs on where you are and who you're with at all times.

4. Trying to keep you isolated from friends and family members. Does he pile on your mom when you complain about her? Does he complain when you want to go out with your girlfriends?

5. Trying to limit your personal choices, from how you dress to how you spend your time. Emotional abuse is always about power and control, Dr. Murray says. "Any words or behaviors that seek to minimize one person's value or worth could potentially be indicators of emotional abuse."

6. Shaming or insulting you. This is not okay! And if he says you just need to get used to his "sense of humor," that's BS. He's the one who needs to learn how to treat people respectfully. A good man who loves you wants you to feel great about yourself, not lesser-than.

7. Telling you you're blowing things out of proportion or blaming you for his abusive behavior. Those are forms of manipulation. You don't "make" anyone hit you. There is nothing you can do to deserve abuse. If he says he's just joking around but you feel hurt or threatened, it's still unacceptable. Don't trust a man who won't take responsibility for his words and actions toward you.

8. A shove or a slap. Gripping your arm too tightly, pulling your hair out of anger, causing you any physical pain or trying to restrain you physically. "Abusive relationships often do demonstrate a pattern of escalation, meaning that the abuse may start out as less severe and become more severe over time," Dr. Murray warns.

9. Rape. It's important for all women to know that rape is any sexual contact against your will -- even if you're married. Being in a relationship or a marriage does not entitle anyone to sex whenever or however he or she wants it. 

"It's important to remember that even the very first incident of physical violence in a relationship can be very severe and dangerous," says Dr. Murray. "So that's why we need to take threats of violence and escalating emotional and psychological abuse very seriously."

How seriously? Because every situation is unique, Dr. Murray strongly recommends getting professional advice from a counselor or a domestic violence advocate. The more forthcoming and honest you are with the details of your relationship, the better they'll be able to help you figure out your best course of action.

If you’re concerned about some of these things happening in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

 

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