How to Avoid the Top Relationship Dangers of Minimizing Harmful Behavior by Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish
• Sylvia’s husband had a rule:  If you can’t be home right after work, you had to call.  When she rushed a co-worker to the hospital, in the confusion, Sylvia called about thirty minutes after she was due home.  When she did phone home, he accused her of cheating on her and lying.  The moment she walked into the house, he seized her by the arm, dragged her to the couch and made her account for every minute.  When the children tried to pull him away, he shoved his younger so hard that he fell and hit his head on the edge of a table.

• Whenever Danielle got sick, she’d ask her boyfriend to pick up some Tylenol, Coke, Kleenex and Lipton’s chicken noodle soup in the sealed envelopes. She specifically asked him to purchase only the original version of these items—nothing “improved” with new ingredients.   But invariably he’d always grab the first thing he saw on the shelf and bring her, for example, Tylenol for children or soup with extra spices.  When she finally told him to go back to the store, he shrugged his shoulders and told her she was too picky.

If you think these situations are rare, think again.  These scenarios came directly from my research on today’s strong, capable women.  In recognition of March as Domestic Violence month and April as Child Abuse Month, here are some important tips to help women increase their awareness of inappropriate behavior.
Tip #1:  Get a Gauge
Many women have difficulty developing a gauge as to whether their partner has committed what I call an “emotional crime.”  Even though physical abuse seems like an obviously undesirable behavior, too many women excuse it.  Common explanations include:
• It’s the first time it’s happened.
• He’s under a lot of stress.
• It’s an accident.
• I was really out of line—and he just naturally reacted. 
These statements indicate a lack of perspective along the continuum of inadequate to inappropriate to unacceptable behavior. Here are some solutions to help you begin to establish a gauge.  If you don’t establish one, you run the risk of robbing yourself of kindness and love.
• Trust your reactions.  If you feel emotionally hurt, slighted or ignored or if you have been physically hurt, these are all signs that your partner, in the least, has been insensitive, uncaring and out of control 

• Observe your behavior over the course of a week and watch for times when you minimize hurtful behavior.

Tip #2:  Become a “Love Judge.”
One of the unintended consequences of living in a democracy–where most of us had to struggle on our own to succeed—is our hesitancy to judge lest we be seen as judgmental.  For instance, many of the women in my study explained their tolerance for unacceptable behavior by “confessing” that they had not been perfect and had made mistakes in the past.  As a result, they became more vulnerable to being emotionally or physically hurt because they did not tell their partner about the undesirable behavior.  Don’t be afraid to assess your partner’s actions.  Remind yourself that you deserve to be treated in a loving manner regardless of your past.

Tip #3:  Get Solution-Oriented
When you detect the unwanted behavior, discuss with your partner a solution to the problem.  Getting solution-focused limits how much time you spend playing “history” where you go over and over the event or get caught in “he said/she said.” 
 In the above stories, Danielle told her boyfriend that she needed him to pay attention to her details as much as she tended to his.  He told her that as a boy his father always complained about his mother’s bossiness.  He realized that he was confusing care with control.  Danielle and her boyfriend came up with a plan to write down in detail what she needed and for him to call her before he left the store.
Sylvia told her husband that she was not cheating or lying, that she would call home when she was going to be more than twenty minutes late and that she would not tolerate any physical abuse.
When he still became abusive, Sylvia decided to leave her husband.  However, before she left him, she practiced some safe relationship methods that worked for her.  These methods may need to be adjusted to fit your situation.  She did not threaten her husband with divorce, and she did not take out a restraining order until after she was safely out of the house with her children.  Before she left, she made copies of all the necessary prescriptions, credit card numbers, bank accounts, documents and other papers.  She consulted an attorney, found a new place to live and told a few key people who needed to be aware of her plans. 
If you do not see any improvement in your relationship, seek professional help and learn about the social services in your area that offer help for relationships or abuse.

To read other articles that might help you, please go to my website, .  Please be part of my research for my next book on strong, able women. In the upper right corner, click in the Research Box and you will be taken to a link to my confidential, online survey. And don’t forget to follow the love adventures of my cartoon character Almost Smart Cookie and learn from her mistakes.  Each cartoon is based on my research findings.

  Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish, Psychologist and Licensed Social Worker is a regular contributor to WE Magazine for Women. You can find out more about her at