Co- Written with a survivor of two abusive marriages and endless encounters with physical and emotional abuse; here is 14 red flags to look out for when you FIRST start dating. She learned the hard way so you don’t have to!
There are always warning signs, little snippets of behaviour and clues in the very beginning that tell us what kind of person you are about to let into your life. These red flags will help you to avoid a potentially abusive relationship and help you to choose a worthy spouse or partner.
Do however keep in mind that not everyone is perfect! But if you find yourself ticking off more than 2 or 3 of these and they are unwilling to discuss and change that particular behaviour it’s time to RUN. Your worth is too valuable to be settling for less than you deserve!
The red flags of a narcissist or potential abuser.
Red Flag #1: Stealthy Sarcasm.
In the early stages a narcissist can tease and make fun of you in relation to your personal appearance or characteristics that are unique to you. This is often hidden in sarcasm, or dressed up as playful ‘fun’. It’s a form of subtle put downs that seek to stealthily knock your confidence and that could later turn into targeted emotional abuse.
Red Flag#2: Beware Of The Cling On.
They are very clingy in the early dating stages, which can be badly miss interpreted as loved up affection “aww they are so sweet, they just wanna see me all the time.” They will want to take up all of your time for themselves; even if that means you forfeit your girls/guys night out. They want to isolate you from everyone else to keep you for themselves; you are far easier to control once isolated. (see blog ‘Why Didn’t You Just Leave’) If you do go out without them they will find a way to make you feel guilty for not choosing them. This will later spiral down the path to control.
Healthy relationships allow each person to have friendships outside the relationship where there is mutual trust of one another.
Red Flag #3: Love Bomb.
This follows swiftly on from the cling on.
‘Love bomb’ is a term used to describe a stage of intense flattery, where they shower you in compliments and confess powerful feelings towards in a very short space of time; making you feel a false sense of security from the beginning. After the first date or so they may tell you that you are their soul mate, that they have never felt this way before. Their over exaggerated, excessive compliments take you off guard and leave you feeling overwhelmed. The difference between love bombing and genuine expression of feelings is that it will be far too much in one go, too soon, over the top and almost unnatural and forced.
But don’t be too quick to judge a hopeless romantic, just take your time to suss them out before signing on the dotted line. If they are professing how much you are destined to be together from date number 1; this should definitely ring some alarm bells.
Red Flag #4: The Ex Basher.
An abuser will talk about all their ex partners in an extremely negative way; branding them as being psychotic or even narcissistic. They will say their ex’s were to blame for everything that went wrong in the relationships. This is an early sign that they do not take responsibility for their part in the toxicity or break down of a relationship. You want a partner who is able to accept responsibility for their own actions. You will also find that someone who honours and respects other humans won’t uncover and name call them to such an extent. They may tell you brief snippets of why their relationship didn’t work, but beware of those who intentionally dish as much dirt as possible on more than one occasion. The ‘ex talk’ with a new partner shouldn’t be one that is repeated and dragged right into the centre of a new relationship.
Also watch out for how they speak about their family members, work colleagues and friends etc, if everything they say is negative and derogatory towards them GET OUT, you don’t need that negativity in your life!
You deserve to be encouraged and your good points magnified and celebrated! (see blog ‘Call Out The Gold’). Listen to how they talk about their past experiences or relationships.
Red Flag #5: The centre of the universe.
They will talk about themselves a lot, bringing every conversation back to their favourite subject: themselves. They won’t take alot of interest in what your interests are, or what is important to you, they may not even remember who your siblings are, or important appointments you have etc. This will progress to that you are not what is important at all, what is important is their interests only. They care about them and them only. Only their needs are the ones that are important to be met.
In a healthy relationship what matters to you matters to them and vice versa.
Red Flag#6: Public Put Downs.
Similar to stealthy sarcasm but this time it’s intentionally public. They make subtle put downs towards you In front of others, maybe in front of those who look up to you or those who work with you; and again it is dressed up as ‘teasing’ or ‘banter’. It is as a subtle yet effective way of undermining your respect from these people and knocking your confidence. If they can’t control you they will try to control how people see you. “you never guess what stupid thing came out of y’s mouth the other night? it was so funny”.
***Your identity however is not based on how others see you, look out for the blog soon to come: ‘knowing me knowing you’.
Red Flag #7: Gas Lighting.
They try to diminish your feelings, down play or accuse you of being “too sensitive” or say things like “there you go overreacting again” when you finally decide to call them out on their behaviour. When you challenge the stealthy sarcasm (red flag #1) or the public put downs (red flag#6) they play it off as ‘banter’ and make you feel like you are taking things way too personally. When you tell them how a behaviour of theirs has made you feel, they take no responsibility for their part in your upset and blame you for being overly offended ‘at nothing’.
In a healthy relationship there will still be times you will get upset at something your other half may have done, but the difference is they will be willing to listen, acknowledge your feelings, apologise and take responsibility for their part in your upset. They will take time to talk it through instead of dismissing how you feel. Every healthy relationship needs a safe place to discuss how each person is feeling; I like to call this the customer relations desk of the relationship.
