It seems that almost daily we are reading stories about a missing or murdered woman whose significant other is the prime suspect. From an article on the disturbing statistics on murders of pregnant women, similar to articles posted during the Laci Peterson case, some very useful information bears further analysis and application.
Most people are killed by people they know. Most people are harmed by people who have made threats earlier on and, in a situation where you’re in a relationship where you’re frightened of the person that you’re with, when a stress happens like a pregnancy, you really have to be careful, because the warning signs are there. People usually make threats of death or destruction.
Although we don’t have crystal balls or clairvoyant powers, we do have good, empirical evidence to reference when evaluating the potential danger of a relationship with our romantic partners, whether in the early courtship stages, cohabitating circumstances, or estranged. Dangerous men display a number of clues to their duplicity if one is forearmed with the warning signs.
From a list of these signs excerpted from an article appearing on ABC News, I have added some practical examples and commentary that apply to our specific cases. I’m not suggesting that if you recognize any of this behavior in your spouse, lover, or child that you call the marines, but often it is wise to accept that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
- Loss of temper on a daily basis – I would amend that to be “loss of temper over incidental, trivial matters on an unpredictable but regular basis.” There are people with a short fuse who are not dangerous; in fact, they might be healthier than those who suppress their anger and suddenly blow. However, a person who has inappropriate overreactions to minor events (and who may not react at all to major crises) is someone with a personality disorder.
- Frequent physical fighting. Treats you roughly - If you subject yourself to being smacked around or verbally abused more than once, something is seriously wrong with YOU. Get thee to a head shrinker.
- Significant vandalism or property damage – I don’t think vandalism or property damage has to be “significant” in order for it to be alarming. Smashing your cell phone, punching a hole in the door, ruining (usually) your property is often the predecessor to physical abuse. They start with your stuff, then it escalates to your jugular.
- Uses drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you. If you are in a relationship with a drunk or a junkie, you are already setting yourself up for a big fall. Give them an ultimatum and be prepared to abandon ship. This includes your teenage or adult child.
- Increase in risk-taking behavior – What are some examples of risk-taking behavior? Reckless driving with you and/or your children in the car. Irresponsible spending. Unprotected sex. Substance abuse. Pyromania. Kleptomania. Failing to adhere to a medically prescribed diet, exercise or medication regime. Consider any self-destructive behavior that takes prisoners.
- Announces threats or plans for hurting others – Did many of these men threaten their girlfriends/wives? Probably. In the case of the Columbine shootings, the perps left an encyclopedia of their plans.
- Blames others for his behavior. Blames you for how they feel or act – This is an important early warning sign to heed. Within the first few conversations with an abuser, you will hear him blame everyone but the dog for his current woes. When instead of gaining your sympathy and indignation his self-pity triggers an alarm, you have the golden opportunity to escape.
- Restricts your social life. Isolates you from your friends.
- Stalks you or calls you incessantly during disagreements or break-ups.
- Makes you feel like you are unable to make decisions.
These are all classic examples of controlling behavior (from men and women) for which you should now have zero tolerance. Zero means zero. I don’t want to hear excuses about his being raised on sarcasm and that ridicule and demoralization is a lifelong habit of endearment. I don’t buy that he just “loves you so much” that he can’t bear to be away from you. Anyone who treats you like an object or a personal possession is a creep. Period.
- Uses intimidation or threats to gain compliance – Threats are easy to recognize. They usually start off with “If you do/don’t do this, I’ll will/won’t do that.” If you find that your conversations with your significant other start to resemble hostage negotiations, you need to reevaluate your relationship.
There are many other warning signs not included in this list that are indicative of cheaters, narcissists, players, and other abusive people; but we can truncate that painful process with a very simple litmus test that he will fail rather early on that is 100% foolproof and upon which you should directly (do not pass GO, do not collect $200) exit the relationship. The first lie, say, “Goodbye!” It even rhymes. Let’s make a bumper sticker out of it. I can guarantee that every victim in the news heard and forgave a litany of lies from their eventual murderers. It is the common denominator. Chances are, anyone who exhibits the bad behavior in the preceding list has probably lied to you (and you knew it) long before he did anything else. It’s pretty simple: it is virtually impossible that an honest man, however flawed, will murder you.