We started dating and got married within a year – that should have been my first sign something was not right. Abusive men tend to move fast in relationships. I had been out of the dating scene for quite a while and wanted to fill the void my previous relationship had left. Brad seemed smart, charming, reasonably successful, and most of all - he seemed to worship me. It’s easy to overlook a few oddities in a person when they give you so much adoration and praise.
He had a lot of friends where we lived and in his home state. We took a trip back to his home state and I met his mother who seemed normal enough – but he was estranged from his brother and sister. Various reasons for the estrangement, but it did come out that his brother was abusive to his wife– another sign I missed due to ignorance – abusive men are often from abusive families and it carries on through the generations .
There were three incidents that happened when we were dating, that I know now, were traits of an abusive personality.
The first was at my house, we were planning to go a store and were looking at a phone book. Brad was looking at the book and I was looking on as well. We had an extremely tense ride to the store as he proceeded to tell me how I was being condescending and treating him like child by reading over his shoulder, and on and on – for twenty five minutes. He eventually calmed down and I apologized profusely for my mistake, but I kept thinking the whole time “this can’t be happening, he’s crazy, I did not do anything wrong, I was only trying to be helpful because I know the area better than he does”. At some point, I began to doubt myself and thought maybe I had been condescending. I had not had that many adult relationships to gauge his behavior, so it definitely planted some seeds that maybe I was the problem. This is a classic example of hypersensitivity, one of the traits of abusive people. I’m here to tell you - go with your first instinct in situations like this. If you think you did not do anything wrong and he’s acting ridiculous or crazy – you’re right.
The second incident occurred when I had a business meeting with a vendor of my company that was followed by a baseball game. This is fairly common in my industry and we had nice box seats with food and drinks. I was there with several co-workers. The game lasted until about 10pm. My phone had been in my purse and I had not heard it or answered in during the game. When I checked it when I got to my car to drive home, I had many missed calls and a couple of voice mails from Brad. The basic message was “Why aren’t you answering, who are you cheating on me with, etc.” I called him back and talked at length to convince him that I was not deliberately ignoring him, but that I had not heard he phone at the game and that I was not cheating on him. He said he was worried about my safety, so I should have returned his calls earlier. This phone call was very stressful and again I’m thinking “I didn’t do anything wrong, he’s crazy”. This episode shows two of the characteristics of an abusive person – controlling behavior and jealousy. He was clearly jealous and his repeated calling and saying he was worried about my ‘safety’ are classic controlling behaviors as indicated in the link above.
But, this blew over as well and we continued dating.
The third incident was bizarre indeed. I received some flowers at work with no note attached. I assumed they were from Brad, since I was not dating anyone else. You never know, however, I might have had a secret admirer. I phoned him to thank him, but asked first if they were from him, just to be sure. He freaked out. He accused me of cheating and lying and then disappeared for a couple of days. We had been dating most nights of the week at this stage and talked at least once a day – but all of a sudden he was not returning my calls or emails. I was beginning to get worried about him, and went by his house and rang the doorbell – the car was there , but no answer to the doorbell. After several days he finally called back saying he had been ‘sick’. Looking back I think he was in either a severely depressed state, or a drunken stupor, I’m not sure which, but neither is good. His accusations in this incident and the baseball instance were clearly verbally abusive, but I did not recognize it at the time. This incident also shows the extreme jealousy and hypersensitivity as before.
These types of people are master manipulators. They use these various behaviors to make you doubt yourself and apologize and try to please them even though you did nothing wrong. Know this: If you think you did not do anything wrong and he’s acting ridiculous or crazy– you’re right. Trust your instincts – if you’re in doubt talk about it with a girlfriend, but never assume he is correct.
I feel it’s very important to know as soon as possible in life what a healthy versus unhealthy relationship looks like. So, I leave you with the list of red flags in a relationship that I wish I had known about before I started dating. My ex-husband did a several of these before we got married and had almost completed this ‘checklist’ before I left him. Please pass this on to your daughters and sons.