I am going to do something different here, and rather than writing about the earliest warning signs that abuse will likely be oncoming in a relationship, I’ll write about the warning signs that you are already in an abusive relationship. I will offer you—what I have learned through talking to many, many victims of abuse over-the-years—are internal warning signs that you are being abused.
I hope this article has helped you know whether or not what you are experiencing in your relationship is abuse. Contact me today if I might be of help to you. Know that Healthy love feels good. It does not hurt.
I posted a tweet recently that received a big response. The tweet: “Paradox: Once u GET that u can only change self, you’re then most able to influence others to change. Why would u say that is?” Here is a random sampling of the responses:
I very much appreciate the numerous thoughtful responses. They really got me thinking deeply about what my answer would be if I were to write about it longer than a tweet, and here’s what I came up with.
We can’t change others, but we can influence them to want to change themselves. And ironically, we mainly do that by keeping a positive view of them, because then we have a chance of connecting with them. And it’s only through feeling connected to a person that others are willing to, truly give, that person’s opinions weight. As they give our opinions weight, we can gradually and happily (and still having great respect and acceptance toward them) show them that they might be happier (and/or experience more long-term benefit) if they changed to be more like how want them to be. Then they might start gradually considering it and making a change from within themselves, which is what we want. And it’s important we remain open to being changed ourselves, too. Here’s an example.
When my vet told me I needed to start brushing my dogs’ teeth, well one of my dogs wouldn’t have it. So how was I going to change this dog to at least accept having her teeth brushed (with an electric toothbrush no less, which she was afraid of)? I’ve realized that changing a dog is similar to changing a human being. It’s often a gradual process, and the truth is, when “I changed” my dog, I was as proud of the changes I’d made along the way (and the deep respect and understanding the dog and I built for each other) as I was feeling like “I changed this animal” as in “I’m so wonderful and so powerful”.
In fact, I don’t even think of it as, “I changed this animal,” because I really know that it was through my showing great respect and liking for how she already was, combined with showing her (gradually) that she just might gain even more happiness if she allowed me to brush her teeth, that then she chose to gradually move in that direction. What she might get out of having her teeth brushed included things like: maybe she’d enjoy how smooth her teeth felt after; she’d certainly enjoy the great amount of attention she’d receive from me during a teeth brushing; she’d likely love the great taste of the toothpaste. (Granted, human toothpaste doesn’t taste so great that I get excited about using it – it beats baking soda but it’s nothing like chocolate mousse!)
And I was moving in my position too. I had to overcome my own resistance to brushing my dogs’ teeth, because after all, it’s kind of a nasty job. I had to be willing to enter into that time (of brushing their teeth) with joy and ease, and it had to be real joy, not faked, because dogs know, they sense our true energy (so do people actually).
And guess what? My dog changed (as did I). Gradually she became more and more comfortable, and I was able to move closer and closer to her with the vibrating toothbrush, until today, she may like it even more than my other dog. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that I’d moved in my attitude (LOL)! Besides bringing calm and even joy to the tooth brushing exercise, I was a different person in my ability to respect and enjoy someone for whom enjoying having her teeth brushed didn’t come naturally. So each of us changed what it is that makes us happy. As opposed to, each changed just to make the other happy.
Please let me expand. Her change happened in such a way, with my having (and maintaining) such great respect for her, that I don’t take credit for her change. And I wouldn’t necessarily want to, really. It’s kind of like the whole thing with sex – you want them to want it. You want them to want the change, otherwise it’s like you tell them what to do and they’re like, grudgingly, “Okay, I’ll do it because you want it, just to make you happy, all right”. No, no – that’s no good! You want it to be a desire that emanates from within the other. You want it to be an internal motivation. You’re not that happy if they’re doing it for you. You might be happier than if they’re not doing it at all, but you’d be most happy if they did it because they truly changed and so they wanted to. You see, when you control or manipulate someone to change, you’re happy on the surface level, but you know underneath, their change isn’t going to last unless it comes from within.
It is like a man who batters. He gets his wife to do all sorts of things for him, but he’s not really happy, because he knows she’s not doing these things because she loves him. She’s doing them because of coercion from him and fear of him. Some people say, “Oh he’s happy because he gets everything he wants in his home. He enjoys the benefits of being abusive.” Having worked with men who abuse, I can tell you that they are actually very, very unhappy men, even though they have a lot of power and control over the people in their lives.
