Draped in Red Flags
In my last relationship, I ignored the glaring red flags I saw in my partner. After each one would reveal itself and after each subsequent argument, my partner would insist that he wanted a fresh start; a clean slate. He wanted to walk out of the room like it never happened, preventing me from bringing the same issues up again. I ignored, and eventually forgot, about the red flags, becoming oblivious to the pattern of his controlling and angry behaviour.
At first, I believed his negative actions stemmed from personal insecurities; I wanted to be there for him. So when he would make what I now see as being controlling requests of me, I would cooperate. He said his exes didn’t want to fight for their relationship and he wanted someone who would fight for them. I didn’t ask why anyone needed to be fighting in a relationship so he wouldn't doubt that I would fight for us, unlike his “bat-shit crazy” exes. I didn’t want to lose him, so I strived to fulfill his controlling requests. I distanced myself from friends he didn’t approve of and curated my social media following as per his wishes.
Just before hitting the 6-month mark, I realized I was no longer considering myself in my decisions. I was constantly thinking of his reactions to my actions and whether he would approve or get angry with me. It was difficult for me to remember my own thought processes, uninterrupted by his behaviour. He became the central focus of my life and during arguments, even when I was upset with him for being too angry or controlling, I would try to get over it as quickly as possible for his sake, avoiding annoying him with my malcontent once again.
It all ended with an inadmissible contradiction—and it wasn't the first time. He would set boundaries for me in terms of who I needed to unfollow, which conversations I needed to delete from my phone, and which topics to avoid when talking to male friends. I found, however, that he did not apply the same stringent regulations to himself.
When I finally ended the relationship, he threatened to kill himself. He did everything in his power to try to get a reaction out of me so I would go back to him. He insisted he was starting therapy and was a changed man (in four days, mind you). I didn’t buy it.
My sadness came in waves. I missed the companionship and it was easy to conceal the bad memories with the good. It is still difficult even though I am always reminded of how he hurt me and my constant doubts about him during the relationship. I miss the companionship and familiarity. It’s disheartening when someone is incapable of loving you the way you love them, especially when their understanding of love is manipulation, guilt tripping, and controlling behaviour.
I rushed into things with him and avoided all the red flags my friends warned me about because I wanted a relationship. I wanted good morning texts and Valentine’s day gifts and security. But then again, I can get the texts, gifts, and emotional security from people who won’t try to make themselves the sole pillar of my life, who will respect my individuality, and who will not deceive me; people who won’t disregard my concerns by framing my arguments in ways that attack them.
It is so difficult for women to leave these relationships, and so easy to become addicted to the intense highs make up for the devastating lows. It is difficult to find someone new—it’s easier to just settle.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, please reach out to your family and friends. Tell them the entire situation without leaving out details you think might paint a bad picture of your partner. Listen and internalize what they have to say. Often, your view of your relationship might be distorted by your partner’s lens. They might blame you for certain things or not allow you to be angry at other things, causing you to leave out certain important details when relaying the story to others.
Women are unfortunately very vulnerable to these kinds of controlling men. It is difficult to recognize such a relationship in the beginning stages, but there are certain common red flags which may occur in the early stages. Below are some signs that your partner may be trying to control or manipulate you to surrender to their unreasonable demands.
They get upset when you prioritize friends or family over them. They believe the most important relationship in your life should be your relationship with them. I am not saying your relationship is not important, however, you should not have to cancel plans with friends in order to satisfy your partner.
They speak poorly of their previous partners. A man who calls his ex girlfriend a “bitch” is likely to do the same to you if you break up with him. When men say their exes were “crazy,” it is always good to ask if there was something he did to make them “crazy.” Particularly if he says things like she accused him of cheating or hitting him, try to get the full story.
They make you feel like you have no say in the relationship. Ask yourself: are you always doing the activities he prefers? Are you always going out to eat his favourite foods? Maybe once in a while he does try something new with you, but for the majority it is him who decides what the two of you do together.
They will try to convince you of things that you know are untrue. They may tell you that you said or did certain things that you know you did not.
They always want updates when you’re out, or they make you feel guilty for not talking to them for long periods of time. If you are worrying about them being upset at you when you’re out, it’s not a good sign.
These are just a few points that may be worrying. However, the most telling piece of evidence that they aren’t right for you is how you feel. If you find yourself constantly having to brush away doubts about your partner, and coming up with excuses for them in your mind, they may be burdening you with more issues than you can handle.