Red Roses or Red Flags?: Healing is Essential

Have you ever watched someone you are close to heading into a relationship that was full of red flags? And they wouldn’t listen to you no matter how honest you tried to be with them? There are numerous reasons why a person will repeatedly end up in abusive relationships and one of them is because they choose not to get counseling after escaping one. Without delving into the reasons why they ended up in a bad relationship in the first place, they haven’t unearthed the underlying issues within themselves. Sadly, too many victims choose not to go to counseling and end up jumping into relationships they are not ready for. This writing will address how a new relationship can be full of red flags, but because of a lack of healing, a victim’s judgement will cause them to make poor decisions that can lead to the loss of valuable friendships.

When coming alongside a victim of abuse, it takes a lot of time and attention, especially during the escape phase. I have walked women into their freedom and proven my love and loyalty through endless calls, texts, support and crying sessions. For myself, it is rewarding because I know that each phase of healing is leading them to a deeper level of freedom on the inside. This was the case with Effie, whom I first mentioned in Silent Prison . She is a woman who grew up with an emotionally abusive father and wound up marrying an emotional and sexual abuser. I worked with her for over a year and, when he left her and moved in with his younger victim, she and I became very close. I spent the better part of three years trying to empower her and teach her that she was valuable and had the capability to take care of herself and her son. Although she acknowledged her and her son’s need for counseling, she continuously put it off and, unfortunately, never followed through.

About three months after Effie’s twelve-year abusive marriage ended, she reconnected with an old high school acquaintance via Facebook, which has become a pattern for many people reminiscing over the past and their ‘lost loves’ {Insert rollie eyes here}. She told me that she was talking to him, however, she downplayed her emotional investment. I was my usual honest self and voiced that it was too early for her to get into another relationship because she hadn’t even gotten in touch with who she really was yet. She had been controlled for so long and was exceedingly co-dependent. But, no matter what I said, she continued to invest emotionally with him and got swept away with romantic notions and forgot everything she had been learning.

In my blog, Eryn, I touched on the difference between a “helper” and a “rescuer”. Abused persons, like Effie, have a victim mindset and develop an unhealthy need to be rescued. A rescuer can come in many forms such as a friend, a romantic interest, a family member or even a boss. For a victim, if anyone steps up and defends them, they see this as someone they can lean on and will immediately latch on to that person as their next rescuer/protector. Often, a person may not even realize that they are the next rescuer in a victim’s story. But the most damaging rescuer is that of a new boyfriend/girlfriend who has ill intentions.

It is at this point in the helper role that I will usually lose the friendship I have built with a victim. One day, I am their best friend and loyal advocate; and the next I am critical, unsupportive, and controlling. However, it is not I who changed because I started out being bold and honest and, no matter what their relationship status is, I remain so. But now, instead of them feeling empowering by my strength, their new lens views me as controlling and intimidating. But if you ask anyone that I have ever helped, they will tell you that, although I will boldly but graciously voice my opinion, I will always step back and let them make their own decisions. I never try to control them before, during or after their escape. I simply have their best in mind and, if I see red flags, I will say so.

In Effie’s case, she began to noticeably step back from our relationship one month into her long-distance relationship with Jack. I humbly spoke with her and asked her what was wrong, and she broke down and confessed that he had convinced her that I was a narcissist who was trying to control her life and didn’t want her to be happy. There’s that Narcissist label, being tossed around willy-nilly again (To Be or Not to Be)! This guy had never met me nor spoken to me and yet, she fell hook, line, and sinker into his diagnosis of myself. As it turns out, he was the controlling one, but he would be only one of many poor relationships she would go through. It takes a lot for me to step back from someone that I have helped, however, after Effie’s last relationship, I made the difficult decision to distance myself from her; mainly because she continued to allow herself to be treated badly and was putting herself in potentially dangerous situations.

Imagine the monkey bars at a park where a person can swing from one bar to another. This is essentially how an unhealed victim will go from one relationship to another. Even if they know they are not into the current person for the long haul, they will hold on to that relationship until they find one to replace it. They rely heavily on each new ‘rescuer’ to fill their emptiness, not realizing it is impossible for a single person to meet all their needs. Yet, they repeatedly choose to trade the loneliness of being single for the temporary comfort of unhealthy relationships; all the while pushing away anyone who may get in their way. Unfortunately, this is par for the course, no matter how much a person has poured into their lives. Not only have I been pushed out, but I have seen family members and best friends hurt by the way they are disregarded by someone they supported and loved through thick and thin.

It was hard to watch Effie fall for every guy within the first few weeks but there was nothing I could do. Even though I kept reminding her to enjoy the honeymoon phase but give them time to prove who they really were before jumping in with all her emotions, she still went headlong into each one. There are signs that reveal if a person has already chosen to get involved with someone regardless of what the people closest to them are saying.

If you are a victim of abuse, you will know if you have already made up your mind to get into what will be another unhealthy relationship depending on your answers to the following questions:

Have you stopped being fully honest with those who know you best?

Do you feel like you are hiding the details of the person you are talking to?

Are you hiding the relationship from your inner circle?

Do you see signs but make excuses for them to anyone who is asking?

Do you feel defensive if anyone says something negative about getting involved with this person?

Are you minimizing how much you have already emotionally invested in this person?

Are you feeling so much excitement about not being alone that you are ignoring obvious red flags?

Are you over spiritualizing the relationship and using God as your excuse for overlooking things you normally wouldn’t accept?

A person can transition from being a victim to being a survivor, but it is a choice. A choice that must be made every day and before every relationship. When someone makes the grand gesture of escaping an abuser and then does not pursue healing and wholeness, the only one they are compromising is themselves. They know mistreatment, they know abuse, they know the warning signs. Red flags are red because the color is bold and stands out. Abusive behaviors stand out and can be easily spotted. Ignoring them will only add to the pain that too many victims have already suffered. The next time someone gives you a bouquet of red roses, be sure they aren’t actually red flags.

Until next time, be discerning and stay safe!

2 responses to “Red Roses or Red Flags?: Healing is Essential”

  1. Those red flag questions are great!

    Like

  2. […] have no idea who they are apart from their abusers. Effie was very much this way (Silent Prison; Red Roses or Red Flags?: Healing is Essential). By the time she broke free, she literally had zero self-worth and even less knowledge of who she […]

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