And getting a dog to enjoy having her teeth brushed (with an electric toothbrush no less) is a really good example too, because if you don’t use the non-pushy and positive approach, if you use a force or bribe approach instead, then the dog might tolerate it. In which case you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, okay, she’ll sit here for a brief moment. But I can tell she’s ready to leap right up and get away from me as soon as she can.” Versus when the dog chooses to have her teeth brushed because you’ve shown her gradually and positively that she might like it and you’ve been there for her kindly and positively each step of the way – my dog today who learned to gradually and positively enjoy having her teeth brushed, well, she will keep opening her mouth for that toothpaste as long as I am willing to keep at it. Sometimes she even seems disappointed when I finish!
Back to the paradox: “Once u GET that u can only change self, you’re then most able to influence others to change.” When you think you can control another, you’re already emanating a forceful and judging energy, which leads the one you want to change to emanate a resistant energy. Stated another way, attempting to control a person goes hand-in-hand with judging that person. When you have high regard for a person, the last thing you want to do is take away choices from that person, or control that person. So when you want to control and think that you can, it shows that there is judging underneath. When judging someone you’ll be more likely to use coercive (whether overt or covert) methods to try to change the person. Both of these – your judging spirit toward them and your pushing them, attempting to force or manipulate them to change, leads them to feel insulted, put down, and like they’re a little bit less of a living being to you, and so, invites them to resist you. And that’s very healthy resistance by the way. Because they are resisting being judged, being thought of “less than,” or being objectified as a “bad or destructive” being.
To expand on this idea of forcing people versus helping them to learn to truly want to do it, there is a saying, “Slaves dig ditches. They don’t program computers.” When you’re forcing (or manipulating) someone to do something it has to be a really rough, crude labor sort of job, that they can’t possibly sabotage or mess up, because they’ll be messing it up all over the place (whether consciously or unconsciously) because they’re not happy with what they’re doing (it isn’t out of a motivation that emanates from within). So, you can’t have slaves do anything that they could really mess up – or that requires creativity or higher thinking – because you’ll pay too much for it. So when there’s force or manipulation involved to get another person to do something, you end up, not only unhappy with what the person gives you (or only surface level happy) in the moment, but also, you’re going to pay for it later, in some way. Because you’re going to hurt your relationship; they’ll feel that much less inspired to please you.
With the dog/teeth-brushing example, the dog may make me pay by continuing to try to get away from me. Yes, she might stay there as long as I tell her to, or as long as I keep my hand on her. But just as soon as I take my hand off of her, shooo – she’s gone, out of there! You know, that can make a person feel pretty bad. She’s not here because she wants to be. She’s here because I told her to be. Then on top of that she may start staying away from me. When she sees me start to do whatever it is I do that leads up to brushing her teeth, maybe she goes into the other room. Dogs and people will start doing things to avoid you that you may not even notice. You know, they’ll just kind of disappear, and not be around you as much.
There are neurons in our brains called “mirror neurons” – they will automatically mirror what is happening in the brains of those around us. So when we’re focused on getting another to change, that other will turn and put all their focus on getting us to change! Those mirror neurons may be behind why we tend to get what we give.
I’m sure most of us have experienced being surprised before at the fact that, almost as soon as we start taking responsibility for our role in the situation, the other person does, too. (That may be those mirror neurons at work.) That’s why to change another, and to get another to want that change, we’ve gotta turn and look at ourselves and figure out how we can change too, and how we can want to change – at least become open to changing.
Also, when you realize the value of focusing on self in order to best influence another, you are more likely to spend time learning methods that invite change (e.g., good communication) rather than trying to manipulate it. And methods that invite change (rather than try to force it) are aimed at getting one’s own head right first before we have a conversation with the other. Then when we’re having the conversation with them, we’re going to be focusing as much on our own behavior as on theirs.
Stated another way, every energy has an equal and opposite energy. When you’re not trying to make them change, when instead, you’re coming at them with a soft, gentle, loving energy, and with caring about their right to choose what’s in their best interest, you’re best able to influence true change.
But if in contrast, you approach for example, your man, trying to control him, you’re likely also judging him, like thinking he is acting like a lowlife or he owes you for all you do for him. With that kind of thinking toward him as you approach him, of course you’re likely to speak to him in a way that invites him to resist you. You’ve gotta get your own head right first, before you can have any chance of influencing him. And getting your own head right means you’re able to maintain a positive view of the other – you’re truly seeing the other as a complex, fallible, loving, and valuable in the world being just like you.
