One of the most frustrating things in my line of work is watching women get in—and stay in—unhealthy relationships. No matter how many red flags they see, hurtful interactions they have or lies they’re told, far too many women blame themselves, question themselves and don’t trust themselves. Below are 10 truths that women need to hear:
1. If he can’t find time for you when you’re dating, he will not find time for you when you get married. Many workaholics or commitment-phobics find countless excuses for being absent—don’t fall for the excuses. If he’s not present in dating, he’s unlikely to all of a sudden become present in marriage.
2. What happens in dating is NEVER solved by marriage—it is only intensified. If he is a heavy drinker when you’re dating, he will likely develop a drinking problem in your marriage (if left unchecked). If he ogles women, flirts, lies, gambles, gets defensive, etc., these issues will not disappear in marriage; they will likely grow. Marriage is not the “fix.”
3. Having a child does NOT fix a marriage—it intensifies what was already present. If your marriage is struggling, do not have a child in the hopes it will fix your marriage. Having children is difficult enough in the best of marriages; parenting is near impossible in poor ones.
4. If he cheats on you once, there is a high probability he will cheat on you again. If he is not remorseful or blames you for his cheating, it is almost a guarantee that he will do it again. If you stay, don’t listen to his words, pay attention to his actions. If he’s cheating and you’re tuning in, you will often feel it in your bones.
5. If he hits, pushes or intimidates you once, this behavior is likely to intensify as time goes on. If he calls you names, he is emotionally abusive. Physical abuse often starts with emotional abuse, fits of rage, jealousy, intimidation and control. Over time it escalates into more frequent occurrences, regardless of your behavior. Recognize it and get out or get help the first time. If the help doesn’t work—leave.
6. Physical abuse is NOT about the person being abused—it is about the abuser’s dysfunction. He will abuse anyone he is with. This is also true if the abuser is a woman. You cannot be quiet enough, perfect enough or pleasing enough to stop an abuser from abusing. Abusers abuse. Period. Stop making their abuse about your issues.
7. The only way to stop a partner from raging, bullying and throwing fits is for you to set limits—the ultimate one being leaving the relationship. Walking on eggshells, begging, crying, pleading, yelling, threatening to leave, etc., sends the message that the anger is ok. The only thing that has a chance to stop rage is a clear message from you—followed by consistent and steady actions—that you will not live in fear.
8. When you excuse his mistreatment of you, you increase his mistreatment of you. Rationalizing someone’s poor treatment of you, because of their stress, family of origin, drinking, etc., harms you. Why someone does what s/he does is irrelevant. The only question to ask yourself is, “Is it okay or not okay?”
9. Calling someone names—in anger or otherwise—is emotional abuse. This is true whether you are the one calling names or the one being called names. Calling someone names harms relationships and creates a distance—even if the person being called the names doesn’t complain about it.
10. Men often don’t change in their marriages until their wives are willing to leave them. In my experience, men don’t listen to their wives’ complaints until they have to. Yelling, crying, pleading and nagging are behaviors men dismiss as wives being crazy, impossible to please or over the top. If men don’t believe the marriage is in jeopardy due to their behavior, they are unlikely to change it.
Too many women fall into bad relationships, settle for poor treatment, look past blinding red flags and sacrifice their happiness, so they don’t have to be alone. This is sucking the life out of women. If you’re not brave enough to see what’s right in front of you, daring enough to set clear and consistent limits to stop it, and courageous enough to walk away if it doesn’t change—you will lose yourself. Until you are willing to do all these things, healthy relationships and a great life will be out of your reach.
Challenge: Hang this list up on your wall, carry it in your purse and ingrain it in your brain. Be humble enough to look at yourself and wise enough to not take the blame when it is not yours to take.