What are the ‘red flags’ in a relationship a professional
By: Sandra L. Brown, M.A.
Author of: How
to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved
I am often asked what my ‘red flags’ are as a therapist
when I am counseling a couple and I sense he might be dangerous. There
certainly ARE specific things that I have trained my ear to listen for
because they are often indicators of more serious problems often attached
to dangerous behavior.
* Pacing of the relationship.
If its 24/7 it’s not that he’s “just that into you.”
Pathological men have agendas about getting the relationship to appear
‘intense’ and ‘deep’ quickly. They want to usher
you into the middle of the relationship before you figure out his agenda
or respond to your own red flags.
Predators have told me in group that their move is to ‘sweep
them off their feet’ by overwhelming them with intensity of emotion,
time, and gifts. Women who get into intense relationships in which quickly
they are seeing each other constantly, not having an outside life, and
have the sensation of being ‘breathless’ from the pace of
the relationship are often with a dangerous man.
Many different types of dangerous men often try to move in quickly
or marry quickly. Both of which should be a red flag to a woman. Women
should always be in charge of the pace of the relationship which should
Women should also change the pace of the relationship and see how he
responds. Normal men accept that you ask for more time to yourself,
dangerous men do not. They guilt and shame you into keeping the pace
at THEIR rate, not yours.
* Serial Relationships.
Women often ignore a man’s history of failed relationships. Guys
with histories of multiple failed relationships have difficulty being
alone so they rapidly seek other relationships without reflection on
the failed one. This lack of insight in the failed relationship increases
his pacing so that women are hurried into a relationship before figuring
‘why’ he has so many failed relationships.
One clue I always listen for is his relational history — how
many relationships, why they ended, what he has to say about his own
responsibility in them ending, and what he says about the woman now.
Men who take no responsibility for their actions often have mental health
issues as do men who never say anything good about any of the women
they have been with.
* His History.
Women need to find information about his criminal, mental health, and
relationship history. The best predictor of future behavior is past
behavior. There are on-line background search sites that can do this.
Women often discount a man’s criminal history.
His criminal history is good predictors of future violence, other
criminality and sometimes mental health issues. Likewise, his mental
health history matters! If he has been diagnosed with a mental condition,
most conditions INCREASE with time, age, and stress.
Mental conditions are highly unpredictable and how he appears ‘now’
is not a guarantee of any stability in the future. All of his histories
matter: criminal, mental health, and relational.
* Enduring Patterns of Behavior.
Women often believe they can ‘change’ men once they are
in a relationship with it. It’s one of our characteristics we
don’t like to admit! But it is often part of our belief system.
But if he has ‘always been this way’ he may have a pathological
disorder which is determined by looking at enduring patterns of behavior
that don’t change.
Chronic womanizing, unrelenting unemployment, long histories of addictions,
etc. are all examples of enduring patterns of behavior. We begin to
suspect pathological (which means a permanent disorder) when people
have long histories of certain behaviors. These behaviors will not be
changed by you, or likely, anyone else, including professionals.
* His pattern of selection.
The types of women he has dated can reveal the type of woman he targets.
A history of emotionally unhealthy women should be a red flag. Some
men love victimized women, others like women with low self esteem, or
financially dependent women. What are the women like he has been with
and why are you now one he wants to be with?
If these are red flags for me, they certainly should be for women as
well. Women who end up with dangerous man-after-dangerous man is women
who ignore the warning signs, like these, and often ‘hope’
they are going to get different results than what the professionals
are advising. Don’t be one of them!
Sandra L. Brown, M.A. is an author and psychotherapist who worked
for the past 20 years with both female victims of violence and male
perpetrators. Her interest of practice has been in the attraction between
victim and perpetrator. Get
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