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The First Straws: Learning From Past Abuse

Updated: Aug 27, 2022

I recently broke up with my longtime boyfriend. There were a lot of red flags, many examples of emotional and verbal abuse, and all-around problems I realized I could no longer move past. It was a six-year relationship that at some point I honestly thought would last forever. Now I'm glad it didn't.

But this also leaves me with six years that, on some level, feel wasted. I spent six years putting up with a depressed alcoholic through his mood swings, often leveled at me. Six years of trying to put him back together when he fell apart and comfort him. Six years of him taking all that treatment for granted. Six years of not being allowed to have any issues or need support of my own, because the idea of my needing help triggered his panic response and it would fall on me to comfort him. I'm now left with the challenge of finding out what kind of woman I am, if not his "rock."

How did things get so bad, you ask? By the time I saw his shortcomings, I was already attached. And I won't pretend I am blameless here. I fully own my codependent tendencies and the need to work through them. But I also realize my codependency is part of what made it so hard to walk away before.

The best thing to do here is learn from what happened. The key is to know what to look for early in a relationship so this situation never happens again. But how can you spot an abuser before the abuse happens? Instead of waiting for the "last straw," look for a "first straw."

I guess the first straw was during our first date. It took place at a bar near my apartment. He drove to me, he paid the bill, we spent six hours talking and enjoying ourselves before the bar closed. Most of that sounds good, right?

Not quite. For one thing, I wouldn't recommend a bar for a first date anymore, especially if you end up sitting there for six hours. And while neither of us had more than two drinks, it did set a precedent of most subsequent dates surrounding alcohol in some way. A lot of personal talk comes out with long dates and alcohol, and he went in detail about his late wife and the abusive girlfriend he had before her. There was a lot of information meant to trigger my "fix-it" instinct, to comfort him and make everything better. He topped it all off with a, "do you understand why I drink so much? With all these problems?" and laughed it off.

But the first serious straw came four months in, when I had a medical issue that in hindsight was pretty minor. I was worried at the time, and I texted him to let him know what was up. Unfortunately, I had the misfortune of reminding him of a similar issue that his late wife had years before. He didn't want to deal with it, so he shut down. Didn't want to see or talk to me until it was resolved, and was close to ending things completely. He relented the next day after I sufficiently panicked, and we agreed to meet up a few days later.

He showed up at my place, in the morning, drunk off his ass. Wouldn't shut up about his self-pity or all the traumas that led to it. I was in denial about the booze and manipulation, and made him breakfast and cuddled him until he sobered up. Another precedent set. From then on, he was the one who always needed support and it was on me to provide it.

Clarity comes in hindsight, and I see these situations for what they are now much better than when I was in the middle of them. Red flags are more visible without the rose-colored glasses. Because of this, I've been able to add to my list of personal red flags, and identify potential problems to spot when vetting. Keep a critical eye, and you'll never fall for the same trap twice.

What are some of your "first straws" from exes?

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At first I thought you were talking about my ex who loved to drink and pick fights with me over who knows what. I too thought I was codependent and it was my fault. Same thing with talking about his exes and him being abused by her. Honestly just really similar. I think my first straw was also the very first time I met him. I got this eerie feeling that he reminded me of my creepy uncle. I had known him for months online and had been talking to him daily and FaceTiming him forever. Why on earth I got that eerie vibe the very first time I actually met him is a huge red flag. I shouldn’t have…


Mar 12, 2023

i think it’s important for me to distinguish red flags from first straws.

the first red flag was that he was a co-worker. even though i was the elder of the two of us, he was hired to help train me in some advanced skills for the company. he had 10 years experience and i was entry-level.

the first straw was when he was dropped me off at home after work. instead of asking me if i wanted to have dinner with him that evening, he mentioned calling up his friend to hang out. i noticed that part of me felt some disappointment and i fell silent while we drove to process it.

he told me “it was awkward” in…


First Date Straw: he told me he had a date with another woman coming up that week and I told him that if he wanted to be friends, that was fine since telling me about other dates was putting him into a friend zone. He was shocked and said he didn’t know that. Rescue Him First Straws: I was preparing to teach my first yoga class ever and he wanted to be my student to practice on. We practiced in my living room and he started throwing a tantrum because he felt like I wasn’t paying attention to whether or not he was comfortable in some of the yoga moves. Why this was my responsibility instead of him just choosing to…


Nov 24, 2021

First straw: I’m 17 and the guy is 34. first date he gets out of his car and asks for a hug, so I gave him one. His ass crack shows when he gets out of the car. He isn’t leading, doesnt tell the seater he needs a table for two, i gestured for him to do it, and he did.

my mistake was acting like a pickme from the start. I’m really not, and my queen energy emerged towards the end of the ordeal.

He’s did not take it seriously. he already saw the chink in my armor.

last straw, two months in: he stops being chivalrous. doesn’t walk by my side. Doesn’t watch me get into my…


He Was 12 years older. I was a naive 20 year old. Lovebombed me into an instant relationship and when I felt uneasy about how fast it was moving he subtly suggested he would kill himself if we broke up. I wasnt ready to have him meet my family and told him so. He showed up when they were there anyway. This was just the beginning. if only I knew then what I know now



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