There are many myths and misconceptions about what the early warning signs of a troubled relationship are. This is, in part, due to the fact that various psychologists and therapists have published articles on topics such as the early warning signs of abuse, but what they published was only their personal opinions; that is, it was not research-based.
We’ll start with a story. There is a famous psychologist who puts out the message that a whirlwind courtship is an early warning sign of abuse. Would you buy that? Well, our scientific research found that many relationships that turned abusive had very long courtships. In fact, the courtships of relationships that turned violent were of all different lengths, from whirlwind courtships (just a day to a few months long) to dating periods that lasted many years. So if we taught participants in our Boot Camp to “avoid a whirlwind courtship,” we would be teaching inaccurate information and missing the real early warning signs. Warning signs are not defined by the length of the dating period—the real early warning signs are about behaviors and emotions and thoughts that happen within each partner and between them, whatever the length of the courtship.
Given the number of articles and books published about early warning signs in dating, and how to choose wisely, people are clearly hungry for knowledge on this topic, but before Dr. Lang, no one converted that hunger to the dedication needed to complete years of research crucial for a scientific response to this problem.
Our Boot Camp is based on nearly 10 years of research. We brought in individuals and couples and videotaped them as they told the stories of their relationships. These interviews were analyzed using grounded theory, where within- and cross-case analyses were performed, and follow-up interviewing was done longitudinally over years.
Following the gold standard for relationship research, we compared never-violent, happy relationships with relationships that turned violent, as well as with relationships that turned distressed but never violent, and relationships that remained nonviolent after one of the partners had previously been in a violent relationship—all the while asking these basic questions: How do these relationships differ? How do the “masters” of relationships differ from the “disasters” of relationships and from those whose relationships that turned only distressed but not violent?
While we learned about the entire relationship, we focused on the time period from when participants first met their partners through only one month after the relationship became exclusive—the time period when things usually seem wonderful and the foundation is established for the later relationship.
After years of careful study, we identified the precise factors (including behaviors, thought processes, and feelings) that foretell distress and that portend violence, as well as those factors that predict a happy, nonviolent relationship. The most surprising of these characteristics were the intense “positives”—factors that appear to be positives (on the surface) but actually foreshadow trouble.
Learn the details about our scientifically Boot Camp: Detecting the Pink Flags Before They Become Red and sign up today!