Thursday Thought — 8 Red Flags when Dating

During a presentation Lundy Bancroft was asked, “If you were speaking to a group of young women what would you say about what to watch out for in a relationship?” He replied with these eight red flags.

1.  Watch out for jealousy and possessiveness.

To young women in particular this tends to be really flattering — “Oh, I’ve never had a guy care for me like that before.  “Oh, he’s just crazy about me.”  “He gets so upset if I even talk to another guy.”  That feels like love, but it isn’t.  It’s ownership.  And it’s one of the top warning signs of domestic violence.

2.  Watch out about a guy who is controlling.

Again, that can be exciting at first.  You hear him described as a “take charge” kind of guy. But you have to ask, what happens when you don’t want to do what he wants to do? What happens when you don’t want him completely in charge?  That’s what she has to really pay attention to.  How does he react when she doesn’t want to go along because if he has really bad reactions to that — that’s a really bad sign.

3.  Watch out for the guy who’s got problems with women in general.

For example, the kind of guy who says that all of his previous girlfriends were “you know what’s, but you’re different”.  Or who says, “You’re the first girl (or first woman) who has understood me.”  If you’re the first female that’s ever understood him I want to know why. Why is he so hard to understand?  If a guy is telling you now that you’re different from all other women, what he’s going to be telling you in a year or two is that you’re just like the rest.  You’re going to go from being the exception to being part of the rule.  So watch how he talks about women in general and including — you might listen to some things about how he talks about his own mother — but particularly how he talks about his past wives or girlfriends.

4.  Notice how he deals with challenge.

This is often the litmus test.  What happens when he is stood up to?

5.  Do you feel respected by him?

Because sometimes women tell me that they feel terribly loved by the man, but when I say, “Yeah, but do you feel respected?” they say, “huh?”  It’s odd that we can even separate love and respect, but we do.  For example, is he actually interested in your opinions?  Does he actually care what you think about things?  Or does he think that your opinions are just something to be altered to fit his?  I remember this old Malvina Reynolds song where she says, “Everybody thinks my head is all full of nothing. Wants to put his special stuff in.”

6.  Are things never his fault?

Or he gives these apologies but they’re not very sincere sounding apologies and then he demands that that be adequate.  He says [with sarcasm], “Well, I said I was sorry!” First of all, an apology that sounds like that is never going to be very satisfying, but an apology also isn’t necessarily enough.  Often when someone apologizes you also want to tell them some things about how they affected you.  “Well, that’s great that you apologized, but I’m also going to tell you some things about the mess that you made or the harm that you did.”  He’s going to say, “No.” He doesn’t want to hear that, he apologized [and] that should be enough.

7.  Another additional one that’s sometimes revealing is to notice whether he treats you different alone than when other people are around.

This actually tends to do a flip between teen years and adulthood.  During teens years he often treats her worse when other people are around and better in private.  In adulthood the abuser starts to flip and he starts to be worse with her when there’s nobody watching and better when there are people around.

8.  With teens I really emphasize — “Is he pressuring you to have sex?”

Because he’s telling her, “If you really loved me we would be having sex.”  “We’ve been going out for two months and we’re not doing it yet”, or whatever it is.  And that’s so clearly not respect, that’s so clearly not love.  What I say to teens is, “If someone really loved you would he want you to be having sex before you felt comfortable or ready for that or what you really wanted?  Is that love?  That’s a really good in to get that conversation going.

(Excerpt from a Q&A.  The entire presentation can be found on YouTube here.  This particular Q&A starts at 1:27:47.)

23 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — 8 Red Flags when Dating”

  1. It was all there. I just did not have the correct names for it, and did not recognize it for what it was… But I felt the gut feeling that I’m being violated in several ways. Mixed with the high of ‘in love’, desire to marry, have a family, to love and be loved…ahhhh…I admit even convictions that this is from the Lord (forgive me Lord, looking back your voice was the quieter one that was saying otherwise.. I did not REALLY want to hear from you after all, I wanted what I wanted so badly). The Lord is such a gentleman. He allowed me to make this mistake. Yet he also kept me sane, alive, let me be a mother to a beautiful 4, and offered a way out many times. I did not do it out of fear for longest time. Still did not really trust him that he will truly take care of me. Finally I took it.

    I’m out five months now. 🙂 Healing, going to school, raising my kids, rebuilding my life,… and feeling so much better. I’m so grateful.

    I will print this post for my daughters for later. And actually, my kids see me reading this wonderful web often, along with Dr. Simon, Lundy Bancroft, Cindy Burrell….they ask me questions at times, and I answer honestly. I have two daughters and two sons, and as much as depends on my choices, I will from now on model authenticity, truth and being a person of stronger character. So God help me. Thanks pastor Jeff and Barb and all you wonderful folks. You have been God’s instrument to save my life. I have not met you personally but you have made a greater and more positive influence in my life than scores of personal relationships. Please keep doing this amazing work of God you do, and know that you are deeply appreciated and loved. Thank you so much.

