Question:

I recently read an article written by young lady who said she was duped after she got married. It stated that when she first met her husband, he was charming, gentlemanly, funny, religious, and considerate. She wrote that she quickly fell in love and agreed to marry him. The story turned dark when she told how he began abusing her on their wedding night.

As a father of three daughters, how can I know if a guy (daughter’s boyfriend) is really a good person and not an abusive two-faced loser?  I guess I just dont want my daughters to be deceived and see them go through such painful heartache. Any advice would be appreciative.

Answer:

While you may not be able to predict whether or not your daughters will marry abusive men, you can work now to help your daughters develop into confident women who can quickly recognize the signs of abuse and, ultimately, refuse to tolerate abusive behavior.

In fact, this is the best protection for your daughters, as its likely that any guy who wants to be two-faced will only show you his more desirable qualities. Your daughter will have more exposure to his true character behind closed doors. She can learn whats healthy so she develops a strong internal sense of whats safe and unsafe as she navigates close relationships.

One point I need to mention is that I hope you have a realistic view of marriage and dont mistake normal relationship repair as abuse. There wont be a guy out there who wont cause your daughter emotional pain. As you know, both men and women hurt each others feelings in marriage and do things that are selfish, inconsiderate, and insensitive. Abuse, on the other hand, is a more pervasive pattern of diminishing another persons dignity as a human being.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave the following counsel about finding safe romantic partners:

There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious dateto say nothing of a spousebut surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness that allows compassion and courtesy to be evident.

In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this persons care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.[i]

 

If you have a close and open relationship with your daughters where they regularly seek out your advice and counsel about their lives, they might invite you to share your opinion on their dates. Im sure youll have opportunities to observe and counsel with them about their relationships as they date a variety of guys.

 

You can teach your daughters to get to know lots of different guys and not just settle for the first guy that wants a serious relationship. My wifes father challenged her back when she was a teenager to get to know 100 different guys before she decided on whom she would marry. My wife was very clear on what she wanted when we met and began dating. She said that as she spent time with different guy friends, dates, and boyfriends over the years, she noticed patterns and personality traits that would have been harder to detect with the contrast of interacting with so many different individuals.


You can also teach your daughters how to recognize when something feels uncomfortable and not second-guess their emotions or instincts. In a safe relationship, there is room to say, “Im not comfortable with that”, and expect the other person to be considerate. She can learn that if her partner refuses to make space for her feelings, needs, or preferences, she should be careful and not proceed forward until this pattern is addressed and accounted for.

As you build a strong relationship with your daughters and show them what respect, kindness, and consideration look like, they will learn what to expect that in their romantic relationships.

Encourage your girls to spend time in a variety of settings and contexts with their romantic partners so they can experience his reactions to different people and situations. Even if he dupes her and everyone else and then begins acting abusive after theyre married, she can have good reflexes to stand up for herself and either get the help she needs for her relationship or exit it entirely, depending on the severity of the situation.

Your daughters are fortunate to have a father who is looking out for their safety. You dont need to be afraid for them as you help them develop confidence in trusting what they feel and experience. They will know if something isnt right and they will need permission throughout their lives to respond to anything that feels dangerous or uncomfortable.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St.


George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a masters degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.


You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT 

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