I am a recruiter and a human resources lady. There is very little science or psychology to what I do for a living, but I am trusted with the lives and future of people who believe that I have great insight into the world of work, power and motivation.
I use a mix of curiosity and forthrightness to hire great people to do great work. If there are any warning signs, I move on.
I wear another hat as a writer. I have watched people write about the recent violence related to the NFL players. Much of what’s written bothers me. We don’t need opinions and personal narratives. We need solutions and ideas for women who want to make better relationship choices and avoid life-altering mistakes.
So here are a few ideas from the trusted and validated world of recruiting (and my own life) that might help you avoid coupling with someone who totally. fucking. sucks.
1. Ask how someone likes to fight. No one will ever admit to beating the shit out of an ex-wife or pushing her down a flight of stairs, but the signs are there. It’s okay to ask — Give me an example of a time you fought with your ex. What occurred? How did you resolve it? Did you often fight about the same subjects over and again? You will learn a lot about a guy in the way he answers. Does he use the word bitch or worse? Is he suspicious of his ex in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable? Get the heck out of there. Don’t make that guy your husband.
2. Inquire about routines. You can ask — What’s your day like? How do you keep your stuff? Are you organized? Have you ever lived with someone? What did you like about it? What was tough? If he is territorial about his stuff, how will he feel if your kids make a mess? If he has ownership issues, how can you combine your lives? These are all important fucking questions to ask before you have his baby.
3. Investigate his relationship with his parents. Any issues? Did they hit him? Do either of his parents drink? Is he a victim of abuse? Correlation isn’t causation. The past isn’t the future. But data points are important here, people. Domestic violence doesn’t come out of nowhere.
4. Analyze his relationship networks. We do this in recruiting all. of. the. time. Get to know the people he knows. Friends will always say great things, but what about friends of friends? Does he maintain strong relationships with exes? Is he on good terms with women in his life?
5. Ask about current and historic drug and alcohol use. I have seen a lot of domestic violence in my life, I’m sorry to write. Very rarely has anybody been sober.
6. Listen to the way he talks about other adults, children and animals. Do you know this bible verse? “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” It’s very applicable to violent husbands and partners. The Chicago Police Department found that approximately 30 percent of individuals arrested for dog fighting and animal abuse had domestic violence charges on their records (ASPCA).
7. Look for warning signs. Whenever your gut tells you something, follow it and get the fuck out of there.
I would like to help move the conversation beyond why women stay or why they don’t. I want women to help other women prevent domestic violence. We can educate women on the warning signs. We can connect smart women in unfortunate situations with smart advisors. We can fight to enforce laws and protect women and children (and animals).
I really believe we can do it. We can stop domestic violence. This can end.
While the seven points you mentioned are valid and worthy and true in many situations, there is one important one missing from the list…..Number 8: OFTEN YOU CAN’T.
Sexual predators, spouse abusers, sociopaths etc often are some of the most affable, outwardly charming, seemingly well adjusted people that you could ever hope to meet (Remember Ted Bundy?)
I know this is about spousal abuse (but let’s not forget the child abuser among the list of NFL abusers). I grew up experiencing horrific child abuse from my mother. In the 50s, 60s NO ONE discussed these issues, if I were growing up now, she would be in jail. My point? If you met her on the street you would think she was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. You would NEVER imagine that she often bounced the heads of her three children off of the wall like tennis balls……..
Sometimes you just don’t know and you sometimes just can’t tell who would do what.
I’m sorry for any pain you experienced.
I think there’s a myth in our society that abuse and neglect comes out of nowhere. Yes, it feels like it comes out of nowhere. But data — and my own experience — tells us that we can see the signs if only we look a little harder.
I think that’s the challenge. When you’re in love, who wants to look? We don’t teach people how to have healthy relationships, so many women (and men) are doomed from the start.
Here’s a number for anyone still suffering from abuse. 1-800-799-7233 This is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “All of our advocates attend extensive 40 hour training sessions to be capable of providing the highest level of service to our callers.”
Thanks for writing this, Laurie. Warning signs in relationships are often there, and we often write them off as “cold feet” or “paranoia.” I like your practical questions – particularly about how a person fights. This is an important question for ANY relationship, not just to avoid violence but to ensure good communication and healthy conflict.
I also agree with Caren that sometimes you CAN’T predict, or can see the signs only in retrospect. I also acknowledge Caren’s reminder that not all domestic violence is men hitting women – it can come from all sides. And it isn’t always physical.
I would only add that it isn’t just about women helping women. It’s about men teaching their sons it’s not okay to hit. It’s about society helping all people to express themselves in a healthy way through words. To acknowledge anger and work through it, rather than pent it up and have it explode onto someone else.
Good post, Laurie. Good discussion, all.
I agree that we need to move the discussion beyond why people (mostly women) do or don’t stay in abusive relationships. But I believe that more than a discussion about helping people (mostly women) spot the “warning signs” of a potential abuser, we need to talk about how to teach people (all people) not to abuse in the first place.
Otherwise, we’re teetering way too close to the same old game of victim-blaming: “She knew what the signs were. We taught her how to recognize them. So why doesn’t she leave?”
This is so true. If a man treats his mother badly originally he always has deep rooted issues with his parents he won’t uncover. Check out who he chooses as his victims to push down the stairs next. They all remind him of his mother. Yikes! Get out and save everyone while you have the chance to make a change.
Theres a good reason why I run like hell away from women and avoid them at all cost. I have a bad habit where I get super pissed at myself for some of the most minute things. Sa lot of times just looking in the mirror and before I can stop it I’m unleashing all my fury my wrath and every bit of hell I could throw at myself. I’m not allowed to have a gun. Not that I’ll shoot other people but I’ll be the first and last dumb son of a bitch and the last emptying the magazine by pulling the trigger. As much as I want myself dead. Dont go out with me. That would be a really dumb move. This piece of shit dont need to be around women. Avoid me at all cost and seriously stay the fuck away.