01 December 2021

Relationship Red Flags I Ignored for Months

Relationship Red Flags Reflections of My Life Image Copyright Vernon Chalmers Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
"The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart."
— April Mae Monterrosa

For months I was witness to / and on the receiving end of some of the most peculiar and abusive behaviour I have ever experienced in my life. 

I started living with my ex-girlfriend during the first Covid-lockdown period where her unacceptable and abusive behaviour towards me happened on a regular basis.

I observed many of her behaviour patterns as potential red flags early on in the relationship (even before our lockdown), but ignored most of them. It was only when her threatening behaviour escalated into physical assault and perpetual verbal abuse that I realised the seriousness of the situation. It wasn't an easy decision, but after this realisation (and the fact that her behaviour towards me could deteriorate further) I took the necessary action to withdraw from the toxic relationship.

Red Flag incidents that had the biggest impact on me (and the relationship):

  • She was rarely on time when she visited my apartment. To be more than an hour late sometimes was quite the norm. I phoned her once after she did not arrive for more than two hours - she merely told me she forgot (and this was while she was in my area on business prior to our confirmed appointment).

  • I was accused early into the relationship that I do not see / responded to her crying (one evening). The more I apologised (over many weeks) that I did not see or heard it, the more she was of opinion that I was lying. 

  • I lived like a guest in her apartment. In the three to four months I lived with her she never made me feel at home and / or offered me any shelf space for my clothing. I changed clothes out of my bags in the lounge (mornings and nights). She never discussed this with me other than to tell me there is no space for my stuff.

  • She never offered to wash my clothing during the entire lockdown period, but she would do hers once a week. During a four month period I asked her twice - which she then did. The rest of the time I made alternative arrangements. 

  • I was never thanked for anything I did or purchased. She showed no gratitude whatsoever. Not for food, flowers, weekends away etc. - I was never thanked for any of my efforts and / or any payments for whatever she / we needed.
  • From very early on in the relationship I was asked when are we getting married. I was flattered the first time she asked, but felt uneasy with frequent reminders (as I was learning the rest of her red flag behaviour). 

  • A few months into the relationship I was told the food that I purchased / cooked for us made her fat. This after she selected most of the shopping herself. For this I chased her out of my apartment - of which I immediately aplogised the next day. She never apologised for her inconsiderate comment or behaviour ever.

  • She told me in the beginning of the relationship of a previous boyfriend taking over in her kitchen. Well, after a few months, she bestowed exactly the same fate upon me. This after I tiptoed in her kitchen (and never really taken any initiative unless we were cooking together).

  • My text messages to her were regularly misinterpreted and / or treated with cold disdain. It was almost if any written communication / text messages were perceived as negative communication (or she had little interest reading them in full). Many of my messages were left unanswered.

  • I was never trusted with assisting her. She would ask for my assistance with many (financial) projects, but when it came time to assist her she would postpone /or just forget about it. She was very quick to accept any financial assistance (which I offered through a CFD trading portfolio I created for her) - I was never thanked for any of the funds I generated for her / or transferred into her bank account.

  • She told me one morning she felt like a second-class citizen living in her own apartment with me there. A the time I did not say anything, but I was rather disappointed and taken aback by her comment. 

  • I was threatened with her chef's knife (with the words - 'to kill me') after she lost a few games of chess against me one evening. The verbal abused that followed scared me more. I was shocked to the core - this was the first incidence of a serious threat and verbal abuse, but unfortunatly not the last.

  • I was physically assaulted one evening for switching off the television (without her even watching). I was punched, kicked and my shirt ripped from my body. A large chocolate Easter bunny was bashed over my head while I was grabbing my bags to go home. Even then I was still determined to make the relationship work. How na├»ve was I... 

  • She was verbally abusive on many occasions. Mostly over the telephone and it escalated to weekly episodes towards the end of the relationship. It was so bad at times that I had to switch my phone off.

  • She never apologized for anything. She even sent me a follow-up message to remind me that I deserved it to be assaulted be her - referring to the physical assault and Easter bunny incident. No remorse or compassion were ever shown towards me.  

  • I have never met a bigger racist in my life. I never really experienced bigotry of this nature with anyone close to me before. I was concerned with her blatant general racist name calling and belittling from very early in the relationship.

  • Her frequent (and vulgar) swearing made me cringe at times. She would swear at her mother (over the phone) when she did not get her way. It did not take her very long to engage with me in exactly the same tone of verbal abuse (and swearing) as she did towards her mother.

  • Asked me to hide (or leave) for three hours when a male friend was about to visit her one weekend. I was very upset about this. Apart from her mother and brothers (and one friend) she did not introduce me to anybody else in her live - not even to one of her employees when we visited her clothing boutique one afternoon. 

  • On occasion I did nor respond to her threatening text messages and she phoned my sister to inform her in no uncertain terms that she wants to kill me. My sister put the phone down after getting verbally abused by her, but phoned her back a while later to engage in a normal discussion.

  • Bad-mouthing of a previous boyfriend over and over again. In the beginning of the relationship I believed her, now I know he must have gone through the same patterns / red flags as me. Today I am probably as bad a statistic as him (and others) in her mind. 

Classic Red Flag Personal Behaviour / Characteristics identified from my list:
  • Aggressive disposition / Bigotry / Racism / Controlling nature / Disrespectful
  • Emotionally unavailable / Excessive swearing / False sense of entitlement
  • Inconsiderate behaviour / Lack of trust / No empathy / No compassion
  • No gratitude / No remorse / Physical assault / Violence / Poor communication
  • Poor decision-making / Poor financial acumen / Poor time management
  • Negative Score keeping on me / Self centered / Selfishness / Verbal abuse

Poor sense of self
Due to her lack of empathy, lack of compassion, false sense of entitlement etc. she did not see anything wrong with the relationship (from her side). She kept on lecturing me / reminding me on all the so-called things I did wrong - to the extend that I asked her if she keeps an Excel Spreadsheet for scoring / updating my bad behaviour and judgements. An important note here is that her lecturing always occurred when I wanted to discuss the state of the relationship. Towards the end she gave me one opportunity for discussing the relationship without interrupting me - and that is when I realised the lights are on but no-one's home.

Despite the Red Flags waving...
There were many other (silent) red flags. The red flag warnings waved regularly throughout the relationship - from the first day I met her until literally the last poignant week. I still wonder many times why I did not leave earlier. There were quite a few days when I knew I had enough, but still decided to stay. I really believed, against my own better judgement, that it could work out. I wanted this particular relationship to be normal, for me, for us - with mutual love and respect. Unfortunately, I knew from early on that she would not or could not be that special person to spend the rest of my life with.  

Reflecting on the troublesome relationship / Red Flag Behaviour
In hindsight it is easy to say I could have handled the relationship / her behaviour towards me differently. I wish I could, but at the time things were moving so quickly and for what is worth had some of the best times of my life. Now, reflecting on the relationship red flags (her unacceptable behaviour patterns) I have identified my own inter-personal / relationship challenges with regard to my own cognitive dissonance at the time, having to learn from my codependency relationship shortcomings and for creating healthier inter-personal relationship boundaries.

© Vernon Chalmers

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