My husband is unlike any of my past relationship partners, which is a good thing. If you look at my dating record, it is filled with questionable and downright dangerous choices in men. You’d think I was looking for trouble. And if I’m honest, I was. I thought “safe” was a synonym for “boring”.
From my late teens to my mid-twenties, I dated guys full of red flags. Some were controlling and abusive, others were cheaters, others were addicted to drugs. I had been deeply hurt and become hardened, cynical, and distrusting. I was promiscuous, emotionless, and often on the verge of suicide.
And yet, if someone would have asked me back then if I was ready for stability and safety, I would have said no. I thought that if I could close off my heart, care less, and ignore my feelings, I could protect myself from getting hurt.
And along came my daughter. Becoming a mother absolutely changed me. It made me desire the “boring” safety I had avoided for so many years. But I still didn’t know what I was looking for.
After some years of single motherhood, I met the man that would eventually become my husband and I had no idea what to do. So, I ran in the opposite direction. After one date, I remember telling my friends that I thought he was too nice, and I didn’t want anything to do with that. I felt like I couldn’t trust it. So I told him we should just be friends, and I braced myself for the inevitable backlash. But, much to my surprise, he didn’t blow up my phone with a million texts and calls. He didn’t get angry or tell me he didn’t want to see me again. He heard what I said, respected my boundaries, and kept his distance while maintaining a friendship with me. For months. I couldn’t believe it. Almost ten months went by before I woke up to the fact that this safe, nice guy was actually the one for me. And by that time, I was finally ready to be safe.
I want to give you a few things to think about when it comes to dating. How do you identify a safe dating partner? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How does this person respond when I set boundaries or say no?
- What is this person like when he is angry?
- When we have an argument, do I ever fear for my safety?
- When he does or says something wrong, does he take responsibility and work to correct it?
- Are there things I’m afraid to talk to him about?
These questions are a good start, but if you think you might be in an abusive relationship, do a quick Google search for the Power and Control wheel. There are a lot of really good questions there.
If you’re not in a relationship yet, what do you want in a partner? Do you desire safety? Do you know how to find it?
I have met with girls over the years who are in undeniably abusive situations. They know it and I know it, and yet they are not ready to leave. I get it. It took me a long time and a lot of experience to realize that a quiet evening at home watching TV with the kids is actually so much more fun than the stressful thrill of drugs and trauma. It’s a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier in life, but one I am so grateful to know now.
Kelli Wacker previously worked at Bridgehaven’s Prevention department. She is now married and a mother to two beautiful girls. She is passionate about helping young people make healthy choices in all areas of their lives.