Everybody Marries the Wrong Person

Turning Flawed into Fulfilling Relationships

Great Mistakes - The Big Six Red Flags (Part 2)

Never ignore misgivings about a romantic interest's behavior.

Part 1 discussed the first three big red flags - substance abuse/dependence, mental cruelty, and battery.  Resources are listed at the end of Part 1 for anyone interested in seeking help regarding substance abuse and domestic violence.  Part 2 addresses the last three big red flags - inappropriate venting of anger, controlling behavior/jealousy/paranoia, and under-functioning/under-responsibility.  Red flags mean stop

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Inappropriate venting of anger

All humans are innately aggressive and destructive.  We not only harm other humans but also destroy plants and animals and damage the environment.  Even those who aspire to tread lightly on the earth thrive at the expense of other living things.

Since understanding and managing natural aggressivness is essential to success in all types of relationships, many theories about aggression and methods to teach anger management have emerged.  Not all theories and methods, however, make constructive contributions.  From "it's unhealthy to bottle up or stuff negative emotions" to "it's healthy to get out angry feelings,"  conventional wisdom (influenced by pop psychology) has mislead us.  (See previous post - "How to Train Your Dragon.")

Inappropriate expressions of anger are intended to manipulate, intimidate, punish or demoralize.  Such venting signals an individual's inability to empathize, delay gratification, and control destructive impulses - all undesirable characteristics in a life partner.  The trick is to select someone who has examined his or her natural aggressiveness and chosen to be less destructive than average.

Controlling behavior/jealousy/paranoia

If your love interest commands you to do anything and seriously expects you to obey, he or she is exhibiting a narcissistic sense of entitlement and is attempting to control you.  At worst, controlling behavior manifests as mental cruelty, battery, and inappropriate venting of anger.  More commonly, controlling behavior takes less aggressive (though no less tell-tale) forms. 

Clients have talked about partners who tell them when to go to bed and when to get up; insist that they wear certain clothing or hairstyles; impose curfews, exercise regimens or church attendance; or forbid certain friends, expenditures or leisure activities.  And what is a "honey-do" list but a bid to control a partner's free time?  Narcissists and other emotional adolescents can never be sexy enough or rich enough to make it all worthwhile.

Jealousy is not about loving.  It is about possessing and controlling.  It is a gateway behavior, an early indicator of eventual escalation to mental cruelty and/or battery.  Paranoia can be a sign of serious mental illness including personality disorder and psychosis.

Under-functioning/under-responsibility

People who under-function are chronological adults who do not show histories of financial independence or who do not take full responsibility for their own physical welfare and/or activities of daily living.  They typically have no meaningful history of success.  They may be unemployed or underemployed and dependent upon one or more over-functioners who provide financial safety nets.  If they earn reasonable incomes, they frivolously spend money or neglect to pay bills.

Under-functioners are often thoughtless, careless and reckless with their own property, personal health and safety as well as the property and well-being of others (e.g., a partner who scoffs at the hazards of second-hand smoke and puffs away around whomever he or she chooses.)  They may expect to be waited on, catered to, picked up after and entertained.  They may expect their partners to plan all social outings, celebrations and vacations.  Under-functioners may fail to help with household chores and childcare or may help, if asked, but rarely volunteer. 

Almost always, family members, friends or coworkers will hint at or complain of feeling used by your charming but under-responsible love interest.  The importance of this red flag is a matter of degree.  It can signal a lifetime of minor annoyances or major grief.  It may require you to adjust your expectations or to eliminate the individual as a potential partner.   

Any red flag merits serious consideration.  If you are not yet married, re-evaluation is in order.  If you are already committed, know that your efforts to reform your partner are likely to go unheeded.  Ultimately, whether you choose to stay or to leave, you must take responsibility for your own happiness and unhappiness.

 For more about the book, visit www.everybodymarriesthewrongperson.com

 

 

Christine Meinecke, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of Everybody Marries the Wrong Person.

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