Predator-Proofing Your Life

MusicalRose

Member
There was a request to start a topic for discussion on how to avoid manipulative types, so I took the initiative.

I'll make a longer post a little bit later, but I wanted to get the topic started.
 

MusicalRose

Member
Below is a list of red flags that I use periodically to vet my relationships. I've found that it can transcend romantic relationships and be used for all types of relationships, including situations with larger entities like a community or employer.

Signs in Other Person
  • History of lying/omission/dishonesty/cheating.
  • Lying or omitting important information to me.
  • High incidence of mismatch between actions and words.
  • Desire for high levels of privacy or secrecy between relationships.
  • Poor treatment or disrespect of existing partners.
  • Unwillingness to communicate or try to communicate.
  • Treating me as if I am inferior.
  • Using age as a reason to invalidate my perspective.
  • Scoffing or laughing at questions I ask or concerns I present.
  • Telling me how I feel or should feel.
  • Mocking or dismissing my desires and wishes.
  • Making me feel like a child or a bad person.
  • General condescension.
  • Breaking of my physical boundaries or consent without discussion or permission.
  • Desire for control over my body or sexuality.
  • Guilt trips.
  • Refusal to accept responsibility for own actions or emotions.
  • Stonewalling or strict control over flow of communication.
  • Threats of any kind.
  • Demands of any kind.
  • Unwillingness or inability to clearly articulate desires and intentions.
  • Seeming inability to be honest with oneself.
  • Possessiveness or talking about me in ownership terms, indications of feelings of entitlement.
  • Framing relationships or love around the concept of need.
  • Addiction or addictive behavior.
  • Pushing for a level of intimacy that I’m not comfortable with or any kind of pressure to do something I don’t want to do.
  • Playing the victim or dismissing my concerns or problems because “they have it worse.”
  • Repeated surfacing of an issue that is ostensibly resolved.
  • Any kinds of double standards.
  • Tendencies to lash out or make cutting remarks during a difficult discussion, inability to resolve conflict without resorting to personal insults.
  • Justifying or not apologizing for malicious behavior.
  • Constant shifting of discussion topics to avoid resolution of points.
  • Inability to have open or honest discussions without the aid of mind-altering substances.
  • Tendencies to attack my character rather than focus on the issue at hand or specific behaviors involved.
  • Projection.
  • Excessive flattery or putting of me on a pedestal.
  • Rewriting history/gaslighting
  • Intense “expression of feelings” without any move toward constructive strategies to deal with said feelings.
  • Making me responsible for their feelings.
  • Demonizing of exes, especially if partner makes it sound like they had no real role or responsibility in previous relationship’s problems.
  • Otherwise being unwilling to talk in a reasonable way about what went wrong in previous relationships. Shouldn’t be the only thing they talk about, but it shouldn’t be a total mystery either.
  • Creating unrealistic expectations, especially look for words like “always” or “never.” Making promises that are unasked for and then unable to keep them.
  • High levels of insecurity, low self-worth.
  • Desire to drop subjects or demand instant forgiveness, resentment at reasonable limits on trust after a violation.
  • Inability to let go of a past transgression or perceived transgression of mine, even if I have made reasonable effort to repair from it.
  • Using any of my past transgressions are a reason for heightened or unreasonable control.
  • Tendencies to take responsibility for me or manage me, not acknowledging my agency.
  • Apologizing or seeming guilty about things I do with my time as if they were making me do something.
  • Displays of any of the red flag behaviors in the metamour list.

Signs in Metamours
  • High incidences of jealousy or seemingly controlling behaviors.
  • A tendency to avoid communicating with me or avoid me in general, high levels of discomfort in my presence.
  • Requests for relationship rules that affect me
  • Hearing markedly different versions of a story from my metamour and my partner.
  • Inability to come directly to me with a problem, always speaking through hinge.
  • Competitive tendencies, either evidenced through words or through actions, has to be “more important,” “more loved,” “more anything,” for mutual partner with an advantage over me.
  • Displays any of the red flag behaviors in the partner list.

