Too often in my work, I come across men and women who are in relationships that are unhealthy and abusive. Too often in my work, I come across men and women who didn’t realize their relationship was unhealthy and abusive until things were too late. “I didn’t realize that was wrong” or “I was just so used to it” is what they tell me.
I’m passionate about helping people to recognize these relationship warning signs, or what I often refer to as “RED FLAGS”. The following five red flags are often overlooked or normalized..but they should not be. According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. By detecting an unhealthy relationship, people can avoid domestic violence and potentially prevent serious harm, injury, or even death.
- Red Flag #1 – Micromanaging: Are your everyday actions monitored and criticized? Is your partner “nit-picking” your daily behaviors? Are you walking on egg shells in order to not upset your partner? These are things to look out for! Micromanaging can often be hard to identify. It can come in the form of “check-ins”, seeing where you are, who you are with, what you’re doing. Is your partner micromanaging your actions and behavior to assure his/her demands are met in a specific manner? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is a sign of coercion. Coercion is a way to control, and too much control is unhealthy and can be dangerous!
- Red Flag #2 – Jealousy: Before you freak out, a little jealousy here and there is normal in relationships. Who hasn’t been a little jealous a time or two? However, it becomes a concern when the feeling is persistent, irrational, and a consuming factor in your relationship. An excess of jealousy can often be traced back to low self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem can lead to verbal abuse, accusations, threats, mistrust, and more. Finally, too much jealousy can also lead to our red flag #1, micromanagement and control!
- Red Flag #3 – Belittling Behavior: Speaking of low self-esteem…is your partner putting you down, criticizing you, or hurting your self-esteem? This is a serious problem. I tell my clients, friends, family, etc. to “be with someone who lifts you up, not brings you down”. Whether you are in public or behind closed doors, you and your partner should speak to each other, and speak about one another with RESPECT. Have you ever heard the phrase “repetition is key”? In this case, repetition is a danger. When criticism and belittling comments become repetitive, you may start to believe the demeaning words. If your partner is making you feel like you are a burden to him/her or putting you down, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship. Keep your eyes open for other concerning behavior and think about making a change.
- Red Flag #4 –Drinking Too Much (Or Using Drugs): Are you or your partner drinking too much? Using Drugs? It’s a fact that a loving, healthy relationship and substance abuse do not mix. Are you and/or your partner turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with any problems? Do you need to be drunk/high to show love, affection, or have sex? Is drinking or using drugs being used as a way to bond or connect with your partner? These are Red Flags! Excessive drinking can also lead to episodes of domestic violence, verbal abuse, and can put one or both members at risk of hurting themselves or the other. Drinking too much or using drugs is a dangerous relationship habit, and should be taken very seriously. Don’t let this go unnoticed.
- Red Flag #5 – Secrets: When we are young, the phrase “secrets don’t make friends” is thrown around. As we grow and begin to date, I wonder why we don’t hear “secrets don’t make relationships”..? Too much secrecy is an unhealthy aspect of relationships, and can present in many forms. Whether you are keeping secrets from your spouse, your spouse is keeping secrets from you, you are both keeping secrets from each other, or you and your spouse are keeping secrets from friends and family, it can be concerning. There is a reason we keep secrets, and the reasons are usually not good. Too much secrecy can be a red flag because the actions being kept secret can often be dangerous, illegal, disloyal, and/or abusive. Be advised though, there is a BIG difference between secrecy and privacy. We deserve to have some “me time” and we deserve to have time to take care of ourselves on our own terms. Privacy turns into secrecy when you are intentionally withholding information to prevent a reaction, or in fear of a retaliation of some sort. If you are sensing secrecy from your spouse or find yourself being secretive, it might be time to make a change or look for some help in addressing this matter.
It’s important to know that there are different levels of each of these “red flags”. Just because you or your partner occasionally have a drink together or have kept a little secret from your spouse does not mean your relationship is unhealthy. When these behaviors become compulsive, things become concerning. If you are concerned about your relationship, are involved in an abusive relationship, or just want some reassurance, I am available to assist you. Call 954-391-5305 ext. 9 or request an appointment to begin.
Jamie Ratowski, MS