Sex Spoken Here: Risk Assessment Part 3
Welcome to my virtual therapy room! I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this podcast deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones.
Today I am finishing my series about risk assessment in relationships.
We assess risks all the time. Once we reach adulthood, we do most of our risk assessment without thinking. When you are driving, you assess the risk of driving at a particular speed, of changing lanes, or driving in certain weather or traffic conditions. We assess risk according to what we have learned about the risks inherent in any given situation. We assess based on what we have learned from others, from books and other media, and from our own life experience.
All of us travel with baggage. Some with just a carry on and others with whole steamer trunks. The problem isn’t the baggage itself but rather the uninspected contents. If you are unaware of your own patterns, your risk assessment will be faulty so you will make poorer choices. For some this means choosing relationships that turn out to be abusive ones for others this means choosing partners who cheat and for some this means choosing relationship after relationship with people who abuse or are dependent upon substances. We tend to choose what feels familiar to us.
I know my own patterns very well now as I have had lots of therapy, coaching and done other types of personal work. It used to be that if I walked into a room of 300 people with only one alcoholic in the room, that would be the only person I was attracted to. They would be the person that felt exciting, who smelled right to me. Nowadays, I would be attracted to the people who have been clean and sober for more than 10 years, people who are adrenalin junkies and those who come from backgrounds where there was substance abuse but who have done their personal work. I still like the edge but my pattern has changed because of the personal work I have done. I recognise different qualities, different scents as attractive now. The hardest thing for most of us is to admit we have made a mistake and this can get you injured or killed.
Gavin de Becker is an expert on security, threat assessment, and personal protection. He wrote a book called The Gift of Fear that I highly recommend everyone read. In this book, he talks about how far we as human beings have moved from our primal senses.
Fear is the body’s way of alerting us to danger. Many people no longer pay attention to fear or to gut instincts in which they feel uncomfortable. De Becker talks about how essential it is that we learn to reintegrate our primal senses as they will keep us safer and ignoring them may get us injured or killed.
Often people have an intense gut feeling and then talk themselves out of it. You meet someone and you feel uncomfortable but you say to yourself ‘I’m being unfair’ or ‘I should give him a chance’. It is amazing how often the gut instinct is correct. I have interviewed many victims of sexual assault and rape over the years – some in therapy and others during my research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A full 60% of them have admitted to having a feeling that someone was ‘not right’ or a situation was ‘not safe’ and ignoring the feeling. This lead them to blame themselves for their own assaults or rapes. Self-blame is not useful in this situation. What is though is to learn how important it is to pay attention to your hunches and gut instincts. They are often correct because they are based on a whole host of perceptions that happen on a less than conscious level.
Many of the people I have seen over the years have ignored countless warning signs in relationships. Last week I spoke with Dr Sue Mandel about the red flags she talks about with her clients. I use a system of red flags or warning signs to risk assess in any new relationship and I recommend that everyone do the same. You may not choose the same warning signs that I do, but you should have a system of your own.
Many people are afraid to do this because they believe on some deep level that if they walk away from a potential relationship, another one may not come along. These people are conforming to the scarcity principle that says there are not enough ‘good people’ in the world and so that you must grab anyone you think is a ‘good person’ or you will end up alone. This is a myth. There are plenty of people in the world with whom you can have a relationship. It is better to find the right person or people than to enter a relationship with someone who is dangerous, abusive or degrading (or even just a relationship with a person who is wrong for you but might be fine for someone else). Many people are afraid to be alone and this stops them from risk assessing. It is better to be alone and alive and healthy than the alternative.
For me, a red flag or warning sign says: ‘Stop and think’ or ‘‘get some distance’
First warning: I feel frightened, deeply anxious or my gut tells me something is off. This is the most important warning sign to pay attention to. I don’t wait to interpret this and I don’t suggest you do either. I simply get out of the situation. If you feel something is off, it usually is. Delay can put you in danger or difficulty so don’t delay. This has saved my life more than once.