Signs in Myself
  • Fear of bringing up particular topics.
  • Stress or anxiety about the relationship that lasts more than a month or two.
  • Tendencies to want to withdraw from a person, or alternating between desire to withdraw and desire to get closer.
  • Feeling confused or like I am getting mixed signals.
  • Acting in ways I wouldn’t normally act, not being my authentic self.
  • Telling myself that I will not get into relationships with people that have these qualities in the future, but staying in the relationship anyhow.
  • Feeling pressured to do something I don’t want to do in order to salvage the relationship.
  • Inability to clearly set boundaries or say “no.”
  • Finding myself cleaning up after partner’s messes, making excuses for bad behavior, or rescuing partner from emergencies they create.
  • Finding myself giving lots of advice.
  • Feelings that the relationship is adversarial, one of us is trying to one-up the other and come out on top.
  • Repeatedly forgiving unethical, irresponsible, or cruel behavior.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame in the context of asking for something I want or making myself vulnerable.
  • Obsession, inability to focus on things other than partner either for good or for bad things.
  • Spending inordinate amounts of my personal time and energy in thinking about, processing, and problem solving a given relationship.
  • Feelings of doubt or questioning of the quality of the relationship.
  • Fantasizing about what it would be like not to be in the relationship.
  • Wishing I had never started the relationship.
  • Feelings of intense jealousy, especially since I am not jealous by nature.
  • Displaying any red flag behaviors in partner or metamour list.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Things that might stop me from leaving a predator:

  • They have lots of good qualities.
  • They're very charming.
  • I'm deeply in love with them.
  • I don't want to hurt them.
  • It would hurt me too much to leave them.
  • There are children involved.
  • I don't have the financial means to leave.
  • I don't want to just give up on them.
  • I promised them I'd never leave.
  • It's partly my fault that we have these problems.
Perhaps others can think of more?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Adapted from http://speakoutloud.net/helping-victims-survivors/coercive-control-5 (and it has the long PDF list of control tactics to look out for too)

  • Can I trust this person 100%?
  • Does this person respect me totally without a doubt?
  • X is always honest and I feel completely safe to be honest with X?
  • X definitely respects my privacy?
  • I feel totally free to be myself round X anywhere anytime?
  • I adamantly feel safe with X – always?

Galagirl
 
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LoveBunny

Active member
My research after a relationship with a person with narcissistic tendencies taught me that most of the time, these predators don't show up displaying lots of red flags. They have to catch you up in the relationship, first, by seeming like a wonderful, sensitive, caring person who shared many things in common with you. It's not until you're good and an in love that the mask starts to fall away, slowly. Honestly, if they treated you badly at first, you wouldn't even enter into the relationship.

Lovebombing, mirroring, and fast-forwarding the relationship are the first red flags. Later comes silent treatment, disappearing, and other emotionally abusive tactics. Sometimes that's as bad as it gets (which certainly isn't pleasant) but the really horrible abusive stuff typically doesn't come until later. Boundaries are broken down slowly so you don't even, at first, realize you're being abused.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
My research after a relationship with a person with narcissistic tendencies taught me that most of the time, these predators don't show up displaying lots of red flags. They have to catch you up in the relationship, first, by seeming like a wonderful, sensitive, caring person who shared many things in common with you. It's not until you're good and an in love that the mask starts to fall away, slowly. Honestly, if they treated you badly at first, you wouldn't even enter into the relationship.

Lovebombing, mirroring, and fast-forwarding the relationship are the first red flags. Later comes silent treatment, disappearing, and other emotionally abusive tactics. Sometimes that's as bad as it gets (which certainly isn't pleasant) but the really horrible abusive stuff typically doesn't come until later. Boundaries are broken down slowly so you don't even, at first, realize you're being abused.

Agree to an extent. My first r'ship with a Don Juan narcissist took over a year to start to show the gaslighting, disappearing, triangulating. It's different for polys... the distance would show up in sharper relief for a mono r'ship.

But 6 months after that r'ship ended, I got into a thing with another guy with similar tendencies. He said I love you on the 2nd date! Red flag. But the abuse and distancing started during and right after the 5th date, and I got out quickly and relatively unscathed, since I was armed with the info about narcissists from the long painful thing with the previous guy.
 

