In the oxytocin-induced haze of the first few months of a relationship, it's too easy to turn a blind eye to potential red flags ... the casual nagging, the questionable behaviors or requests ... after all, this person makes you laugh, tells you you're beautiful and helps you achieve orgasms! What more could a lady want, right? Or maybe you're in a marriage or long-term partnership and, despite all the things you love about them, you still have nagging suspicions about a few troubling tendencies.
If your partner wants you to do any of the following things, you may find that in the long run, you're better off single or with someone else who better appreciates you.
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Change your look
It's natural to want your partner to think you're attractive, but when he decides that you, a curvy Ashley Graham type, would be prettier with a Kate Moss body, that's not right. And your significant other should never, ever encourage elective surgery. One gynecologist, who preferred to remain anonymous, has seen patients whose partners have tried to pressure them into everything from anal bleaching to vaginal "rejuvenation". "I don't perform any of these procedures anyway," she says, "and I always try to steer them away from them if they're for purely aesthetic reasons." If you've always wanted to be a D cup that's fine, but someone who loves you isn't going to insist you artificially inflate your chest.
Go beyond comfort in the bedroom
By the time you're an adult, you know what turns you on and what doesn't. If you're into anal, for example, and your partner is also a fan—have at it. But say he's into pulling your hair and you find it painful, yet he insists, then we're moving into abuse territory. Ditto for the selfish lover who values his "O" above yours.
"It's a red flag if your partner asks you to give up your pleasure for their own," says sex educator Bianca Laureano. "I see this a lot among women in heterosexual relationships where the experiences and touch they desire and enjoy is limited to their partners' optimal pleasure."
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Cut off your friends or family
A partner who's always finding fault with your friends or trying to distance you from your family may be setting you up for a fall. People like this will get resentful of everything from the time you spent helping your sister plan her wedding to a night out with coworkers. Getting a tiny bit pouty that your last boyfriend was a multi-millionaire and a dead ringer for Alexander Skarsgaard is one thing (aka, only human), anything more than that could be a clue that he's too controlling. "Jealousy is not cute, it's a warning," says psychologist Catia Harrington.
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Give up all privacy
Invading your privacy is not only annoying, it's also a form of control, and it can quickly escalate, says Harrington. She has counseled patients with partners who have locked down their lover's bank accounts, hacked into their emails and have ultimately gotten physically abusive. "Don't make the mistake of thinking, 'it's just because he/she loves me so much!'" she warns.
"Get over it"
Maybe it's as minor as getting teary-eyed about a conversation with a coworker, or as major as going into a panic attack when recalling a sexual assault from your past. A good partner is supportive and comforting when you need him to be. "It's a red flag if your partner asks you to get over your sexual assault or rape or other traumatic experience," Laureano says. "Healing takes time, and someone who wants to experience you at your most powerful needs to make space and support your healing process."
Break down set boundaries
Whether it's pushing you to make an extravagant purchase you can't really afford or insisting on skydiving when you're deathly afraid of heights, Laureano says your partner should never force you to push a boundary that you feel strongly about. "If you were clear that you did not want to have a particular experience, ignoring your 'no' or boundary is moving toward manipulation and coercion," she stresses.
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Feel badly about yourself
"A good relationship should make you feel confident, loved and supported," says Harrington. It's part of your significant other's job description. "If your partner makes you feel insecure or 'less than,' get out!" she warns. "This person may be laying the groundwork for an abusive relationship, or they may just be an asshole, but regardless, you don't need that in your life."
First published: 6 Jun 2017