Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
become the person you were meant to be...

Warning Signs of Dangerous Relationships

Note:  All names and identifying information have been changed.


He seemed so perfect when I first met him,” Ann said softly, staring at the floor. Her navy linen suit reminded me of her climb up the corporate ladder. After earning her MBA with highest honors, she chose the best of several career opportunities. “But he wanted to get married so quickly, and it sounded like a good idea since he seemed like the right guy.” She sighed, and her eyes looked into mine.

A professional woman married to a professional man, Ann came in because she is tired of her husband’s controlling behaviors. “Now he is about to drive me crazy,” she said. Tears began to break through, even though I could tell she was trying hard to hold them back.


Ann went on to explain that Collin gradually began to control different aspects of life, including the finances, what she ate, what she wore, and who she talked to. He got jealous when she spent time with friends and family, and it had happened insidiously. One day while gardening, she realized people had stopped calling her. “I can’t believe I don’t have friends anymore.” That statement opened a torrential storm of tears. “I just can’t believe how lonely I am,” she said. “Look at me—I look so together, but inside I’m a complete mess! It’s all a façade.”


Is Collin abusive?” I asked, realizing that this would open the door of the room we needed to enter.


Oh no, he’s never hit me,” she replied. (Incidentally, usually people stop with this question, which is a huge mistake. Other detailed questions must always be asked.)

Has he ever grabbed hold of you and stopped you from leaving the house, or taken your keys, or blocked you in any other way from leaving the house?”


Well, he’s stood in the door and blocked me from leaving a couple times, but he’s never hit me or anything.”


Has he ever grabbed your wrists, or made you do things that were uncomfortable sexually?”


He’s done both of those things a few times.” Ann looked hopeless, as though she felt trapped. She had grown up to believe that abuse meant getting hit or beaten. She, like so many other women, was blind to the truths of abuse, including the warning signs.


If you had a daughter, and her husband grabbed hold of her like Collin did, what would you think?” It was a tough question, but it had to be asked.


Ann’s brown eyes grew in disbelief. She threw herself back into her chair, and stiffened. “Oh, my gosh! That makes me sick to my stomach. What if it gets worse?”


Unfortunately, research shows that these types of situations almost always get worse without intervention. We discussed this, and I could feel the tension in the air, as though blinders had been dropped from her eyes. I could tell that Ann was willing to do the hard work of the counseling process, and I praised her for having the courage to come in and begin the journey.


At this point, she and her husband are separated, and both parties are receiving counseling. Women statistically go back and forth from their abusive boyfriends or husbands seven times before permanently leaving. Since the danger risk increases when she tries to leave, she needs to receive appropriate information and counseling to do so safely. ***Eastside Domestic Violence 800-827-8840 , Northwest Family Life 206-363-9601. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.


Warning signs of dangerous relationships include:

·        An abusive past, including a parent that was physically abusive  

·        Harm of animals: Often abusers harmed animals before abusing other people  

·        A whirlwind romance, leading to cohabitation or marriage in a relatively short period 

·        Jealousy or possessiveness: the abuser is jealous of time you spend away from him

·        Blame: he says everything, or most everything, is your fault, and sometimes even suggests that you are crazy  

·        Cutting you down: He often makes derogatory remarks about you, sometimes in jest  

·        Isolation: He tries to isolate you from others, usually so gradually that you don’t notice it at first. This may include denying your access to transportation, moving, or getting upset when you talk to friends and family

·        Control: He gradually takes control of different facets of your life, including how money is spent, how time is spent, etc.  

·        Pushing, shoving, slapping, or restraining are usually the precursors to other forms of abuse.


It’s easy to fake you’re Mr. or Ms. Wonderful for a few weeks or months, but most people can’t keep up the lie for two years. When things seem too good to be true, they probably are. Abuse is not about anger, but about power and control. Of course it can escalate when anger arises, but it is about control. If you choose to stay in a controlling, abusive relationship, you will probably get more depressed and isolated, and your children will have a great chance of becoming abusers or marrying abusers. Go online to learn more about abuse, including the predictable, three-stage cycle. Unfortunately, the abuser almost always apologizes, even with tears, to emphasize his remorse, then abuse again and again.**



© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC, 2005 - 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.