KC43

New member
Sometimes people aren't able to be present. And even when they are, sometimes they second-guess their instincts and wants and needs because of other factors, like mental illness, past abuse or negative experiences, etc. If you've already encountered a predator or someone who's unhealthy for you, it messes with your ability to accurately judge situations, because on some level you might feel that you deserved the poor treatment. And that opens you up to more poor treatment.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to recognize that it doesn't matter what anyone else says or thinks. If YOU feel like you're being treated poorly, respond to that feeling. If you're uncomfortable with the way your partner behaves, don't justify it by thinking you deserve it or by wondering if you're seeing things from a skewed perspective. Acknowledge how you feel, acknowledge that you have the right not to feel that way... and leave that situation.

You might be seeing things from a skewed perspective...but if that perspective makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it's still okay to respond to what you perceive, and to get out of the situation.

The best example I can give from my own life: My first marriage was emotionally and verbally abusive. My ex was controlling, jealous, and sometimes outright hostile. It was unhealthy, and he wore down my self-esteem and confidence until in the end, the only reason I managed to leave was because someone told me Alt and Country might grow up to have marriages exactly like mine if I stayed.

About six months after I left him, I met a guy online and started dating him. He was charming and encouraging--but also hot-tempered and insulting. He made accusations toward me about other guys. He kept tabs on everyone I talked to. He blamed his behavior on being Latino, which meant I couldn't say anything against the way he acted without him making me out to be prejudiced. He knew what my first marriage was like... and he very subtly played on those fears and insecurities I'd picked up during that marriage.

But he was nice to me most of the time, and he was attractive and told me I was beautiful, and his accusations and temper weren't as bad as my ex's. Even though I didn't like some of the things the second guy said... I wasn't able to recognize it as abuse, because it wasn't AS BAD as what I'd dealt with. It still made me feel icky, but I believed that was *my* problem, not because of *his* actions. I finally got him out of my life after he found out some friends were trying to persuade me that it was an unhealthy situation--and went into the public chat room we were all members of and threatened those friends. Once again, I couldn't break it off for my own sake; I had to do it for someone else's.

The scariest thing about him was he was a social worker... who worked with children who'd been in domestic violence situations.

If I'd trusted my instincts about him to begin with, it wouldn't have escalated as it did. Hell, even now... if I'd trusted my perceptions of the declining relationship with S2, I would have called it quits sooner in a much less hurtful way than the way he quit on me, and we would probably be friends now. There was no abuse or predation in that relationship, just a whole lot of insecurity and uncertainty on both sides, but it still is relevant to my point...

No matter what the relationship is. No matter how much you think you love them. No matter how nice they are to you "sometimes"... if you feel like ANYTHING is off at all, if ANYTHING about the other person makes you feel hurt, scared, or put-down... Go with that perception. You don't have to stick it out.
 
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MusicalRose

Member
I generally don't need quite the laundry list now that I have compiled over the years, but I like to have it as something to show to others who might be wondering. It illustrated for me all the really poor behavior I let slide over the course of a few of my relationships.

It's much more automatic for me to recognize these kinds of things now, and sometimes I'll still go back and look the list over if I'm feeling uneasy about a relationship.

Not all the flags are dealbreakers. I feel like I've gotten to a point of strength now where I'm able to set boundaries and don't have to steer clear entirely of all of these, but they remain things to pay attention to and set firm boundaries around.
 

Norwegianpoly

New member
The problem is that if you have bad self esteem, you might misread slight misbehaviour or even normal behaviour as someone mistreating you. My ex would feel bad and sometimes think I did that to her, when really she was hearing things that were never said and she felt like if I was better at something I was looking down on her (she was projecting her inferior feelings about herself into me, like I was responsible for making her feel bad). I may not have been the best match for her but I was in no way abusive. But I know that parts of her feel that I was. It took me a long time to see how that was about our communication styles and how I expected her to tell me what she wanted but she wanted me to guess.

Btw, both my men told me that they loved me after less than two weeks dating. They are impulsive and quick to make their minds up - but they also mean it and here we are, eleven and two years later respectively. Not everyone fast in love is mentally unstable.
 
