I remember writing a story about Halle Berry in college that included a mention of her abusive marriage. “Leave smoke” running away, she said at the time recounting her mother’s advice on handling men who mistreat women. For whatever reason, that quote always stuck with me especially as I learned of friends dealing with unhealthy relationships. Back then, I wondered why they stayed. But as I got older I began to understand, especially when I became one of those women who stayed waaaay past a relationship’s expiration date. And like many other women, I made excuses and didn’t know when enough was enough. Over time and with the help of friends and family who’ve been through similar situations, I learned the major deal breakers to look out for. Yes, we’re talking MAJOR.
Here are five red flags that give you the green light to walk away, even when you’re not 100 percent sure you’re doing the right thing. (Spoiler alert: You are.)
1. He gets violent, even if he doesn’t hit you.
You may think this is a no-brainer but honestly it isn’t. Most women I know who’ve been in abusive relationships have immense strength, only to shut down in the presence of her partner’s anger and violence. As a strong woman myself, I froze when a guy I’d been dating went into a rage one night, throwing things, damaging property and calling me names. I knew it was a deal breaker because even though he didn’t put his hands on me, he scared me. No healthy relationship can be built off a foundation of fear because you never know when his actions may escalate.
2. He cheats.
Many people will say this point is debatable because lots of couples who have fidelity issues repair their relationship and end up in a better than where they were pre-cheating. But it’s not the act of cheating that’s the deal breaker here; it’s the disrespect, broken trust and significant risk to your health. (Hello, STDS!) With all the risks that hang in the balance for just a tiny bit of pleasure, it’s entirely inconsiderate and selfish when a man cheats on you. Do you want someone who puts his wants before your needs, like security and trust? I don’t which is why I’ve said BYE to cheating men.
3. He doesn’t claim or proclaim you.
Many women will spend time in limbo-like relationships with guys who won’t give them the girlfriend title. Here’s the truth: If you’ve been dating a man for longer than six to nine months and he’s hasn’t made you an official part of his life, it’s time to MOVE ON. Stop making excuses for why things aren’t progressing to the next level; you’ll only waste time and your time is worth more than that. These days, I don’t settle for less because I don’t want a man who makes you a bargain-bin find. If he knows your worth, he’ll claim and proclaim you and there will be few conversations about how ‘he isn’t ready.’
4. He suffers from addiction.
There are plenty of honor badges to be earned by standing by your man when he’s fallen on hard times. But CAUTION if you stick with a man fighting demons, namely addiction. Addiction can range from less-severe, like cigarettes, to major issues such as drug, alcohol and sex. Someone who suffers from an addiction will do anything — and I mean anything — to get their fix, even at the expense of those they love. So unless you’d like to be second to whatever vices he has, it may be time to ‘leave smoke.’
5. He gaslights you.
We’ve spoken about gas-lighting, which is the manipulative act of someone attempting to change your memory or perception of events in their favor, making you feel crazy or like you’ve forgotten something. But when is gas-lighting a deal breaker, you ask? The answer is when it happens! A man who resorts to manipulative tactics to have his way or ‘win’ an argument will continue to play mind games and be dishonest with you. When I experienced gas-lighting in my relationships, I felt crazy and my self-esteem plummeted until I understood the game that was being played. Take advantage of the situation and leave immediately — it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.