Bad enough to leave? Or good enough to stay?

Wise Readers:

When you get involved with someone, do you find yourself wondering whether their behavior is bad enough to justify leaving them? Or do you wonder whether it’s good enough to stay?

The orientation of your question is important.

Abuse is scientifically defined as a systematic program of controlling another person. Abusers can use any means: money, threats, put-downs, public humiliation, physical injury, sexual harm. But it all comes down to control.

I want you all to be very careful to avoid people who show early signs of controlling behavior. You’ll never know whether they would have abused you—but if you avoid the controlling, you will automatically protect yourself to a great degree.

In this recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, Brandon Vezmar, 37, of Austin filed a claim against his date to have her refund the cost of her movie ticket, because she texted during the film. 

Seriously? Texting during a film is rude. Period. It’s fine that he requested that she not text during the film. He could have switched to another seat in the theater, or simply counted the date as a loss and never gone out with her again. Heck, if he were my client, I’d tell him to just not call her anymore. He says texting during films is a huge pet peeve of his, so perhaps he could screen for women’s feelings about this before even asking them out. 

But his behavior in filing a suit against her and (according to the woman) contacting her little sister to try to wrest the money from this woman crosses a line of control—as does the sense of entitlement he shows in believing himself due a refund if a date does not go as he wishes—and is possibly an indicator of being dangerous.

Abusers signal what your future with them will look like through their inappropriately controlling behavior, not only via cruelty. We can’t know for certain whether he would have abused her. We can know that this behavior is not good enough to stay. I breathed a sigh of relief on reading that she filed a protective order against him. 

Kindness and respectfulness are absolutely necessary if you want your love life to go well. We must switch from asking, “Is this behavior bad enough to leave?” to “Is this behavior good enough to stay?”

Be kind. Be respectful. Expect it in others. Stay safe.

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