We can too often forget that people (and animals) tend to take the same stance toward us as we take toward them. If we come at them attempting to control them, they give us that same energy back – they’ll equally attempt to control us, whether by simply resisting us (equal to the pressure we put on them) or by instigating harsher methods – escalating the situation. So we want to approach them with the same respect and energy that we want them to have toward us – the same viewing them as a complex human being, the same amount of openness to changing ourselves as we want them to have about themselves, the same amount of giving them the message “In no way do I want to take your free will choice away from you, or to pressure you.”
Showing them such respect for how they are, we’re saying, “I get it, I respect it, and I think you might enjoy this way too, or even better.” Then if they try our way out, and they find they do enjoy it better or they enjoy the consequences, and importantly, they don’t feel pressured (they maintain their sense of autonomy, their sense of “I have a free will choice here” – which is vital to feeling like a living being versus an object), then they are likely to start desiring to do that behavior on their own, because of the joy they gain from it. But it’s often a slow, gradual process to change what it is that brings us joy. After all, neurons have to be rewired, and that takes time. And it doesn’t matter that it takes time because you want them to take ownership for the change anyway. (There are implications here about the need for patience. You have to be willing to give time and not give up too soon.) You and they both actually want it to have emanated from within them. Just like when my dog moved from a place of fear of having her teeth brushed, to actually enjoying it, I’d helped show her that she might be able to gain a lot of joy from it, but she’s actually the one who changed her own mind about it, and decided that indeed that could be true for her.
In conclusion, we almost never want to be involved in changing another if that involves pressuring them or attempting to control them. (More on the “almost” in a future blog, because there is a time for the protective use of force.) Instead, we want to show them, little by little, how what we are suggesting they do, will actually bring them more joy and benefit, than what they’re currently doing. In other words, it’s in their best interest too, not just ours. And it’s best that their change is out of their free will choice. To the extent they change out of feeling pressured by us, it’ll take away from both their and our present joy and long-term benefit. So in working to change another, we approach them positively, with great respect, and with joy and calmness. And we have an equal openness to changing ourselves and budging from our position too. So by the time they have changed, we have also changed. Maybe my dog who used to be afraid of having her teeth brushed and now enjoys it, won’t ever enjoy it as much as the dog who – from the start – liked it. Or, just maybe, the dog who used to be afraid of it, now actually enjoys it more than the other dog. After all, I think I do – enjoy brushing the formerly scared dog’s teeth more, because of how we worked up to being able to do it. I worked for it, you know (“worked for it” in the positive sense of it benefited me and my mood during and after the “work”) so it means more to me. I now experience feelings of gratitude and joy when engaged in brushing her teeth. We have both, definitely, changed.
I could call this article, “To change another, change yourself,” but the thing is, if we go into changing ourselves with the primary intention to change the other it won’t work. Because if our changing ourselves is solely (or largely) in order to change the other, they’ll feel that; it’ll still feel like an insult or a manipulation to them, so they’ll resist changing. Make sense? Stated another way, our state of consciousness in each moment is just as important (if not more so) as our behaviors and words (what a person can see on the surface).
To check state of consciousness, ask yourself these questions:
If your answer’s “no” to any of these questions, then be very careful to watch for and nip in the bud, the tendency you’ll have to move into judging and pressuring the one whom you want to change. Avoid judging and pressuring as those will mess up your relationship – the #1 important factor in being able to influence.
Description: This video is about one important early, early form of abuse – pressuring. It explains why pressuring is negative in relationships. It also tells why – being a victim is abusive. That is, the giving in, to pressuring is actually encouraging a destructive behavior. Thus it is equally abusive. The giving in to pressuring is the covert, subtle, sneaky half of the same early warning sign: pressuring.
Transcript: [Intro] SeeThePink.com [Applause]
I’m going to tell you a bit of the beginning of the story of Sarah and Tyler. But first, how their relationship played out: is that they were married for more than 10 years. Tyler was a minister; Sarah, a minister’s wife. They had a child. And Tyler was very physically violent to Sarah, before she finally divorced him.
So, What happened in the very beginning of their relationship, if anything, that might have portended the physical violence to come?
Let’s go way, way back to when they first met. Sarah moved away from home for the first time, to attend college from her home in Georgia, all the way up North. She’s a Freshman at college. And she was there on a full academic scholarship. The type of scholarship she had, she was probably in the top 10% of intellect in this country. And so, she was a bit worried, would she – frankly, would she be able to meet someone who matched her on her level of intellect, as well as her faith – because she was deeply religious. So, when she met Tyler she was really impressed to find out, not only was he a graduate student, but his major was Ministry. So they were really impressed with each other.
