When you see the red flags, run!

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a social media post of an image of a young woman who had swollen lips and eyes due to domestic violence. She had taken one of the images when she was in hospital and there was a video of her distressed in her hospital bed. She stated emphatically that she would not go back into a relationship with her abuser again – in her words, she was done. However, not long after her abuse, she came back onto social media to address the same people that were concerned about the state she was in that she was going to go ahead with her wedding. The people that sympathised with her earlier, mostly women, were annoyed with her and the messages to this woman was quite harsh. To be honest, I was disappointed in her and was initially part of the group of people who thought she was being unwise for choosing to go ahead with her marriage. However, as I thought of the issue, I empathised with this woman – she lived in a society that placed the value of a woman on marriage. She had found a man that wanted to marry her and she was not willing to leave him for another- she explained in her post that no one is perfect, and she is absolutely right about that, no one is indeed perfect, but what is perfection anyway? Is being a decent human being now counted as perfection? This particular incident did not just happen that day – no, there were red flags along the way and this dear lady decided to ignore until she ended up in hospital. And from her choice to stay after the incident that left her in hospital, she may eventually leave that relationship in a coffin!

Last year, I wrote about a young woman who did not take the threat from her abusive husband serious and eventually left the marriage through death. When it comes to abuse in a relationship, there are several red flags that would have been present from the beginning of the relationship, but people tend to ignore these until it is too late. A partner that physically assaults the other did not start overnight – there are several behaviours this person would have demonstrated before getting to this place. There is a radio show set in the city I grew up in Ghana that I try to listen to daily. I listen to this show because it is quite different from the normal narrative of your typical Ghanaian radio show and I like how the hostess thinks. There was a case last week that left the hostess and her panel in tears and even though I did not watch live and watched a day after it was aired, it left me in tears as well as the many listeners of the show. There was a woman in the studio who had been hacked with a machete by her husband – his intention was to hack her to death but for the intervention of thier thirteen year old son. By the time the two children of the couple were able to break down the door of their parent’s room and for the thirteen year old to hit the father on the head with a blunt object, the man had hacked the woman a total of 99 times! Eye witnesses would recount how her parts were gathered in bags to the hospital for doctors to pin her bones and reconstruct her body back together. Watching this poor woman narrate her story and the pain and trauma she had gone through brought me to tears and by the time the show was over, listeners had contributed financially to help with her medical and legal fees. Listening to her back story of the relationship, the red flags were there from the beginning but she stayed and it almost cost her her life. She is not in a good place because she will never be the person she was before the attack but she gets to see her children grow and I hoped she would get the support she needed to overcome the incident that nearly killed her.

I did not want to blame these women because it is this same society that tells these women to leave abusive men that treat single women like pariahs. It is the same religious societies that condemn abuse that preaches against divorce – the contradictions when it comes to expectations from women in relationships is enough to drive anyone to make decisions that is not healthy for them. So I did not want to blame these women – in the society I grew up in, women are advised to not share issues in their marriages with any one because no relationship is perfect and one should do the best to cover the faults of their partners. Yes, no relationship is perfect, I totally agree – but abusive behaviour is not something we should put in the same statement as someone not being perfect. If someone is hurting you, you cannot excuse their behaviour as them not being perfect and therefore accepting them as they are – this is foolishness! Last week, I wrote about telling our daughters to find companionship and not merely finding a husband – to look at the character of the people they decide to settle with and this includes looking for red flags! For both these women in these stories, they had red flags that were pointing to the situations they found themselves in, but they ignored them for whatever reason – but I am certain that at the core of it was society’s expectation and the way women have been conditioned to feel ‘lucky’ when chosen by a man. On the flip side, while I was looking at these stories, there was another story on YouTube where a woman slapped her husband on another show because they had differences they were arguing about. My question was, if the tables were turned, would everyone be okay with a man putting his hands on a woman in public? The same society that were outraged about a man nearly killing a woman were not outraged about the damage done to the man but rather the  fact that a woman should not disrespect a man by hitting him. I wanted the same outrage for the wellbeing of this man – to change the narrative that gives women a pass to be physical with men and then brush over it and not allow men to express how physical abuse affects them. Her hitting him in public was not the first time she had done that – she had been abusing him for a while and he did not want to talk about it or walk away from the relationship because it is not masculine for a man to admit to being abused by a woman.

Domestic abuse cases always increases during the festive season – why this is the case, I do not really know. This is also the season where many people finally file for divorce or separate from their partners. As the festivities are upon us, I want us to critically look at the red flags in our relationships and decide on doing what is best for us and not what society has told us is right. In the early stages or relationships, it is easy to miss these red flags but if you look carefully, you will not miss them – here are four red flags I have decided to look at closely this week;

  1. Inconsistent / noncommittal people – they say one thing and do something else. These are the people that make promises and never see it through – it can be from grand plans to something as little as taking out the rubbish. Watch the actions of people and not what they say – if you are constantly arguing about the same things they said they would do and yet never do, that is a red flag. They do not care about how their actions or lack of affects you – they always have an excuse for why they never follow their words with actions. Eventually, they will take you and the relationship for granted and do whatever they want if it affects you or not – once again, watch their actions and not what they say.
  2. Excessive jealousy – I cannot count the number of times I had been in the company of people only for their partners to call demanding to know where they were. It did not matter to these people that their partners had made them aware of where they were going and who they were going to be with. In their minds, they were not with them so they were out doing the unthinkable. In some instances, myself or other people had had to talk to peoples partners to reassure them that they were with other women! This is not healthy! Or partners that do not want their partners to have friends of the opposite sex but knowing fully well that these people were in the lives of their partners before they got together. Its these behaviours that lead to unfounded suspicions and eventually one hurting the other – no one should have to put up with such behaviours. If telling a partner that you are out with friends is not enough and you have to provide evidence to support your outing, then it is time to rethink your relationship. It is not cute when a partner is excessively jealous – it is dangerous.
  3. Criticisms and putting you down –  no one likes to be put down all the time, we all need affirmations to help us build a positive self image. If you live and put up with someone who always finds fault with whatever you do, then you need to rethink their role in your life. There is a difference in someone giving constructive feedback/criticism – this can be done in a kind way that does not make the person on the receiving end feel stupid. There are several couples who have nothing positive to say about the other – in their eyes, the other person can do no good. It is these same behaviours that leaves one person in the relationship feeling they are superior to the other and therefore doing whatever they want to them. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes – I do not want to live in an environment where all I hear is how bad I am. I have become very good at walking away from an environment that always seeks to critique or put me down and I think many people should start looking at how people in their lives talk to them – it is not ok for someone to constantly put you down.
  4. Unwillingness to compromise – I read a story on social media where a young man was narrating that his parents see a woman wearing trousers as immoral. So instead of him to educate these parents who were stuck in a certain way of thinking, he was asking for his fiancé to change how she dresses to make his parents happy. He was then upset because the fiancé would not budge – according to her, it was what was inside that mattered and she was not willing to start something she could not finish. If you find that in your relationship, you are the one always compromising then rethink things. Relationships are not one sided – one person should not have a say in everything and expect the other person to change to suit what they want – life does not work like that.

There are so many red flags to discuss but we will start with these four points and build on them in the near future. If you find that you are in a situation where you may be in danger or are already being abused, then please reach out to us and we will find the suitable help for you in your area. If you have a support system in your life, then please reach out and ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence to appease people who do not even think about you – put yourself first and choose to live over being in a relationship. Thank you for always taking time to read, comment, like and share your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.

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