I’m in a position to begin dating again, if I chose. (AAUUGGHH!!! Gasp. Cough. Try to breathe.
But I’m not dating. (woah! huge understatement! I don’t even want to THINK about it.)
Self talk– calm down, Rebecca. It’s just a blog post. No one’s trying to talk you into going on a date.
Other self– yes. you’re right. I’m back in control. Sorry about that.
There are several reasons for my (possibly) irrational fear of dating. One of the biggest is because of this question bouncing around in my brain. I’ve been burned before. Badly. And I really don’t want to get sucked into trusting someone who is just pretending to be good.
In my post, The Road to Hell– or Not, I said that what makes us good is our intentions, not our actions, and talked about people who pretend to be good, but aren’t really.
Someone left a comment on that post saying, “You are right that many people are doing things just for show. But how can we know the difference?”
And that is the question. How can we know the difference? What do we look for in a spouse? or friend? How do we know f the boy our daughter is dating is a good guy, or a creeper pretending to be a nice guy?
And the answer is….
I don’t know.
But I really wish I did.
What I do know is what some of the warning signs were 25 years ago that I can see so clearly now, with 20/20 hindsight. I decided to share with you– in case anyone else out there is wondering if they are right to trust someone in their life. Not that these are all the warning signs. Because they aren’t. If something feels off, it is. If everyone around you is telling you to stay away, do.
This has been a really hard post to write. Please read with compassion.
Life Clip Number One
When we were engaged, we went to McDonald’s for lunch. I ordered a caffein-free diet Coke. No big deal. Even for a Mormon
. But his eyes opened wide and he said to me sternly, “That’s strike two.”
What the heck?
He said there was something else I’d done earlier that wasn’t up to his standards (I don’t remember what it was anymore), and that this was the second strike. If there was one more, our engagement would be off. He simply couldn’t marry someone who would drink a Coke. Even if it was caffeine free. I needed to “avoid the appearance of evil.”
At this point I should have laughed, walked away, and told him good luck with the whole marriage thing. Instead, I rolled my eyes and changed my order to a root beer. (Go ahead. Think I’m crazy. Because you’re right. I was.)
There were some clues I missed at the time (ya think?) that became crystal clear later.
1. Don’t trust someone who makes a point of telling you they’re better than you. Many abusers use a holier-than-thou attitude to keep people from looking too closely. If someone is treating you like mud, walk away. If they treat you like mud while claiming to be ready for Scottie to beam them to Heaven any second now, run away.
2. “Avoiding the appearance of evil.” Notice his concern about appearances? Not reality? Was there a problem with me drinking a Coke? no. Not even if it had… (brace yourself)… caffeine! But that wasn’t his concern. He didn’t want to appear evil. No worries about being evil. If they are trying to appear absurdly perfect, be highly suspicious. This is another variation of Point Number 1. No one is ready for Scottie to beam them to Heaven. If they pretend otherwise, they’re lying. Which means they’re a liar. Which means you can’t trust them. Which means you should run.
Clearly there is a lot more that could be said about this life clip. But I think the whitewashing is evident. This will suffice for now.
Life Clip Number Two
Not long after we were married I dropped a glass in the kitchen and it broke. I began to cry. I’d been feeling stressed. Yes, I was just married. Yes, I was trying to figure out how to do laundry and dishes and fix dinner and be married and go to school and work all at the same time. But still, my stress was over the top. (the stress was a clue)
He put his arm around me and told me not to worry. He wasn’t like my dad. He wouldn’t abuse me just because I dropped a glass.
What the heck??!!
My dad was not abusive! I was completely shocked by this statement. So shocked I stopped crying and stared at him. When I recovered my powers of speech I told him he was crazy. He patted my arm and said it was ok. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. He knew I’d been sexually abused.
I was so baffled by his bizarre claims that to this day I am still stunned. I was not sexually abused by my dad or anyone else— until my marriage.
Years later I was given a book written for wives of sex offenders. I was amazed at how they seemed to have transcripts of conversations from my marriage. Including this one. Lo and behold, it is almost universal that sex offenders will try to convince people that others have abused them in the past or are abusing them now.
3. If you are in a relationship with someone who is trying to convince you that your parents– or other people who love you and have never abused you– don’t like you, are actually out to get you, and have been abusing you, and you know they are wrong, get out. This is a red flag I didn’t know about. Abusers will try to distance you from the people who can help you the most. They will claim people are lying to you. They will claim people hurt you when they didn’t. And they will claim they are the only safe refuge. They only person you can trust. If this sounds like a relationship you are in, PLEASE RUN NOW.
4. He confused me. Being confused is a sign that something is wrong. When things are right, they feel right. The fog lifts, and you can see life and reality clearly. I call this The Holy Spirit. Some people call it by other names. But whatever you call it, it’s a way to recognize truth. If words confuse you, if a relationship makes life muddled and unclear, if being with someone fogs your brain, get away. When things are right, they feel right.
Life Clip Number Three
My hands are sweating as I type this. My heart is banging in my chest. This is really hard for me to admit. But it’s true. I made a huge mistake. If I can stop others from doing the same, then it’s worth sharing what I learned. I understand if you don’t want to be my friend anymore after reading this.
A few days before we were married he told me he wanted me to know all about his past mistakes. He told me that as a young teen he had sexually abused one young girl. He tried to tell me details– to let me know “it wasn’t that bad.” He said he’d made it into a game so she wouldn’t know she was being abused.
I thought I would thrown up. I still think I might. I made him stop talking. I didn’t want to know about his game, or any details. I was so grossed out I couldn’t look at him.
But I married him anyway.
Because I chose to believe him when he said it only happened once.
I made a decision to believe a lie.
Then, over and over again during our marriage creepy things happened. He would pick up a young child at church and I would feel sick. He would put a child on his lap and I thought I would throw up right there. He would offer to take a child to the drinking fountain during a performance and I would nearly pass out.
My feelings told me something my brain didn’t want to acknowledge.
My feelings were right.
5. When an abuser “confesses” they do not ever tell the whole truth
. EVER. Again, the book for wives of sex offenders offered shocking statistics. It’s not uncommon for abusers to confess a splinter of their crimes. Perhaps they feel they’re doing their duty to confess. Perhaps they want to lighten the burden of guilt. But you can be certain that if someone confesses to being an abuser, there is more– probably much
more– they did not tell.
6. Trust your feelings. Your gut instinct is right about these things.
If he feels creepy, he is.
Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. I read somewhere (I think it was in Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives) that if a woman thinks her husband is having an affair, she is usually right. I know what you’re thinking. If you don’t think you’re husband is having an affair, you’re probably thinking, “Well, duh!” If you do think he might be having an affair you’re probably thinking, “They’re only usually right. In my case, I hope I’m wrong. I really, really hope I’m wrong. Yes, I’m probably wrong.”
I hope you are. And if it’s an affair we’re talking about, take a deep breath and do some checking. If it’s child molesting we’re talking about, get down on your knees and pray for help. Then get up and go find help. Because if you think it’s happening, chances are, it is.
Ok- That was a really hard post to write. Really, really hard.
Let’s talk about flowers and happiness now, ok? And children who have happy lives. And people who are kind. Truly kind. On the inside and the outside and every side. To everyone. All the time. Especially children.
I hope that somewhere out there this post helps someone who is in a bad relationship to walk away. You’re worth more than that. He can’t abuse you if you leave. If he’s abused you (or others) in the past, he will again if you don’t leave.
Please do the right thing. Please walk away.