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Ludy Green, Ph.D Headshot

Seeing through the Charm -- Is Your New Love an Abuser?

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You spot him in the bookstore, reading one of your favorite books. She giggles at your jokes when you introduce yourself in the park. You soon fall for this person who seems to be Mr. Right or The Perfect Girl. Fast forward one year. The charming bookstore guy, your boyfriend, punched you yesterday for talking to a boy in your class about an assignment. Your girlfriend with a great sense of humor screamed at you in public for not calling her last night. According to the Center for Disease Control, teen dating violence happens more than you may think. Anyone, regardless of education, race, and age, is susceptible to abuse.

It's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of new relationships, to forget reality and to be blind to your significant others' faults. Therefore, it's important to stay grounded, to remember who you are and to look out for red flags that signal an unhealthy relationship or early signs of controlling behavior and abuse before you fall even more in love.

How Does He Talk About His Ex? He no longer talks to his exes because "they're crazy." When you ask if he feels he did anything wrong in his past relationships, he blames his ex-girlfriends for causing the relationship to end, while he did nothing wrong. This response may be acceptable to you as his girlfriend who he loves, but keep in mind that one day you may also be labeled as the crazy ex who caused the relationship to end.

How Does She Treat Strangers? She gets easily upset and is very rude and condescending to the waiter when he makes a small mistake.

Double Standards. He holds you to higher standards than he does himself in similar situations, making him a hypocrite. For example, you aren't allowed to flirt with other men, but he is allowed to flirt with other women because "that's just how he is."

Disrespectful. She doesn't treat you like a human being with your own desires and needs. She berates you in public by shutting you down and criticizing you in front of others. She is also selfish and is not able to empathize with how she hurt you.

Clinginess. He wants you to take care of him all the time and he wants to always be with you. He makes you feel guilty if you want to spend some time with family or friends or anyone else besides him.

Lack of Communication. When there is an issue you are concerned about in the relationship, she shuts down and refuses to talk about it, causing you to feel like you're being punished for expressing your boundaries and personal preferences.

Lack of Accountability. He is never to blame for any of his actions; it is always someone else's fault or caused by the circumstances. For example, he blames his hurtful words on the alcohol he drank last night and says he can't control his actions when he's drunk.

Not Dependable or Consistent. She makes empty promises and apologizes for her behavior, but still continues to repeat the same hurtful behavior. Her actions don't reflect her words.

Jealousy and Possessiveness. He overreacts when you talk or spend time with a guy friend, despite the fact that you've told your boyfriend that you're not attracted to this friend.

Manipulation. She attempts to control your behavior by reacting negatively in order to get her own way. For example, if you mention breaking up, she threatens to commit suicide and says she can't live without you in order to make sure you stay in the relationship.

Okay, so you now know the major signs of an unhealthy relationship. What else can you do to make sure you're staying aware of controlling behaviors in your relationship?

Trust Yourself and Your Intuition. If you feel like something is wrong in your relationship and you have a bad feeling, but can't put your finger on what exactly it is, you may be dating a potential abuser.

Ask your Friends. Your friends have the advantage of not being in love with your significant other. They can see your partner's faults much more easily, and remind you who you are if you feel like your identity is fading away through your romantic relationship.

Get Out. If you start to see some of these warning signs, the abuse and controlling behaviors in your relationship will probably get worse -- emotionally, physically or sexually. Your partner needs to talk to a therapist, get in touch with his/her feelings and learn how to better manage anger. Unfortunately, it's likely that your partner can't take this step toward self-growth if you both are still together.

For more information about red flags in dating relationships, visit: