After the end of a long-term marriage or relationship, naturally there is a sense of loneliness and uncertainty about the future. You are used to having someone around to keep you company, to help you with unfamiliar household chores, to help with the kids, and to contribute financially. Because these are real needs, it is easy to accept the companionship and help of another when it is offered. For the same reason, it’s also easy to rush into a new relationship to fill the void and to alleviate the fears of being alone.
Let’s be honest. It’s also easy to fall into a new relationship quickly because someone pays attention to you when you are lonely, compliments you when you have been questioning whether you are still attractive, or is just plain very attractive themself. You may feel sexually attracted to that person, and think about how nice it would be just to be touched again, to have someone hold you, kiss you, make love to you. The initial attraction to a potential partner can be powerful, even irresistible!
As you consider beginning a new relationship, it’s best to be cautious at first. There are many factors that can sour a relationship that are not obvious at the beginning. Romantic love is an initial state of emotional and physical attraction that can completely cloud your judgment. When we are in a state of romantic love, we are using our emotional mind, not our rational mind. Our emotional mind tells us that this person is attractive, kind, helpful, loyal, the perfect person, the one you have been waiting for all this time, the person who can fill your life with happiness and security! It’s easy to believe this, despite any real long-term knowledge of the other person. For example, we don’t yet know what they’re like to live with, or what their personal values or family issues might be. There may be other things that we may consider important. You can be sure the other person is on their best behavior when you first fall in love, because they want to win you over.
Under the spell of romantic love, you want to ignore the small signs that something may be wrong. He wants to drink every time you go out together, but you think, “He’s not an alcoholic”, or “Now that he’s with me, he’ll stop”. She may have emotional tirades, but you think, “Now that she’s with me, she’ll be happy and this won’t happen.” He immediately wants to move in with you, even though he doesn’t have a job, but you think, “Soon he’ll get one, and we’ll be financially secure”. She has you working like hired help around her home, but you think, “Once we get all the work done, we’ll have time to relax and do things together.” He gets angry and pushes, slaps, or hits you, and later apologizes, and you think “He is really sorry and it will never happen again.” She insists you take her to the most expensive places, buy her expensive jewelry and clothes, and gets irritable if you suggest something less expensive, but you think, “Well, she is a classy woman and I like to be seen with her.” He makes no effort to get to know your children, or insists you parent a different way, but you think, “When we’re together, they will develop a friendship with each other, and we’ll find a way to compromise and co-parent.” He promises to take you out Friday night, then never calls and is unreachable the whole weekend. When you finally reach him, he says that he was called away on urgent business, and you accept this explanation despite the obvious lack of courtesy, but you think, “His business is very important, and I shouldn’t be so selfish.”
In other words, as the saying goes, love is blind. You refuse to see what is in front of your eyes. For the most part, what you see is what you get. The signs of a toxic relationship are there, even before the romance wears off, but you ignore, minimize, or rationalize the problems you see. You enter into a relationship expecting that you can “change” or “help” the other. That is usually a bad place to start. If the other person has a problem that is causing arguments or preoccupying much of your time together, something is wrong. You need to ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” That is not a selfish statement; it is a rational one. Truly, why should you even consider entering into a relationship that is not bringing you happiness from the very beginning?
As a relationship progresses, and now you have become sexually involved, perhaps you have moved in together. Time goes by, and the day-to-day realities of life become more your focus. The romantic love has subsided into a partnership that is practical as well as loving. By the way, that is supposed to happen. It doesn’t mean your relationship is flawed. People don’t change after you marry them or move in with them. If you are now seeing things that you hadn’t noticed before, it may be that you just didn’t see it, or they manipulated you by trying to appear as something they were not.
Let’s take, for example, the man who disappears on the weekends and always has an excuse for not letting you know, or responding to you calls. Perhaps he hides his phone from you as well. He leaves early or works late without notice. In reality, these are sign that this may be a man who has another woman somewhere whom he sees before or after work, or on the weekends, or he may be married. You don’t want to believe it, but the signs are all around you.
How about the woman who has emotional tirades toward you, then insists it was your fault. Everything is an argument, and you’re always wrong. You’re not sure what you’ve done, but you resolve to do better and you apologize. If every discussion turns into an argument, there is clearly a communication problem for some reason, and it needs to be resolved if you plan to live with her the rest of your life. Being miserable in the relationship is not an option.
Violence in a relationship is never acceptable under any circumstances, and should not be tolerated. Both men and women can be violent, but let me absolutely clear about one thing; violence is ALWAYS the responsibility of the person who is violent. No one can “make” someone else behave violently. It is almost always a choice the perpetrator of violence makes, unless they are mentally ill. Violence includes, hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, or forced sex acts. There are more indirect forms of violence which include throwing things, breaking things, or punching holes in walls. But the message is one of intimidation. Not allowing you to leave a room, threatening, or holding a weapon are all serious signs that you could actually be in danger. At the core of all violence is the desire to have power over and control the other person. But let me be clear; power, control, and violence are never the victim’s fault, and the victim should not be judged. The person with the biggest problem is always the perpetrator. This is not love; it is a toxic and dangerous relationship. Being under the influence of a substance at the time is not an excuse. If you are not sure whether you are being abused or controlled, consult a domestic violence counselor.
If you recognize yourself or your potential partner in this article, it’s time to rethink the relationship. No love is worth sacrificing your happiness, let alone your personal safety for. Contact a professional who can help guide you, and don’t be afraid to choose yourself first.