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4 Ways to Find a Healthy Relationship

Watch for these red flags early on

  • June 26, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
4 Ways to Find a Healthy Relationship

Scary thought: It’s not uncommon for a batterer to be the most charming person in the room when you first meet them. It’s not uncommon for them to be attractive, attentive, romantic and thoughtful, even, dare we say, kind? A batterer may keep their desire to exert power and control over a victim secret, typically revealing it only after they’ve charmed their way into someone’s life.

It’s not your fault if you’ve fallen for this ruse. The most common age in which intimate partner violence first occurs is 18-24 years old for both women and men—aka, the dating years. Which is why it’s vitally important to be selective about who we date as they could wind up being our lifelong partner.

Carol Wick is CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, a domestic violence outreach and education program, as well as an emergency shelter. She offered up these four tips to help people attract and recognize healthy relationships.

  • Make a list. List the ideal behaviors you want in a partner, such as “I want someone who is demonstrates empathy,” “I want to be treated with respect,” or even, “My partner will not physically harm me.” “There’s something about putting those things in writing,” says Wick, who also encourages people to make this list with their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. “If a person you meet has a characteristic you won’t stand for early on, just call it quits.”
  • Watch for intensity too early. When someone you’ve just started dating begins talking about long-term relationship goals with you—moving in together, getting married—this can be a warning sign, says Wick. Abusers often want to isolate a person so they can control what’s going on in that person’s life. “When people think about isolation, they think about someone keeping you trapped in your home, but it’s much, much more subtle than that,” says Wick. “Do they stop you from doing things on your own, like a girls night? Or do they text you throughout, or just show up uninvited?” Wick says these are all red flags.
  • Take it slow. “Dating is designed to test people out—if people went into it that way, we’d be happier with end result,” advises Wick. After you meet someone you’re interested in, “continue to do things independently—I can’t stress that enough. Go out with your friends and see if he has a problem. Any boundary you put up, they’re [an abuser] is going to try and break down.” Remember, even if he does show up unannounced at your girl’s night, maybe even with flowers, don’t necessarily interpret it as charming.
  • Don’t put up with criticism. Maybe after a significant amount of time together, we joke around with our partner about their less-than-stellar cooking skills, or their losing streak in Scrabble. But early on, if a person immediately starts criticizing you, that should be a deal-breaker, says Wick. “They start to say things that are incongruous with what you know about yourself, like, ‘You’re horrible with money,’ or ‘Your driving scares me, let me drive.’ It raises their esteem in your eyes and puts you in a subservient role.” A simple but good test for a new date—ask if you can drive.