This is early on in their dating. It’s late at night. Tyler is in his house, in his bed. Sarah is in her dorm room, about to get in bed, and they’re talking on the phone.
And Sarah says to me, the researcher, what was going on in her at the time: I remember wanting to hang up, but, not wanting to be the one who hung up. So I said to him, “Uh, Tyler, well, I guess I should get off the phone now. I ought to be getting ready for, for bed.”
Tyler: “Ah, Sarah, come on now. Just, stay on the phone with me, a little longer [Yawns, and stretches out.] Aaaaaah, hummm, I’m in bed. I’m about to go to sleep. I know—hey, you get ready and get in bed too, and let’s fall asleep together on the phone”.
Sarah says to Researcher: He actually wanted us to fall asleep on the phone talking, which reeeeallllly upset my roommate in case someone else wanted to call!
Looking back, I’m like, “That was just, weird. [Audience laughs.] But it was, I guess, it was so much, What do you call it? Togetherness! That he didn’t even want to get off the phone. I agreed to it. I wouldn’t do that now.”
So, Sarah said that when she and Tyler talked on phone, often she wanted the conversation to end, but he didn’t. So she pushed down her own sense of discomfort. She was even willing to accept dagger eyes, the dagger eyes, coming from her roommate, in order to avoid even risking, that her ending the phone call would cause Tyler any discomfort.
What you just saw here, was an example of pressuring, and the giving into pressuring, a subtle case of how it happens in the very beginning of a relationship.
Imagine a circle. I think of pressuring as the more, is the overt half of this early warning sign of violence. And the giving in to pressuring is like the subtle, covert, sneaky half, of this same early warning sign.
Pressuring is continuing to try to get your way, when someone has said “No” or when they’ve said they want to do something else, such as get off the phone. And pressuring is actually disrespecting a person. Because, when you respect someone, you believe they’re important. And pressuring is saying, “I, am not, caring, if you’re, uncomfortable with this. I want, to get, what, I, want!” So ask yourself, Would you pressure someone, whom you really value, respect, admire?
Now the giving into pressuring, Sarah said that her giving in to Tyler’s pressuring, wasn’t just about his pressuring her, or as they often say, “The perpetrator isolates the victim.” Or, “He made her, give him, her time.” She said it wasn’t like that at all. That she eagerly, wanted to spend her time with him. She chose to put herself under stress so that she could be with him until the very last minute.
Now, it’s difficult for many folks, including me sometimes, to wrap our minds around this idea that the tolerating of abusive behavior is just as destructive, as abusive, as the perpetrating, the overt half of that behavior. Here’s what I say to myself that helps me to keep this in mind and remember it.
Every time a person tolerates abuse, the “abuser” – dislikes himself a little bit more inside. Because he just got away with what he knows, deep down inside, is a destructive behavior. So he dislikes himself a little bit more.
What do people do when they dislike themselves a little bit more? Audience member: They are more violent. Exactly! They are more likely to repeat the behavior, and to escalate it. So Sarah has just hurt him, by tolerating his pressuring.
Because, when we really care for someone, we don’t tolerate destructive behavior from them. We hold them to a high standard of behavior. If Sarah, uh, this is what Sarah could have said to him, when he was pressuring her. She could have said something like, “Tyler, I know, you’re, a better man, than this. Please, keep, this behavior, out of (flirty voice) your repertoire of behaviors for getting what you want.”
And if he had continued that behavior, if he didn’t believe he was better than that, she would have walked away from the relationship. Because she knows that over time, he would lose respect for her, for tolerating his destructive behavior, and more for himself. And that their relationship would then spiral downward.
I have brought it into our consciousness more, that pressuring is abuse! It’s an early, early, abuse in an early, early, early form. It’s destructive to our relationships. And I think that we know that deep down inside, but many times, we don’t want to admit it to ourselves, or acknowledge it.
The giving-in to pressuring – they call it “enabling,” but it’s actually much more than that. It is – giving in, is actually encouraging the destructive behavior.
May we, stick to our guns, my prayer for us is that we stick to our guns when somebody is pressuring us! Because to do so, there’s a higher, higher reason for it, than simply ourselves – than simply Sarah’s, um, you know self-care of saying, “I want to get off the phone now, because I need to do my nightly chores, and get ready for bed”. And that higher reason is – truly caring about the other – about him.
