Digging Deeper

Unearthing the surpassing riches of Christ

Dating: Avoiding Mr. Wrong

While I hate to have to print and publish this, I have had enough experiences that convince me that a short article like this is necessary. The big question we want to answer is this one…

How can you tell if a man you’re seeing will become abusive?

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:5-10, ESV)

Lundy Bancroft, in his book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men gives fifteen warning flags. While his list is not a biblical list, and there is a lot that Christians would want to add to the list, these are important flags to consider if you want to avoid Mr. Wrong.

  1. He speaks disrespectfully about his former partners.
  2. His is disrespectful toward you.
  3. He does favors for you that you don’t want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable. Bancroft goes on to say, “These can be signs of a man who is attempting to create a sense of indebtedness.”
  4. He is controlling.
  5. He is possessive
  6. Nothing is ever his fault.
  7. He is self-centered. While all of us can be self-centered, abusive men tend to do “a lot more than his share of the talking, listens poorly when you speak, and chronically shifts the topic of conversation back to himself. Self-centeredness is a personality characteristic that is highly resistant to change, as it has deep roots in either profound entitlement … or to sever early emotional injuries …, or both…”
  8. He abuses drugs or alcohol.
  9. He pressures you for sex.
  10. He gets serious too quickly about the relationship.
  11. He intimidates you when he is angry.
  12. He has double standards.
  13. He has negative attitudes toward women.
  14. He treats you differently around other people.
  15. He appears to be attracted to vulnerability.

Because none of these are absolute signs that a person will become abusive in a relationship (except #11), women who are concerned about their relationship can give some time to test out her boyfriend’s response to these undesired behaviors. Bancroft gives this counsel to a woman who wants to protect herself from having a relationship that turns abusive.

  1. Make it clear to him as soon as possible which behaviors or attitude are unacceptable to you and that you cannot be in a relationship with him if they continue.
  2. If it happens again, stop seeing him for a substantial period of time. Don’t keep seeing him with the warning that this time you “really mean it,” because he will probably interpret that you mean that you don’t.
  3. If it happens a third time, or if he switches to other behaviors that are warning flags, chances are great that he has an abuse problem. If you give him too many chances, you are likely to regret it later. Bancroft includes a chapter on “Leaving an Abuser as a Way to Promote Change.”[1]

Remember as you work through this that healthy relationships require community. Tim and Kathy Keller write, “Marriage should not be a strictly individual unilateral decision. It is too important, and our personal perspective is too easily skewed. The community has many married people in it who have much wisdom for single people to hear. Singles should get community input at every step of the way when seeking marriage.”[2] If you have questions about your relationship, you should speak with your pastor, close Christian friends who know your relationship well (which means people need to know you as a couple), and other older and wiser believers who will walk with you in your relationship.

For a broad and helpful list for Christians to consider before marriage, consider the short booklet Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask Yourselves by David Powlison & John Yenchko. The authors ask questions about shared faith, commitment, communication, and biblical convictions. It addresses the important questions that couples in nonabusive relationships need to ask.


[1] Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (Berkley Trade, 2003), 114–123.

[2] Timothy J Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage : Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Dutton, 2011), 217. This book is a fantastic book for gaining a vision of God’s design for marriage.

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March 17, 2012 - Posted by | Conflict, Dating and Courtship, Domestic Violence, Marriage, Relationships, Sins, Young Adults

1 Comment »

  1. […] Dating: Avoiding Mr. Wrong […]

    Pingback by Not my Circus, Not My Monkeys | Prayers and Promises | January 18, 2015 | Reply


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