Don’t worry about how other people might think of you. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect £200 or $200, just get out of the situation. See your fear as the gift that it is, the sign that tells you that you are in danger. This one is especially important if you enjoy BDSM and power exchange and you are getting together with someone you don’t know well and don’t know much about.
And speaking of that: One part of risk assessment is to find out what you can about the person that you are entering a relationship with. Observe their behaviour with you, with friends and family, with people in the restaurant. Check out the stories they tell you. Consider talking to x partners and friends. Do a background check. Do your homework. Do your due diligence. If they aren’t comfortable with you doing that, think twice about the relationship.
Types of warning signs:
Many brief intense relationships that ended badly.
This might mean the person has difficulty managing their own intense emotions and expressing emotions appropriately. It might mean they have overly high expectations of a partner.
Unwillingness to give you full contact details. This is only a warning sign if this persists after you start properly dating each other. At first or second meeting, in the information age, it is not unusual for people to want to hold back some of their details.
Remember to be aware of signs of catfishing. If you are meeting people online, it is possible that the person is not who they say they are. If things are not adding up, information makes no sense, you feel that someone is playing with you – pay attention to these feelings.
Extremely sensitive to anything that approaches criticism or to you if you have a different opinion from theirs.
People who have these issues can be volatile and often have lots of drama in their lives.
Stalking behaviours: Shows up where you don’t expect them to be, texts many many times per day when you have just met, doesn’t observe boundaries you set, ‘surprises’ you at work or at home, is constantly following all your social media. This can feel very flattering at first but will quickly feel uncomfortable and can become dangerous.
Must control every aspect of a date, conversation, meal. When someone is immediately extremely controlling (without your consent), this is a sign of deeper issues.
Demonstrations of intense jealousy when you haven’t known each other very long or of time you spend with friends, family, at work. This highlights insecurity and the need to control and does not bode well for safe, happy, healthy relationships.
Empathy is essential to a good relationship. Empathy is the ability to feel things from another’s point of view, to understand and share their feelings. If a person cannot take the viewpoint of another, cannot see things from another’s vantage point it is unlikely that they will be able to share another’s feelings. Some people can approximate empathy but don’t truly feel it. People who don’t have empathy don’t consider how their actions might impact upon others and cannot put themselves in another’s shoes to see how the words they choose or the things they do might cause another to feel.
Black and white thinking: People who cannot tolerate any ambivalence swing from positives to negatives. They find it difficult to stay connected to someone positively if the person has done something that has caused them to be upset or feel angry. You are either the most wonderful person on the planet or the devil incarnate. They swing back and forth and it can be hard for others to know where they stand. They have unrealistic expectations of others and project their own fantasy viewpoints on to others.
Inability to take responsibility and apologise. This is a big warning sign. People who cannot take responsibility for their actions and mistakes, thoughts and feelings, cannot learn and so don’t change. They don’t apologise because they cannot see how any outcome is their responsibility. They often also lack empathy so they cannot imagine how others feel.
Inability to control intense emotions. People who cannot soothe themselves take out all of their feelings at full intensity on those around them. They are often volatile, sometimes violent and require immediate and constant attention.
These are just a few of the warning signs.
Risk assessment is about being observant, being conscious of your own biases, your own history and patterns, being able to separate your feelings from those of others and listening to your primal senses (and acting on them). Risk assessment is an on-going process. Once you are well versed and have practiced a lot, it becomes second nature. If you do it well, your relationships will be filled with excitement and pleasure and be long lasting.
Thanks for joining me for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at email@example.com, follow me on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.. Check out my YouTube channel: Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. For a free 30-minute strategy session with me, go to https://www.the-intimacy-coach.com and click the button that says Schedule Now! Why not join me for my upcoming free webinar 4 Secrets for Arousing and Igniting Your Authentic Sexual Self. Click the link in the podcast notes to sign up or head to https://the-intimacy-coach.com/4-secrets/ I look forward to seeing you next week for part one the care and feeding of the vagina.