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LoveBunny

Active member
Here are some sort of subtle things that I take as red flags:

When someone tells me, "You're too sensitive." Yeah, maybe. But this can often be a really easy, effective way to shift blame. "Your not sensitive enough" is a great response.

When a person says we're in a relationship, but doesn't act as if we are, OR a person says we're NOT in a relationship, but they can't keep their hands off me. If words don't match actions in either direction, clearly, they want me to feel off-balance.

Silent treatment. This one is tricky. Sometimes after a fight a person needs a bit of distance to think and cool down. But giving someone the silent treatment can be brutal punishment. My soon-to-be-ex husband is the master of this. When I piss him off, he acts surly, withdrawn and cold for DAYS. It's ridiculous and manipulative, and clearly intended to punish me for daring to fight with him. He's not a predator, just a bad fighter with anger issues, but I consider this emotionally abusive behavior.
 

Norwegianpoly

New member
The problem with these kinds of specific warnings is that they are taken out of context are bad at seperating the little annoying stuff from the really bad. And also they can easily backfire, as in it can just as well be about interpretation. For instance:

Someone saying they are not in a relationship but can't keep their hands off you, is that not a pretty straightforward sign that there is sexual chemestry but not much else , or that the person is very attracted but not available for a real relationship. If you proceed beyond that point and expect a wedding, who is being manipulative? Sometimes we make our own traps.

People recover from a fight or other upsetting events at different speeds. My boyfriend is extremely bad at fighting, he takes everything personal and he still remembers with sadness that single time two years ago when I said something mean. But I noticed that after our first fight, so I found other ways to voice our conflicts. If I insisted on fighting with him, he would certainly we "sour" for days, if not for weeks. I know that actually I am the person with the anger issues, for having this desire to fight in the first place.

The list goes on. Calling something manipulative behaviour without examining our own role can be misleading.
 

LoveBunny

Active member
Calling something manipulative behaviour without examining our own role can be misleading.

True, but this is a thread about predator-proofing. Not all people exhibiting these behaviors are predators or priming you for abuse, but they are very effective manipulative behaviors. Part of what a good predator does is make sure YOU take on as much blame as possible. "I'm too sensitive. I shouldn't have fought with her that way. Well, he told me this wasn't a relationship, so if I slept with him knowing he was just using me for sex, it's all on me."

Examine your role in the relationship, yes, absolutely, of course. But someone else acting like an asshat is NOT your fault or your responsibility. That sort of victim-blaming is why so many people stay in abusive relationships. They feel they are equally at fault with their abuser.
 

LizziE

New member
I think nuance, context, and desired outcome are all really crucial to knowing if a person is a predator or if their behavior is abusive. Similar (or even the same) behaviors done in different ways and for different reasons can be healthy or abusive.

In terms of nuance and context, say I'm really furious at someone. So furious that I refuse to talk to them. If this is the case, I can assure that that I've had a text/email/in person conversation with them where I've said "I am really angry right now. I'm so angry that I'm afraid that I'm going to say something that I don't mean, because I am hurting so much that I want to hurt you too. I don't want to do that, so I need to not talk to you for a while. If something neutral or really urgent comes up, I can talk to you, but for now, I need time to feel my anger in a way where I can't hurt you, and then cool down". Ideally, I can also give them SOME amount of time frame: "I'll check in with you in X hours/tomorrow about how I'm feeling".

In this case, I'm taking ownership of my anger. I'm explaining the steps I'm taking to make sure I don't use my anger as a weapon. I'm going to keep in contact about when my anger recedes and we can continue communication.

Contrast that with someone who simply refuses to talk to someone else for hours (or days) at a time, with no explanation whatsoever. Or - my personal favorite (thanks, mom!) - someone who says "If you're too stupid to figure out what I'm angry about, then you're too stupid to understand if I told you."

In terms of desired outcome, going from my above example, my desired outcome is to get through my anger without hurting anybody with it (or at least minimizing that hurt as much as possible). The desired outcome of someone using the silent treatment probably IS to hurt someone because THEY are hurting. That is abusive.