    1. Hello Sasanka,
      As I wrote my experience it SCREAMED “get away from this guy”; yet we married. You expressed SO well what happened to me too; thank you!
      Looking back I can see clearly; being in the midst of it was unsettling, but mixed with hope.
      Years of crazymaking unfolded and nearly swallowed me up.
      Now waiting for God’s timing and provision to leave it behind.

  2. Perhaps it would fall under “controlling”, but I would also watch out for the guy who wants to “improve” you, to “perfect” you, to change you into hollow shell, a Stepford wife. If he is truly attracted to you, the “real” you, then he shouldn’t plan to fundamentally transform you into an “ideal”, HIS ideal. He should cherish the real you, not criticize you and insist that you change to become a “better” you.

  3. I think I have a problem with “most” men in general. I don’t feel safe. I think that may mean no dating yet. As far as being pressured to have sex, I think that should go for all ages. I am near 58. If I feel pressured to do anything, I am going to run to the nearest exit.

    Last week the gentlemen across the hall from me and I were exchanging food items as we often do, (things are just not packaged for one person) and we were talking about different things within a 10 minute time frame. He asked if I would be offended if I were asked to have a drink before dinner. I said no, but I would prefer iced tea. He smiled and said he would get some to have around. I responded with I always have some made and pointed to my apartment. I really think he is a gentleman, but I could not get out of there fast enough. We haven’t talked about dinner since.

    He wanted to know more about Barb’s book, so I loaned him my copy. He has a friend who counsels abuse targets. So that was a good start to possible referrals.

  4. My experience:

    1) Watch out for jealousy and possessiveness.
    —- A lot of phone calls and wanting to come to my home all the time. Taking me on dates where no one else is around. If other men where nearby his body language showed uneasiness / jealousy. Also jealous of my relationships: me and my siblings, my coworkers, friends at church, and my accomplishments.

    2)   Watch out about a guy who is controlling.
    — Don’t do or say such and such (him to me). When I did voice my wants, his response was scolding me like I was a child.

    3) Watch out for the guy who’s got problems with women in general.
    — Negative about past girlfriend and despised his mother.

    4)  Notice how he deals with challenge.
    — RAGE!

    5) Do you feel respected by him?
    — Only wants my opinion if it benefits him; otherwise he says “I DON’T CARE!!!”

    6) Are things never his fault?
    — Never and he’s proud to say it too!

    7) Another additional one that’s sometimes revealing is to notice whether he treats you different alone than when other people are around.
    — Bad when alone and syrupy sweet in front of mixed company. If we are out and just women are there, then he treats me badly.

    8) With teens I really emphasize — “Is he pressuring you to have sex?”
    — Not sex, but CONSTANTLY wanting me to kiss him, hug him, sit on his lap.
    (Found out he was a PORNO freak; didn’t need me for sex.)

    1. Wow, can I ever relate… to all of the above – with my ex-husband. I hate that you had to go through this as well. It was so hard to leave… but the freedom from no longer being under his abusive thumb has been incredible!! I am me again. All my friends and family noticed immediately how I changed when I wasn’t around him; when I wasn’t having to walk on eggshells and be careful of everything I said or did. I’m so grateful that God gave me the courage to get out.

  5. Looking back, I can see it all too clearly – the way he was so controlling, manipulative, and hateful to me. He never loved or respected me, my opinions, or what I thought or felt about anything. I spent 8 years married to the man before I finally had the courage to get out. Now I’m dating an amazing man of God who loves and respects me for who I am. When we first started talking, I was scared – really scared – that I would make the same mistake I had at 22. But the longer I’m away from my ex-husband, and the more I get to know this sweet, humble man who lavishes me with extravagant love each and every day, I know that God has helped me break my pattern. And I am beyond thankful for that. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next!! So yes, there is hope.

  6. I read this list somewhere before recently and sadly for me it didn’t apply. That may be hard to believe but he did none of those things before we were married. (But many of them after we married!)

    Although both of us had our own apartments we were in grad school which is sort of an artificial world — not really in the real world yet. I was paying my way (I worked during school year and summer) but his parents were giving him money (he did work during the summers).

    He seemed to like my family, engaged in “normal” conversation with me, seemed respectful, etc. What became clear to me over the years of arguments and from things I’ve heard him say to his male friends is that he thinks when a woman marries she leaves behind her family and hersfl to marry her husband and take care of him–that she gives up all to marry him. (He does try to treat me like property.)

    My husband resents my family. He tells me they’re not my family, He’s my family. He was not like this before we married.

    The only thing that remotely could have been a red flag was he complained about his parents occasionally. But then at that age who doesn’t sometimes? It didn’t seem particularly unusual. I’d heard more than one friend complain about parents; I’m sure I did occasionally too. I’d hung out with his family a lot and liked them and never saw any evidence of dysfunction.

