Unfortunately, I have more experience in red flag relationships than I care to admit to. At my age, I’ve acquired a lot of experience from relationships. Some were (or are) great experiences; others became extremely negative. Consider it your obligation to learn what a healthy relationship is, and how to identify an unhealthy one. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a relationship with a co-worker, neighbour, family member or friend, trying to make a wrong relationship right, does not work! Sometimes it’s just a matter of ending it and moving on, but a red flag relationship can become dangerous. Today we’re taking a peek into romantic red flag relationships that should come with a large bright red, wildly waving red flag.
What is a red flag relationship? How to recognize one
Simply put, a red flag relationship is one that doesn’t feel good. Sometimes a red flag doesn’t show up right away. Maybe you don’t see it until the real trouble starts brewing. Often, you put it down to the regular road bumps and small issues that come with getting to know someone or trying to mesh your lifestyles and different personalities. Every relationship has its ups and downs, which is why red flags seem to get glossed over at first. Recognizing patterns is crucial. Regardless of your age or life experience- young teenager through to your 50’s and beyond- you should be able to spot odd behaviour. Odd behaviour is something to pay attention to.
Do you question whether that person’s behaviour or reaction is appropriate to the situation? Are there extreme highs and lows in his/her mood that result in you feeling nervous or afraid? Do you get the feeling that something just isn’t quite right? Do you feel that he/she is a little too controlling? Abusive behaviour usually starts with little things; an over-reaction to something you did or said, frequent fights usually started by the abuser, extravagant gifts of apology. Then maybe he/she starts teasing you about certain things, saying “just kidding.” They’re actually not kidding. The real intention here is to beat you down emotionally. First and foremost, you need to learn to listen to your gut. There are different types of abuse; verbal, emotional, psychological, and physical. This is not normal behaviour and it’s not acceptable. Ever.
Emotional abuse is about control and manipulation
Emotional abusers want control. That’s it. Control over a situation. Control over you. They will use just about any tactic (which is manipulation), from silent treatments to stalking to threats of physical harm, in order to get what they want. Generally, it’s safe to assume that if someone is emotionally abusing you, they were emotionally abused as a child. They learned this behaviour and think it’s normal. It’s not normal. It is not your job to fix it! I repeat, it is NOT your job to fix it, or to rescue them. NO. NO. NO!
Emotional abusers look for people who they can manipulate and they’re very sneaky about it. They will push you to your limits, test your boundaries, cause you to question and doubt yourself, and somehow make you feel like you’re the bad person. You start to rationalize their bad behaviour, especially when friends and family members express concern.
What to look for
Passive aggressive behaviour- https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-passive-aggressive-behavior-
Narcissistic behaviour- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/
An emotional abuser is likely to engage in passive aggressive behaviour or is a straight up narcissist. You will often hear people making jokes or complaining about passive aggressive people or narcissists, but it’s no joke. These people can make your life a living hell, if you allow it. Here’s what to look for:
- when you first meet, he/she knows way too much about you, before you’ve even shared that info (HUGE sign of a stalker) https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/stalking
- makes fun of you, belittling or humiliating you privately or publicly
- may be immature or irresponsible in his/her daily life; always in a crisis of some sort
- has chaotic relationships with other people; unresolved issues with family or friends
- overly critical of your hair, clothes, body
- routinely uses the silent treatment on you; that’s your punishment for pissing them off
- calls you stupid, laughs at you and insults you
- doesn’t seem to value your opinions, feelings; disregards it if you feel afraid of something
- questions where you’re going, what you’re doing, who you’re with, more than is considered normal
- may try to keep you from friends and family
- shows up at work or social events where he/she is not expected to be
- makes verbal digs at you (meant to make you pay attention), then walks away or carries on with conversation
- tries to control your money, your activity (including work sometimes) or your sex life
- does not like it when you say “no”, or disagree with him/her
- tends to ignore your opinions, your concerns, hopes, plans or fears
Emotional abusers do not care about your boundaries. They may not even know what your boundaries are. If they do, I guarantee they will push them, because in their minds, the emotional abuser matters more than you do. What’s confusing is that in the beginning they make it seem as though you are the most important person in their whole life. In fact, emotional abusers tend to move at a much faster pace in a new relationship than the average person is comfortable with. They know they have to snag you and do it fast, before you figure them out.
