Archive for July 21st, 2006

July 21, 2006

Unsafe relationships: how to tell you are in danger

by Rod Smith

Are you married to a man who could harm or kill you, or harm or kill someone you love? Are you dating a man who could murder you one day (or at least harm you physically)?

Dangerous relationships are apparently easier to endure than to address, so it is not surprising that the murder of a wife, an ex-wife or lover usually takes everyone by surprise. Secrecy, cover-up and denial are the hallmarks of toxic binds.

Some women could use a set of criteria to evaluate whether they are involved with a man capable of committing a violent crime against them. Accurate or not, the list could help a woman escape a potentially abusive relationship, or at least eradicate the virus before it destroys her.

Men capable of killing a “loved” one often leave a trail of early indicators, like rose petals around an open grave, before they commit a horrible crime. Ignoring them is understandable. It can also be very costly.

Perhaps someone’s life will be saved because this list, incomplete as it is, will assist someone toward getting appropriate help:

1. He tells you how to dress and insists you obey his wishes in this regard. If you resist he becomes irrationally hurt or angry. You are beyond choosing what you wear because your way of dressing has become his domain.

2. He checks up on you for “your own good.” He wants to know where you are, what you are doing and whom you are with. Time unaccounted becomes an accusation. You find yourself explaining or hiding everything, to avoid the laborious conflicts that inevitably ensue.

3. Any move toward independence (“normal” separateness on your part is rewritten as betrayal).

4. He tells you when you are happy, and rewrites what you feel if you are unhappy. He tries to keep you from your family, suggesting they are not good for you. “They are not good for. You think they are but I can see the way they upset you,” might be something he might say.

5. He tells you when you are hungry and what you like to eat. He says he knows you better than you know yourself.

6. He is jealous of your friendships, even those that predate him and those that are already over. He especially gets riled when you are close to your family and if you talk with enjoyment about things that occurred before you knew him.

7. Keeping peace is second nature to you. Ironically, the peace seldom lasts because he jumps on the smallest issues, magnifying them into major breaches of trust.

8. His highs are very high and his lows very low. It seems as if your response to him is inordinately powerful in changing or determining his mood. There are times when you cannot tell who is controlling who.

9. He pouts easily. He manipulates truth so you are taken by surprise. He plays “hurt puppy” if you’re not happy, thereby making your emotions his business. He expects you to always be glad to see him and to drop whatever you are doing to focus on him.

10. He demands his own way and has an inordinate perception of his own importance. He shows off his “power” by threatening to “talk to the manager,” when he is not given the service he thinks he deserves. He becomes irrationally angry at the smallest of inconveniences. He accuses you of “taking sides” if you suggest he is being unreasonable.

11. He lives on the edge of “white hot” anger, becoming very angry with children, animals and anyone or anything that doesn’t obey him. He hides this anger from people outside the “inner circle” and his mood quickly changes if an “outsider” appears so that his anger is kept secret.

12. He removes your car keys or your purse to restrict your movements and then denies doing so. If you catch him in the act he will say he is kidding or he will become angry enough to throw you off the subject.

13. In the early days of the relationship you felt like you were on a fast ride on an unpredictable roller coaster. Everything was too much, too soon, but you did not know how to say it. Any comment about wanting to “slow down” on your part was ignored. You felt invisible, as if you were just along for his ride.

For such men, winning is everything — losing control is not an option, even for those whom they proclaim to love the most. Please note: the presence of some of these indications and not necessarily all of them, are still indications of an unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship.

(When this article first appeared in print I got the most amazing volume of response. Some of the tales were VERY sad and almost all revealed great bravery of women who, at the end of their respective ropes, decided to do something about their situations. Included in the responses was, on the one hand, a man who threatened me with violence, and, on the other hand, a woman anonymousely sent me roses. Whoever she is — thanks, they were beautiful. To the angry man all I can say is if you can threaten a newspaper therapist you do not even know, I wonder what you are doing to the people you do know).

Copyright, 2004 ROD SMITH, MSMFT