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:

  1. How does this person respond when I set boundaries or say no?
  2. What is this person like when he is angry?
  3. When we have an argument, do I ever fear for my safety?
  4. When he does or says something wrong, does he take responsibility and work to correct it?
  5. 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.