Red Flag #8: Diverse Disrespect.
I find that; If they find it easy to talk to the general public with disrespect they will have no problem stepping into emotionally abusing you. Watch how they treat the waitress when their food doesn’t come on time, or the shop attendant when they give the wrong change, or the stranger who bumped into them. Watch how they react in situations that don’t go their own way or if someone makes a mistake. (find out more by reading the blog ‘Perpetrators Paradise’). You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat not only their family and friends but by how they treat strangers.
You deserve a relationship where you are not only receiving respect but are treasured by your loved one!
Red Flag #9: The Next Step Pusher.
They want to progress the relationship to the next step at a very speedily Pace. They may ask to move in, talk about having children or look to get engaged very very quickly (within a matter of weeks of knowing you kinda quick) this is the step up from red flag#2 ‘the cling on’. They want to move in and lock you down quick in order to spend every waking moment with you, that way they can monitor your every move up close. If they are in the relationship for the long haul there’s no harm in waiting right?
A healthy relationship will respect the speed at which each a person is comfortable with moving. They will wait, they will allow the other person to slow them down if they need to and not become emotionally manipulative if it’s not at their own fast pace. watch out for being made to feel guilty about not wanting to move so quick. “well you mustn’t like me as much as I like you then!”, “do this to prove to me you are faithful to me”.
Red Flag #10: The Space Invader
They do not respect your personal boundaries. If you say ‘no’ to something they may sulk or become pushy and try and make you feel guilty for saying no. You have the right to say no, and you also have the right to change your mind. (see the blog on ‘I Have The Right’)
RedFlag #11: The Lone Ranger.
They simply have no friends. We’ve all had seasons where we have had to take time out from spending time with friends which is sometimes needed; but to have no friends at all? Not even one acquaintance is a warning sign of an inability to form healthy relationships with others. Narcissistic personalities tend to be very self absorbed and struggle with maintaining long lasting relationships.
Red Flag #12: Zero empathy
Narcissists lack empathy. Whereas empathy is quite key for any healthy relationship to flourish; it enables you to understand and care about each other’s feelings and needs. Without empathy a partner will never be able to see things from your point of view, or simply they don’t care to. This makes it particularly difficult when trying to talk through and address issues in the relationship. A lack of empathy leaves you feeling unheard and misunderstood. Try telling them a sad story, or by simply opening up about something that has impacted you or was difficult for you; see how they respond. Notice their facial expression or comments to see if there is any empathy towards what you are sharing with them.
A healthy relationship creates space in which you feel safe to share the most sensitive and intimate parts of your heart, you want someone who will not take that for granted and is able to not only listen, but will empathise with what you are sharing and take the time to care and understand you and your feelings.
Red Flag #13: Convenience Only Communication.
A slightly different tactic to that of the ‘cling on’ or the ‘love bomb’ is that this one aims to keep you chasing their attention and affections. They will text, call and communicate with you only when it suits them. Again we all need space from time to time and don’t have to expect immediate responses, but if you find that they ignore you for extended days, suddenly going quiet following a ‘love bomb’ episode or reply only to things that benefit them then something is up. ‘Treat em mean to keep em keen’ is a phrase that can be used here; once they have already ‘love bombed’ you and have you on their hook, they suddenly withdrawer in order to get you to come running; running after their affection that you were once filled with and are now starved of. If they only want to communicate with you to get something from you then they have no interest in investing in you or the relationship. You deserve someone who will invest not only their time, but their money and emotions into you and the relationship.
RedFlag #14 Defensive level Defcon 1.
Narcissists become very defensive, and extremely agitated when it is suggested they are possibly at fault. They absolutely do not accept any responsibility for their behaviour. Everyone in the whole world is to blame except them. They will not have it that they could possibly be at fault for anything going wrong in past or present relationships.
A healthy relationship is where you are both willing to take responsibility for your actions and the effects they may have on others, you are willing to talk through it and resolve any issue sensitively and respectfully. Beware of the defence shield.
The most important thing about red flags is they are a heads up of what’s to come, they can be a tell tale sign that a partner could potentially become controlling or abusive. If you ignore these early warning signs there’s a chance these behaviours will increase, become problematic and worse case scenario you find yourself trapped in an abusive and controlling relationship.
So before you are ready to date remember that you are precious and deserve a person who will honour you, value you, respect your boundaries and a treat you will love and kindness.
Learn to tune into that inner compass/intuition on the inside that tells you something is just not right. Tread carefully and guard your heart until you feel safe and sure that the person you are dating deserves access to it.
From past experiences I have learned that it is so important to first love yourself, to find out what it is you want in a relationship and to learn to be content on your own, so that you don’t settle for anything less than you deserve. Narcissists find easy prey in someone with low self worth; they are far easier to control and manipulate as they don’t see their value.
Give your self time after any breakup and seek to discover you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and when you are content in your own skin you will attract the right one, and not put up with the wrong one.