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4 Important Questions Before Running Headlong into that New Relationship

October 2, 2016

Your new partner treats you wonderfully, yet you see terrible behavior directed to others. What does that mean?

Remember the poem by Mary Mowatt, The Spider and The Fly?

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; “’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy. The way into my parlor is up a winding stair, And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”

When connecting in a new relationship with someone to whom we are attracted we are all typically well mannered and well behaved. This is normal human behavior during the infatuation or courtship stage of a new relationship. However if you are seeing your new partner also treat others disrespectfully or worse, abusively or violently, then that new partner is showing you how you may come to be treated too. This person is teaching you, how you will likely come to be treated when you have been entrapped and then seek to thwart their objectives.

The challenge is to differentiate. Is their behavior to you really about seduction with the tools of flattery, charm and rescuing or is this person really sincere and altruistic. If being well mannered and well behaved to you alone yet acting poorly to others is occurring, this is a clue to their real method of operation and means of relating to people. It could be an indication of things to come your way.

The key in any new relationship is not to get in over your head from the get-go.

Truth is many people do get in over their head in a new relationship and then feel trapped, unable to escape. They get in over their head because they lead with their heart or emotions. People then get trapped because they place their heart over the head. They place emotions over better judgment and thinking. How a person feels takes over their judgment and before they know it, they are in so deep emotionally, it is difficult and at times impossible to escape.

This is not to say don’t have feelings. This is to say that one must keep a level head and manage one’s feelings by examining what you see in terms of behavior directed towards others. The behavior seen directed towards others is likely indicative of what will be directed towards you.

Seduction, charm, being rescued, all feel great. That is why those strategies are used and why they work.

Often in new relationships where those strategies are used, at the same time it becomes evident that outcomes, the result of those behaviors favors the one using the seduction, charm or rescuing. You may find yourself being sexual before you intended; you may find yourself helping the new partner financially; you may find yourself having to take sides in their disputes even though you may prefer to stay neutral or even side with the other person. So all the while when feeling great, you become a tool of support on a lopsided basis to the new partner. Gotcha.

The challenge in any new relationship, particularly if we are feeling needy or vulnerable is to keep head over heart. Explore what you see and differentiate it from how you feel. If there is a discrepancy between how you feel versus what you see, go with what you see and make judgments on that basis. Head over heart.

Head over heart is what people do to keep them safe from harm. We use our thinking to manage how we feel. This is what we seek to teach children. As a child, there are so many things to entice, to lead to harm. We want the child to think twice, to consider risk, to make decisions that are safe. We teach the child to discern and not take the candy from the stranger.

Adulthood is similar. Adults too have to discern. The candy of adulthood is seduction, flattery, charm and rescuing. Don’t get into that car without having first looked ahead or without getting to know the person. In adulthood we do that by observing the person with others to see how the person treats them. Ask yourself:

  1. What does this person do when angry? Do they lash out, blame, seek to destroy, get violent? Or, do they seek to make amends, understand and seek solutions in everyone’s favor?
  2. How does this person treat their former partner? Were they violent, angry, disparaging, mean spirited? Or, did this new person speak reasonably, try to resolve differences in everyone’s interest, leave things on a reasonable footing?
  3. How does this new person treat their children from a prior relationship or treat my children? Is this new person engaged with their children, happy to be in a relationship, involved in their life? Or, is this person disengaged and you find yourself trying harder than them to facilitate their relationship?  Is this new person standoffish to your children or even harsh and judgemental about their behavior or your parenting?
  4. Does this new person overuse substances such as alcohol or drugs? Does the new person prioritize alcohol or drugs above the relationship? Or, does this person if using substances, do so responsibly and in a way that doesn’t interfere with your relationship or their responsibilities?

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; “’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.”

Head over heart. How you see this new person treat others is an indication of things to come. This may be how this person may treat you or your children. Head over heart. Don’t get trapped from the get go.Examine behavior and ask yourself those questions.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call if you need help with a relationship, child behavior issue or upsetting life event.

If you know someone who may benefit from this information, please share this blog with the links below.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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