There’s a tendency as an outsider to assume victims of abuse in some cases should have known better. That’s not always the case; in fact, that’s what makes betrayal – which domestic violence definitely is – so devastating. The sad truth is, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
That’s a lot of individuals experiencing traumatic intimate relationships. The thing is, these relationships don’t start out this way; most individuals don’t willingly enter a dangerous circumstance or invite betrayal. Instead, they are deceived and slowly but surely the severity of the situation increases. There are, however, red flags that can be spotted as you begin to engage with another individual. They’re always front and center in every betrayal. So why do we ignore these tiny alarm bells? Because we have a relationship with or loyalty to the person, which enables betrayal blindness. If you are not looking for them, and not sensitive to seeing anything that you are not looking for, you will miss them.
Consider the follow warning signs that may give the heads up that the relationship isn’t all that it seems to be:
- Something feels strange.In every betrayal story we’ve heard, each person can point to multiple instances of feeling that something was “off” or not normal in how an individual was acting or what they were asking. There’s often a feeling of anxiety that can accompany these situations, and they shouldn’t be dismissed. In fact, feeling anxious about something without being able to name it may well be the first red flag you’ll experience.
- They want to exert power over you. Many betrayals take place within a power equation, where the betrayer takes advantage of inequality in the relationship. There’s a special language too. How many times have you heard “Trust me”? In certain contexts, it really means “Obey me and ignore my behavior.” Pay attention to the amount of control and power your significant others exerts in the beginning stages of the relationship – that can be a telling sign for things to come.
- You find yourself excusing their behavior and/or taking responsibility for it. An indicator that you may be in deep is when you start to recognize behavior that isn’t right, but you begin to blame yourself for the other person’s faults and bad behavior. The fact is, someone else’s poor behavior is never your fault. That is when you know you are being manipulated – when someone justifies and blames their horrendous behavior on you.
Remember, if you aren’t looking for them, they can be easy to miss. When survivors reflect on their experiences, many realize they might have seen red flags – including those discussed here. However, they chose to close their eyes to the warning because they didn’t want to believe the person they trusted would hurt or shatter that trust.