[Applause] [Outro] SeeThePink.com
Quality-Time Enmeshing (QTE), or simply “enmeshing,” is a powerful indicator of violence to come when the relationship also has at least one type of Disrespectful Behavior occurring in it.
Enmeshing can look very different in different relationships. But there are 3 defining characteristics (always present) that identify enmeshing:
Now, some couples don’t say to each other, “Okay we’re going steady now.” They just assume they are based on the amount of time they are spending together. Either way—beginning at this stage of stated OR assumed monogamy, both partners start:
When they can’t literally be together (such as in a long-distance relationship), they are on the phone together 24/7, or they’ll call each other 4, 5, and 6 times a day and often talk for hours. So one way or another, they spend a lot of time together. Still, our research suggests that the intensity or the quality of their time together is likely the even more significant factor that points towards the violence to come than their high quantity of time together. Couples heading for violence have very high-quality or intense time together in early monogamy.
Now, you may still fail to fully understand what Quality-Time Enmeshing is until you see the great variety of ways that different couples heading for violence make their time together intensely “positive” (in contrast to nonviolent couples’ positivity). To learn about all the early warning signs of abuse in a more in-depth way, sign up now for the next virtual boot camp—“Detecting the Pink Flags Before they turn Red.” Importantly, you’ll also learn how some couples lie to themselves and thus convince themselves that they are not enmeshing. This actually makes these relationships appear to outsiders as though these couples aren’t enmeshing—when in fact they are!
The third defining characteristic of Quality-Time Enmeshing is:
For all the intense high-quality time couples heading for violence are spending together in early monogamy, this doesn’t mean that they are isolating themselves. As a warning sign of violence, isolation is one of the biggest myths or misconceptions, because the couple may actually be becoming more social. If they are becoming more social, the key is that they’re doing it together. Togetherness (not necessarily isolation) is the key defining word for relationships heading for violence.
“Cocooning” is a term used to describe that time when couples are in a stage when they’re completely into each other (like the honeymoon stage)—when they’re just cocooned up into each other and don’t want to be separated. But enmeshing is different. In the boot camp, you will get to see (via videotape), hear (via audiotape), and experience (via dramatization) lots of real-life examples of how enmeshing is different from cocooning. You’ll leave having internalized the differences, thus gaining a strong gut instinct for picking up on enmeshing when you see it or experience it.
The earliest warning signs of violence are usually not the stereotypical warning signs. Read on to gain a better understanding of how a behavior that seems positive can actually be an early warning sign.
Several categories of “positive” behaviors emerged from our research as foretelling physical violence in the relationship, particularly when these behaviors occurred in the relationship in addition to one or more Types of Disrespect. Quotes are around the word “positive” because while these behaviors appear to be positive, loving behaviors, they are in fact so positive that it makes them actually become negative. Intensely “Positive” Behaviors suggest a very dark side. Several examples of this are discussed below.
One category of Intensely “Positive” Behavior is called Acts of Service. An example of an act of service is the care-taking of your partner’s children. Here Anthony (a domestic violence perpetrator) talks about the care-taking of his partner’s children, early on in their dating:
“I dedicated my life to those children. The funny thing is that I didn’t have boundaries when it came to the kids. I loved that a lot. I think that’s what kept me going a lot of times. She didn’t put restrictions on me when it came to her children. Immediately, I started doing family stuff like picking them up from daycare, going to the PTA. You would think they were my own children. I was definitely a part of their life immediately.”
So the act itself—caring for the partner’s children—isn’t inappropriate (as with the other forms of romantic giving). It’s the additional intensity it took on that makes it inappropriate: e.g., no boundaries and immediately picking her children up from school. An example from the news of this happening was the case of Scott Peterson, who killed his pregnant wife, Laci. After he began his affair with Amber Frey, he began immediately picking her child up from school and became completely involved in their lives in other ways such that he was wrapping his world around theirs.
Even though many participants in our research stated that they believed they felt great about themselves when they met their partner, you can actually see by their behaviors in the earliest stages that they possessed low self-value. They had an intense need to please their partners—too intense. They are giving to such a degree that they are ignoring their uncomfortable feelings and thus hurting themselves.
It is similar to when people lie—they tend to keep talking and give too many details. Because it’s not believable to them, they think it’s not believable enough to others, so they keep talking to try to make themselves sound more believable. Well, it’s the same with behavior.
