Never ignore misgivings about a romantic interest’s behavior.

Though we are bound to marry the wrong person, there are two kinds of wrong people.  Wrong people with whom a happy life can be made and wrong people with whom a great mistake is made.  Across twenty-eight years of clinical practice, scores of regretful clients have talked about ignoring intuitions or, worse, refusing to acknowledge one or more of the big six relationship red flags.

Red flags mean stop!  Test your misgivings against this list:Substance abuse/dependence, mental cruelty, battery, inappropriate venting of anger, controlling behavior/jealousy/paranoia and under-functioning/under-responsibility.  Although each probably deserves a post of its own, all six are briefly addressed in two posts – Part 1 and Part 2.

Substance abuse/dependence

Substance abusers who are on the fast track to dependence can be identified.  These are individuals who continue to abuse their substance of choice despite:

  • bar fights
  • citations for operating a vehicle while under the influence
  • complaints by loved ones of mistreatment or neglect
  • mandatory drug testing as a condition of employment
  • significant physical and psychological symptoms (whether the direct result of or exacerbated by substance abuse)

One year of sobriety is a good guideline when considering romantic involvement or re-involvement with a recovering substance abuser.  If you succumb to manipulation and intimately involve yourself with someone who has limited sobriety, you are likely to become a casualty of his or her relapse.  You are also enabling or protecting your loved one from experiencing the natural consequences of his or her self-destructive behaviors.

Mental cruelty

Most of us know someone who never misses an opportunity to harshly criticize, sadistically humiliate or gleefully slander others.  Anyone who is sufficiently frustrated may occasionally resort to acts of mental cruelty.  If, however, you are involved with someone who is persistently mean-spirited, do not make the additional mistake of believing that your “in love” status exempts you from becoming the target of that mean-spiritedness.


Physical and/or sexual abuse in any relationship is unacceptable.  Perception of abuse varies, however, between men and women and among couples.  Those who study abuse in intimate relationships tell us, for example, that men are less likey than women to perceive aggressive behavior directed toward them as domestic abuse.  And, while some couples have fun wih a bit of roughhousing, others are appalled by it.

The prescription for ending violence in relationships is complex.  Outcomes vary in studies about psychological treatment for batterers.  Experts disagree about the effectiveness of addressing abuse within the context of joint therapy.  Some victim advocates condone tolerating “one strike,” while others advocate zero tolerance.  All are adamant about seeking psychotherapeutic intervention and separating or divorcing, if there are repeated incidents of abuse.

The universally shared perspective?  If you have been maliciously pushed, struck, injured or subjected to unwanted sexual domination, you have been victimized.  An abusive relationship ends only when an adult victim acts on his or her own behalf.  To do so, victims typically need the help and protection of supporters, sometimes including law enforcement officers and the courts.

See Part 2 for the rest of the big six red flags.


Websites – – Alcoholics Anonymous – For loved ones of substance abusers – Narcotics Anonymous – National Domestic Violence Hotline

Book –

Ginny NiCarthy, 

For more about the book, visit

Author’s Books and Kindle – Click for Amazon Reviews

© Copyright 2013 Christine Meinecke, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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Christine Meinecke received a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas in 1983. She interned at Colorado State University Counseling Center and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Meinecke is in her nineteenth year of full-time private practice in Des Moines, Iowa. Prior to entering private practice, she worked in hospital mental health settings She has taught psychology and psychotherapy classes to undergraduates, graduate students, and medical residents. She is also a playwright. Her full-length, comedic play, Flutter the Dovecotes, was the 2009 winner of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop competition and was premiered by Tallgrass Theatre Company in January 2010. For more information about Flutter the Dovecotes click ”works” tab. For thirty-plus years, she has practiced yoga and taught yoga classes in various settings. She met her beloved wrong person while both were graduate students at University of Kansas. They have been married twenty-nine years.