I only looked away for a second. What could possibly go wrong?

But I didn’t notice the dish towel on the counter, the one that must have caught on my arm when I turned pulling it across the hot stove.

Woosh… a flash of heat, a wall of flames seemingly out of nowhere. From comfortable to crisis in the blink of an eye.

Had you been standing near me you would have screamed Fire! Most definitely, you’d have come to my rescue without even thinking. Your response would have been as instantaneous as the fire itself.

If the fire flared, you would have yelled Get out! You would have called for help. You’d have made sure I was ok. When problems in life flare up so suddenly, they grab our attention. They propel us to immediate action. We wouldn’t think of delaying even for a moment to help a friend get to safety.

Yet I want to share with you a danger that is equally gripping – so dangerous it threatens 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. Just like fire, it destroys, it scars, and it kills. But unlike the fictitious fire I shared at the beginning of this blog, it’s a very real danger. Very real. Yet all too often, friends stay silent. Completely silent.

It’s a danger that simmers. It masks itself as caring, generosity, and love but behind closed doors it destroys. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You may not be in an abusive relationship but 75% of all Americans know someone who is or has been. Please take a few moments and read on. The information I share may save the life of someone close to you.

Abuse doesn’t start with a flash. There’s no immediate “flame.” It rarely starts with something as obvious as physical contact such as a slap or punch. So then how does someone find themselves in the grips of abuse? They don’t recognize the traits of an abusive partner. What can you look for?

5 common traits of an abusive partner.

  1. They’re Intense. – They get serious quickly. They may talk about marriage unnaturally early in the relationship. They’re excessively generous, exude charm and charisma. They may shower you or others with elaborate gifts which are over the top or inappropriately expensive. They’re often well liked or popular and command the attention of others. They call or text with great frequency. If you don’t answer or respond immediately, they call repeatedly. Even if they know you’re busy, the barrage continues until you respond. In the beginning it seems like caring, but it’s obsessive in the name of “making sure you are ok.” They want to be your oxygen and want you to be theirs.
  2. They’re jealous. – In the beginning, they justify their jealousy as love. Once in the relationship, they repeatedly accuse you of being unfaithful without cause. They’re irrationally jealous of any time you spend with family, friends, and especially the opposite sex. They monitor your Facebook page, may demand your social media or email passwords. They check your phone activity monitoring who you speak to while questioning what you do or say with other people. And often they blame your behavior for their jealousy. If you didn’t … they wouldn’t be so jealous.
  3. They’re critical. – The same individual who is over the top generous with their words and actions also insults you and tears you down. You’re stupid, useless, a bad parent. No one could ever love you the way they do. If you have children, they assure you that the court would never allow you to raise your children should you separate. They attempt to convince you that you’ve been successful because of them. They’ve made you who you are and you couldn’t survive on your own.
  4. They control. – They influence most aspects of your life – how you spend your time, who you spend it with, what you wear, how you wear your hair etc. In the beginning they position it as “caring about you.”They show up at your work or home when you’re not expecting them. If you’re out with friends, they may show up uninvited. They may say it’s just because they missed you but in reality, they’re monitoring you. They may ask or tell you to unfriend friends on social media, or worse they’ll log into your account and unfriend them for you. They may force you to do things you do not want to do, sexually or otherwise to prove you love them.
  5. They isolate. – Your circle of friends and family dwindles, eventually shrinking to nearly non-existent. They become your constant. They insist you spend as much time together as possible. In the beginning, it may almost seem appealing. You translate the exclusivity of time as “true love.” But instead of a healthy nurturing love, it’s a suffocating, isolating, dependency building behavior. Has your circle of friends declined sharply since beginning the relationship? If so assess why. The isolation typically involved with abuse makes breaking free harder. Harder but not impossible. Getting free is possible if you get help.

Abuse may start with traits like these, initially perhaps subtly and then growing in intensity. A partner does not need to exhibit all of these to be abusive. Even one can be a symptom that something is very wrong. What should you do if you recognize these traits in your partner or in a friend’s relationship?

  • Take it seriously! Do not ignore that feeling that something isn’t right.
  • Speak up. If it’s a friend in danger, talk to them with genuine empathy. Just like you wouldn’t have allowed me to stand next to the stove with a flash fire, help your friend to see the real danger.
  • Share this blog and resources with your friends and family. Those affected by abuse need to know they are not alone!
  • Be aware that domestic violence escalates.
  • Help by sharing the National Domestic Violence contact information: www.thehotline.org.
  • Check out my pinterest domestic violence awareness board. It’s full of resources and information.
  • Read and share A Search for Purple Cows. Maybe reading of my true story can encourage you or your friend to break free.
  • Visit my resources page for more resources.
  • Be a conversation starter. Share with your friends and family that the danger is real!
  • Share that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

As always I welcome you to join the conversation! How will you spread awareness this month?