Also in terms of desired outcome, my desired outcome in all situations is to treat people respectfully, be treated respectfully, and to be able to make good decisions for myself and (as much as is possible) for those around me. I know people who I can't have a close relationship with because they are too sensitive for me to have a stable friendship with. I also know people who I can't have a close relationship with because they are not sensitive enough for me to have a stable friendship with. In both these cases, there is nothing WRONG with the sensitivity level of me, or either of these people. We are simply not compatible. That is OK. What is important is that I make good decisions for myself.

However, if one of these people has decided that the desired outcome is that we have a close relationship - that that is their major goal and more important to them than my goal of being able to make good decisions for myself - then we're going to have a problem. I think this is where a lot of abuse comes from. Someone decides that their desired outcome is that they have THIS kind of relationship with another person. THIS kind of relationship is the ONLY kind of relationship they will accept. So they attempt to twist, badger, gaslight, and take away the ability to choose of the other person, if the other person's choices would be counter to the one type of relationship that the controlling person desires to have.

Some people do this unconsciously, because they are afraid of being alone, and they've constructed a version of what they want reality to be and they will only accept THAT reality as the valid realty. Some people do those things deliberately, because they like hurting people.

No matter what the reason behind such abusive behavior, it is abusive, as it does hurt the person(s) it is inflicted on. We should all get to choose the people we have around us, and the behavior that we will accept from them. We can consent to have people in our lives. We can consent to have people NOT be in our lives. But we cannot take the consent of another person and DEMAND that they be in our lives, not for any reason.

That is being abusive and being a predator.
 

KC43

New member
I would also say if you perceive your partner's behavior in a certain way (abusive, disrespectful, hurtful, etc.), it doesn't necessarily matter if they're actually behaving that way or if you're misperceiving it. If you feel that they are behaving in a way that you consider unacceptable, even if they aren't actually behaving that way, you aren't doing yourself or them many favors by sticking around. You're likely to respond to them based on what you're perceiving, which might spiral into something pretty negative.

That isn't about predators or abusers, but if you feel that your partner isn't treating you right, you probably aren't going to ask them "Hey, are you really treating me like shit or is it my imagination?" (I do ask that if it's a matter of me feeling disrespected or hurt, because I know my past contributes to how I see other people's actions, but I'm kinda weird.) You're going to react to the behavior you're perceiving, and that might damage the relationship even if it's actually been a healthy one with no abuse or mistreatment.

That's one of the reasons I said in my first post that if you're feeling hurt, scared, disrespected, whatever by your partner, leave the situation. Even if you might not be perceiving their behavior accurately. It's about trusting your instincts, because it's better to leave than to risk actually being hurt or abused, but it's also about not lashing out at someone who isn't actually treating you the way you believe they are.

If someone is treated poorly by a partner, it isn't their fault. We're responsible for OUR OWN behaviors in any given relationship. NEVER for the other person's. To say otherwise is victim blaming. Even if a partner does something in response to our behavior--their response is not our responsibility. They're making a choice, conscious or not, and that is THEIR responsibility.
 
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LizziE

New member
That's one of the reasons I said in my first post that if you're feeling hurt, scared, disrespected, whatever by your partner, leave the situation. Even if you might not be perceiving their behavior accurately. It's about trusting your instincts, because it's better to leave than to risk actually being hurt or abused, but it's also about not lashing out at someone who isn't actually treating you the way you believe they are.

I'm so glad that you brought this up. It is something that haunts me regularly.

In my life, I've met several women who had a string of abusive partners, and their ability to perceive threats became so skewed by their experience that I ultimately stopped having any kind of relationship with them (one was a friend, the other was someone who I started dating).

In both cases, there were instances (at a party, or a hangout) that I was personally present at, and my friend/date told me that someone else at the party was obviously stalking them and/or going out of their way to make my date uncomfortable. In one of the cases, the person who my date said was stalking her was not only a good friend, but also dating a woman who had...let's say some insecurities about him paying too much attention to other women. So he went out of his way to be coolly friendly to other women (he ultimately broke it off with the woman with the insecurities, as she started pressuring him to end all his friendships with female friends).

In both cases, I realized to myself that if they found the behavior I'd witnessed to be stalking/deliberately unpleasant to them, then I could definitely be told at some point that MY behavior was stalking/deliberately making them uncomfortable to them.