    After grad school we decided to move to a big city where we thought opportunities would be better. I worked my butt off to have a job by graduation because if I didn’t I couldn’t move (I had no money) and I’d have to live with my parents. He moved also but had no job for over a year. What he did while I was working I have no idea. His parents covered his expenses. He complained that our school’s resources for job hunting were poor and they didn’t do much to help grads find employers. I disagreed but shrugged if off as his opinion. I’d gotten a job without the school’s help. But I also had better grades than him. I also think I interview better than he does. His treatment of me during that time continued to be normal and not abusive.

    I’m not sure that those things — blaming parents or the school and not getting a job right away–are signs of an abuser waiting to pounce.

    But the abuse switch was flipped soon after we married and got worse with the first baby.

    I do believe he has the attitude of an abuser as Lundy Bancroft describes. His behavior is so obviously a choice. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s a psychopath in that I’ve learned over the years that he’s a master manipulator who takes delight in molding his behavior and actions to the situation and people he’s around. I can’t help but think all those “good” things he did when we were dating were only because he knew that’s what “you’re supposed to do”. I used to think the him at home wasn’t the real him. Now I realize that’s the real him and the face he shows to the world is the phony.

    1. To me, a person who habitually blames their parents or their education provider (or their workplace) for their failures in life, when the parents or education providers or workplaces have been reasonable, is a person with a character disorder. That kind of character is likely to freeload on others where possible. A person with that kind of character may or may not also target those nearest to them with intentional abuse. They may initially just manifest a degree of laziness and irresponsibility. But as the responsibilities of life (e.g. parenthood) increase and the period of youthful foolishness / naivety is expected to have passed, these lazy freeloading types will, I think, tend to become abusive to others — especially to the folk who are pressing them to take up their responsibilities.

      Many victims of domestic abuse report that the abuse started during their first pregnancy or at the birth of the first child. Or, if it didn’t start then, it markedly escalated then. Abusers don’t like another child in the household: being rather like selfish children themselves, they want to be the one who gets all the attention.

    2. Annie,
      It doesn’t sound off to me at all. There seems to be something about signing the piece of paper called a “Certificate of Marriage” that changes people. It seems like signing the paperwork to take ownership of a dog. They now can treat you any way they like. In my opinion they should treat the dog as Jesus would and never be harsh with it. I have experienced the same thing. I was told on the wedding night,, “We will get along fine Mrs. _____ as long as you do what you are told.” I laughed then and found out very quickly that he meant it.

      These things are good to look for before marriage, but often do not surface until after the “I do’s”.

  7. I’ll have to copy this post. For some strange reason there have been several young women sharing their ‘lives’ with me. With some I have voiced concern, however I have also met some who are far more secure in who they are as women than I was at their age. They were able to release themselves from emotional abuse quickly. I have encouraged these gals to remain strong and pray for them.

  8. This was an extremely timely post, as there is a woman in my life who needed to read it. This week, her fiancé’s character was exposed as jealous and controlling to the point of threatening murder. She did the right thing and immediately called law enforcement. Today, she ended the relationship, and her job is taking out a restraining order to keep him away from her. I’m so glad. I’m glad for sites like this that give women courage and wisdom, for concerned law enforcement, and for employers who take the threat of domestic violence seriously.

    1. April Kelsey, That is such a reason to Praise God. Your friend was saved in a big way. Praise the Lord that he exposed himself before marrying. This woman is set free.

      1. This person recently visited me and stayed in my home. She seemed very happy with the relationship and framed some of the issues (like his anger) as “stuff he needs to work on.” The way she told it, his comments about “you better not be seeing other men” were just jokes. However, my husband and I noticed that he was calling her every two hours, getting overly concerned when she wouldn’t answer the phone right away, and going on about how much he missed her. It was weird, but we chalked it up to puppy love. Turns out, his comments about other men were not jokes and his constant phone calls were him checking to see that she wasn’t talking to anyone he didn’t know or approve of. The lesson is, if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Jealousy and possessiveness isn’t cute. It’s dangerous.

      2. April Kelsey,
        The ex used to make comments about other men that eventually became obnoxious and not funny. After a while they were accusations about specific men, coworkers, class mates etc. It is never a joke. Your are right. These things are never cute. I lost who I was because I couldn’t have friends. I was asked if I was a widow or divorced a couple of weeks ago. The verbal vomit that came from my mouth–I caught myself before I got too far. But, I realized at that moment that I am not completely healed.

      3. Oh Brenda, I’ve btdt! Been there done that, with slightly different words and context, but for sure I gave out some verbal vomit. It think it comes from having had so few people who believe and validate us. The pressure cooker gives off steam when a chance opens the vent. If we were more frequently believed and validated, that pressure wouldn’t have built up so much . . .

      4. Yes, Barb, It probably was more like the tea kettle going off than vomit. It happened right after I had once again told the X to NOT contact me. I don’t respond to his attempts, but it’s still there just around the corner. His only means left is calling me at work or showing up at my door. I don’t think it is too much to ask to be allowed to move on.

      5. The lesson is, if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Jealousy and possessiveness isn’t cute. It’s dangerous.

        Quoting this because it’s so worth repeating!

        Thanks April 🙂

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