Avoiding dangerous relationships, from a 911 emergency responder

Story highlights

  • Domestic violence has no age limit or favored ethnic group, and occurs everywhere
  • Professional resource in U.S. is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Tamara Neal is a certified domestic relationship coach, domestic violence advocate and author of "Venomous Relationships: Learn How to Avoid Common Relationship Bloopers."

(CNN)As an emergency communication technician, for Baltimore County 911, "hurry up, he has a gun," while simultaneously hearing shots being fired, was a common call. I regularly found myself the only help for victims as they bore the brunt of some of horrific domestic violence.

"He has been drinking again," or "He is back on drugs" are also heard too often by 911 dispatchers in conjunction with these frequent assaults. Domestic violence has no age limit or favored ethnic group and occurs everywhere, at any time, but usually, though not exclusively, women are abused by men.
Between my experience with emergency dispatch, as a certified relationship coach and my own troubled marriage, I have identified common tell-tale traits of a toxic relationship, the kind that can lead to abuse and even death.

    Hidden vice

    We all have character defects. None of us is perfect. But take time to get to know a person in every season to get their full measure. Some partners may be very good at hiding their shortcomings for a long time, but not forever. Allow more to be revealed before making a deeper commitment.

    You are being blamed for someone's insecurities

    Be wary if your partner constantly blames you and others for all of his shortcomings, character defects and problems. He may be medicating himself as well with drinking or exploding in fits of rage.

    You are being exploited for your insecurities

    Women suffering from low self-esteem will often settle for abusive relationships and consider themselves lucky to have a man at all. When a woman has low self-esteem, she appears obsessed and infatuated, and this is a warning sign.

    Substance abuse is a sinking ship

    When defining family roles in addiction, one definition on enabling I like, from a Colorado State University resource, is: "the person who allows substance abuse to continue by 'saving' the abuser from the consequences of his or her actions." Once you have warned a person several times that the ship is sinking and they refuse to get off, it's time for you to do so.

    Living in fear

    True love should never make you feel frightened, alarmed, disrespected or concerned for your well-being. If you are walking on eggshells in order to prevent your mate from becoming angry, think seriously about planning your exit. Never allow someone to love you to death.
    Yes, change can be frightening, but the alternative can be a lot more serious. Only by changing can you experience the next chapter in your life. Turn the page and move on.
    If it's not that easy for you to get out of a toxic or abusive relationship on your own, a great professional resource in the United States is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They have highly-trained advocates that are available 24 hours a day to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.