Doing or giving too much can happen when people do not really and truly believe their positive feelings about their partners, so they do more and give more. They’re intensifying the “positives” to quash their uncomfortable feelings from the disrespect that’s also happening in the relationship. This whole dynamic is usually occurring subconsciously. And each partner is doing it to lie to themselves, to the other partner, and to the outside world in order to preserve the perception that they have a perfect relationship.
While we hope this information is helpful to you regarding understanding Intensely “Positive” Behaviors, it is important to note that Intense “Positivity” has many subtle nuances that can lead you to easily miss it as the early warning sign of abuse that it is. If you believe that you’ve seen this behavior in your relationship early on, it is vital that you discuss and examine this realization with a professional. Contact Dr. Stephanie today to discuss your specific situation.
Frequently, those who come out of an abusive relationship are confused about what “respect” means. This happens because an abusive person will often say things to his or her partner such as “You don’t respect me. You are so disrespectful. How about a little respect?!”
What the abusive person means by “respect” is compliance.
So the victim comes to view “respect” as meaning to comply (or obey) and mistakenly thinks that if they don’t eagerly comply with another’s wishes or if they state their own wishes or opinions that are different, then that’s not being respectful. What is respect, really? How do I know that I am treating another person with respect?
Respecting a person means that you view that person as important and worthy of special regard. It doesn’t mean that you obey that person. Instead, it means that you give that person’s opinion weight—more so than you would someone you don’t know.
An example of a behavior that is disrespectful to another person is pressuring him or her. Now, there’s a difference between pressuring and being persistent. Pressuring is continuing to try to get your way after someone has said “No.” Being persistent is repeatedly asking when someone hasn’t given you an answer yet. Pressuring is saying something like this: “I am not caring that you’re uncomfortable with this. I want to get what I want!” Ask yourself this question: would you pressure someone whom you really value, respect, and admire?
One example of respecting another person (besides not pressuring him or her) is trusting him or her to able to deal with his or her own struggles. That means your mindset and behaviors reflect this: “I do not worry about another’s problems. Nor do I give help unless it is asked for, because doing that sends the message that I don’t trust the other person’s ability to find solutions.”
Another example of respecting others is respecting their time. This would mean that when I call someone, I ask them something like this: “Is this a good time for you to talk? I think what I have to discuss will take about 30 minutes.” Then you have respected this person (held him or her up as an important person) by inquiring first if this time of theirs is available, versus just assuming that you can take it.
Pressuring is one of several categories of Types of Disrespectful Behavior (discovered in our research) that portends violence—particularly when it is coupled with at least one form of Intensely “Positive” Behavior.
If you think your relationship (or the relationship of someone you know) might be heading for abuse or already is abusive, it is crucial that you learn about the earliest warning signs of abuse. Please attend the Detecting the Pink Flags Before They Turn Red boot camp or attend private or group coaching with Dr. Lang so that you can learn the early warning signs.
I was talking with a woman years ago about early warning signs, and she said to me, “Ooooh, you’re talking about Pink Flags—like Red Flags, but before they turn red.” And I said, “Yes! That’s right! I’m talking about the stuff that happens when the couple is first getting to know each other—only through the first month of their dating relationship.”
In the beginning is when the foundation is set for the rest of the relationship—and I’ve found lots of Pink Flags in the very beginning.
Something else to note about Pink Flags (other than the fact that they appear early in the relationship) is their subtlety. When I say “See the Pink,” I’m talking about seeing the warning signs when they’re still subtle. I emphasize repeatedly that every relationship is different. So what I’m saying with regard to the Pink Flags is that they are something you’ll want to keep your eye out for and be aware of. I’m not saying that a relationship exhibiting some of the Pink Flags is necessarily going to be a violent one. I’m only saying that these are subtle signs that things may take a turn—towards violence.
So if you or someone you know experiences the Pink Flags, it is time to talk with a professional so that you can further analyze your particular case. Is the relationship heading for trouble? And if so, what can be done about it to nip that trouble in the bud? A huge benefit of catching these warning signs early is that there’s a much greater chance that the partners can learn to change their behaviors, nip impending trouble in the bud, and turn things around. (And if partners are unable to turn the relationship around, it’s easier to get out of the relationship before attachment has grown strong.)
If you recognize that these factors may be present in your relationship and/or that you’ve had a pattern in the past of abusive relationships that you want to stop once and for all, participate in private coaching with Dr. Stephanie Lang. This is her specialty. She will help you change those destructive patterns so that you are enabled to have relationships that are truly loving and joyful.
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!