What are your boundaries? Do you even know? Some of us have never really thought about it, likely because we haven’t needed to enforce any. Or maybe you were raised in a family where one or more people didn’t respect your boundaries and you also think it’s normal. It’s not. In order to create boundaries, you must know yourself well. Take time today to think about what your boundaries are. If you find yourself in a relationship that tests those boundaries, you need to know what to do. Enforcing your boundaries can be difficult. How you respond is crucial to managing that person or relationship. I have learned that the hard way. Do yourself a favour and figure it out now so that his/her brainwashing attempts and attacks on your self-confidence will wash away like rain off a duck’s back.
When he/she crosses the line
Let’s say you notice behaviour that you don’t like or that scares you and you decide to end the relationship. Maybe you tell him/her but this person refuses to accept that you are breaking up with them. They may do things that are meant to manipulate you such as driving by your house, work or school. They may call you repeatedly, or damage your property. A favourite trick is to damage your car, cause a flat tire, then magically show up to save you. He/she may threaten to spread rumours over social media, or to share intimate pictures that you’ve shared with him/her. Do not fall for this tactic. Any possible fallout from a carried-out threat is nothing compared to the consequence of allowing this sick, twisted abuser to control you for one more day. The more you give him/her, the more they want. Emotional abusers and passive aggressive people are relentless. Be aware that when their tactics don’t work, they may threaten to harm themselves if you break up with them. Don’t fall for it. You may contact a family member or authorities to help him/her, but beyond that, step out and stay out! They may also threaten to harm you. Emotional abusers escalate their bad behaviour in order to manipulate and gain control of you.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE~
There are resources where you can find help. If you think you are being stalked, or if you have been threatened or feel afraid of this person, call the Police. Explain what is happening, and start to document (if you haven’t already) the behaviour, times and places, and take pictures of damage or anything suspicious.
If you do not take charge of the emotional abuser by enforcing your boundaries and allowing authorities to enforce the law, his/her behaviour will continue and it will escalate. Don’t panic, but educate yourself and take safety precautions. If you allow the emotional abuser to continue to pester and harass you, it will create so much stress and will affect your entire life. He/she will rob you of your sense of safety and your freedom. You may lose your ability to trust.
Unfortunately we tend to research red flag relationships only after we’ve experienced one. Educate yourself, teach your kids, friends and loved ones about emotional abusers in hopes that we can prevent them from being involved with one.
A long time ago I was stalked. It was textbook behaviour and turned out horrifically. I lived through it obviously, but not without scars, both physical and emotional.
Another time, I was harassed relentlessly and although there were police reports and records of interactions, we could not prove the harassment. Police came very close to identifying and charging this person, but then it stopped. That’s a positive result from involving police. Some emotional abusers will stop once authorities are involved.
Check out the resources below and above all else, keep yourself safe!
What to Read~
CBC, The Passionate Eye- Stalking is a serious crime in Canada-https://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/features/stalking-is-a-serious-crime-in-canada-and-it-isnt-getting-the-attention-it
Business Insider, Relationship Red Flags- https://www.businessinsider.com/relationship-red-flags-you-should-look-out-for-2018-1#6-everything-is-about-them-6
Psychology Today, 10 Relationship Red Flags- https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/in-flux/201407/10-relationship-red-flags
Business Insider, Why empaths and Narcissists are attracted to each other- https://www.businessinsider.com/why-empaths-and-narcissists-are-attracted-to-each-other-
Thank you for reading. Check back every Sunday afternoon for my next blog post.
Carol Paino~ Parts Of Ourselves