I talked to both of them about my concerns. The talk with my friend blew up. She accused me of being just as out to abuse her as everybody else in her life has been, and left very angrily. To this day, I'm still on her list of people that she "dodged a bullet" with (she wrote this on her live journal. Yes, live journal. Sigh).

The woman I was dating was sad, but she understood. She said she felt like it was kind of unfair, but she respected that I was trying really hard not to tell her that her perceptions were WRONG, just that they were so far from mine that I didn't think we could find a middle ground that was safe for both of us. So we ended our relationship and don't talk anymore.

In both cases, I really felt for these woman. And I didn't want to brutalize already brutalized instincts by saying that they were wrong (even if I believed to the bottom of my toes that they were). But at the same time, having personally witnessed some of the behaviors that they felt were stalking and coercive, I couldn't feel safe myself having any kind of relationship with them.

I wonder how people recover from that. I hope there is a way. I just have no idea what it would be.
 

KC43

New member
Counseling. Learning to recognize destructive thoughts. Learning to accept that not everyone is out to abuse you, and sometimes being taught cues.

I could easily have been one of those women you mention, but I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt because I know not everyone is abusive or dangerous. Sometimes, as in the example I gave a few posts ago, I give too much benefit of the doubt. I'm still finding the middle ground nine years after I left my first marriage.

And as I said above, if I'm unsure of someone's behavior, unless I feel like I'm really in danger, I've learned to ask them or someone else I trust (usually Hubby or Guy at this point) whether I'm perceiving accurately. But it took me time to learn to do that.
 

MusicalRose

Member
In the workshop that I made with my red flags list, I try to make it clear that everyone's list is going to be unique to them, and that some behaviors that some people consider absolutely unacceptable is no big deal to others.

I stress that creating this list is about you and what you do and don't want out of a relationship, and making choices about who to get close to based on what it is you are actively seeking or avoiding.

It's true that a lot of the red flags came from people that were harmful to me, but not all of them were intentionally so. Sometimes harmful and abusive behavior can come from a place of insecurity and learned patterns of people who just don't know any better. It still doesn't mean it's healthy for me or that I need to stick around for it.

My list has changed and developed a little bit as I've gone along too. Many things that were deal breakers before have now just become a thing for me to set firmer boundaries around and pay attention to. As I've gotten more confident in myself and my perception of reality, it hasn't become as necessary to be hyper-vigilant because I have better armor and am in a strong enough place for gentle guidance with mild-medium level bad behavior.

Someone who has suffered a lot of abuse may not be able to do that.

I certainly welcome ideas for how to work concepts of nuance and growth into my workshop. I'd love to put it out again and keep updating it to be more relevant and useful to folks.
 

MightyMax

Banned
I just stick with people who make me feel good rather than bad. I try to look at what I feel the majority of the time we spend together.
 

nycindie

Active member
I just stick with people who make me feel good rather than bad. I try to look at what I feel the majority of the time we spend together.

Yes, me too. If I feel good about my life, and well in myself, during most of the time I spend with someone, that's the best indicator that the dynamic between us is a healthy one. If, whenever I'm with someone, I'm always left feeling shitty about my life and who I am, or constantly criticizing or blaming myself for every icky thing that happens, well then obviously it's not a healthy dynamic and I don't benefit from their influence around me. I am not going to refer to a long list to figure out if someone is good for me; I'm going to ask myself how I feel when I'm around them. Simple. Self-awareness and being present (in other words, paying attention to what is) are key in being able to discern what's happening in a situation or within a relationship.

Also, since this thread is about predators and not just toxic people, I think the best way to protect oneself is to develop clear boundaries and a strong sense of self. I don't have much experience with people who prey on others and ruthlessly exploit them, which is what a predator is, probably because I realized (after some dealings with such people years ago) that I needed to know who I was, what I wanted in life, and what kind of treatment I would or wouldn't accept/tolerate. So, I embarked on a long, long journey to discover myself. One of my teachers used to say, "Knowledge is power, but self-knowledge is everything!" Being awake in the here and now is the best tool for dealing with the world at large.
 
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