You’d have to be crazy to hook up with an abuser, right? That’s what I thought, but after working on our relationship violence story for six months, I was shocked by how smart and cool the women who get fooled are. The thing is, these guys are super charmers, pulling off Oscar-worthy performances of Mr. Dream Dude -- at least while they’re wooing you. And then, when they’ve got you madly in love with them, ka-bang, their violent true colors start showing.
The good news: there are definite danger sings a guy is an abuser before he ever raises a fist -- and they start with you just having a funny feeling in your pit of your stomach. Because possessiveness and control are major red flags, Cindy Southworth, a VP at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, suggests this little test: “Break a date at the beginning when he’s all hot and heavy, and tell him your girlfriend needs you. If he says, ‘I’m disappointed but I understand,’ great. But if it’s, ‘I can’t bear to be apart,’ or he makes you feel guilty, puts your friend down, or gets angry, these are not good signs!”
Here are a few other red flags from Southworth and the whole team of experts at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, both for you and -- in case you’re worried about a friend -- for her:
Watch out if your guy:
- Is so crazy about you he wants to settle in as soon as you meet.
- Is really, weirdly jealous. (He should be uncomfortable if you go away for the weekend with your ex-boyfriend, but if he accuses you of flirting with every guy you encounter -- the waiter, the cashier, a gay buddy -- it's a red flag.)
- Texts so much, it sometimes creeps you out.
- Doesn’t think your friends and family value you enough, or even at all.
- You are always tired because he keeps you up at night.
- You’re always explaining to people “I can’t go.”
- Your anxiety soars if you’re just a few minutes late -- you know how upset he’ll be.
- Things are always your fault.
- You get a lot of apology emails or make-up gifts from him.
- You find you don’t do anything without him, or without him approving of it.
Also watch out if:
- !! You find out he had a violent relationship with a former girlfriend.
- !! He stalks you -- at work, online, with GPS in your car.
- !! He beats up a teammate or has a punch-out in a bar.
- !! He’s ever been cruel to animals.
- !!! He is ever physically violent to you.
And if you’re worried about a friend? She might be in trouble if:
- She starts saying she can’t come to things you invite her to (because she has to be with her boyfriend).
- When you’re with her, she’s always on-edge about returning his messages immediately or being late to meet him.
- She has bruises or scratches she can’t explain or tells you they were caused by an accident.
- She stops doing things she loved before meeting the guy -- hobbies, shopping, school, even working.
- You just feel like you’re losing her.
Have you or a friend ever witnessed any of these warning signs?
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Liz Brody is Glamour's editor at large. Learn more about relationship violence and join Glamour's Tell Somebody campaign to help keep women safe now.