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10 Warning Signs That a Relationship Could Become Abusive

hen behavior shocks the world — whether a high-profile murder, domestic violence involving a sports star or even corporal punishment uncertainties surrounding a football player — there are always questions: “Where were the signs that this could happen?” “Why didn’t we see this coming?”

The sad story of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice and his wife, Janay, has brought the epidemic of domestic violence in America to the national forefront.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, Ray Rice and his then-fiancée were involved in an altercation in an Atlantic City elevator. Ray struck Janay, sending her into a railing and knocking her unconscious. He then dragged her out of the elevator doors, where hotel staff assumed she was drunk. Rice was suspended two games for the charge, but when the full video of the incident surfaced on September 8, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

While we don’t know the full extent of everything that happened that weekend—and we may never know—we do know that domestic violence is often the culmination of other issues.

What happened in that elevator was just the final domino in a long line that led to the justification of using violence as conflict management. Even before that stage, there are warning signs that someone may be prone to this kind of behavior. Therefore, we must identify and act upon these signs so that we can intervene early and avoid tragedy altogether.

If you are concerned that a relationship may become abusive—either for yourself or a friend or loved one—watch for these 10 warning signs:

1. A past track record of violent crimes, regardless of conviction, or past aggressive physical behavior toward romantic interests, females in general or family members.

2. The use of physical force or inflicting physical harm is part of the job (e.g., police officers, military personnel, football players, boxers, etc.).

3. The regular use of alcohol or drugs as a stress-management coping mechanism.

4. Becoming easily verbally aggressive, especially with loved ones and/or verbally degrading to romantic partners, including name-calling or swearing.

5. Pressuring rough sex or degrading sexual positions.

6. Making fun of a romantic partner in front of others.

7. Manipulation and avoiding responsibility for mistakes, instead, blaming others.

8. Lack of empathy

9. Being an impulsive, emotionally driven decision-maker and having limited conflict resolution skills.

10. Pushing to have sex before marriage, especially if the partner resists, or forcing sexual activity even after marriage.

Research has shown that domestic violence cases often involve the abuse of drugs and alcohol. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) says that while substance abuse doesn’t cause domestic violence, there is a correlation between the two. Studies show that batterers frequently use alcohol and drugs during abuse, and victims of domestic violence also use drugs and alcohol more frequently to cope.

Perpetrators of domestic violence usually look out for themselves, wanting their own needs to be gratified regardless of how it might hurt others. And the batterer is willing to cross many lines to meet those needs at any cost.

It’s a sad and common reality in our broken society. The erosion of the family structure and the corruption of the biblical roles of husband and wife have escalated a once-hidden plague to a public epidemic.

Our country will continue to be impacted by domestic violence — and the grave costs ranging from broken homes to loss of life — until we employ a comprehensive spirit/mind/body treatment strategy for all involved. We live in a society of insecure people with fragile egos. The need to save face, be macho, be the man and not let anyone top you has become ingrained and pursued because many don’t know where to look for security, identity, confidence and acceptance.

We’ve stopped looking to God to meet these needs and have taken matters into our own hands, figuratively and literally, fighting in vain for the respect and power only God can deliver. Decisions determine your life, so choose well.