“He sounds just like my ex.” This is what some domestic violence survivors said about then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a Huffington Post article. Trump’s lying, bullying and controlling behaviors during the debates were triggering bad memories of their abusive relationships and they couldn’t believe he could even be considered a candidate for the highest office in the U.S.
As a dating coach who helps women attract healthy relationships, I was saddened by these women’s stories. I was also intrigued, however, because I could draw a lot of parallels between Trump’s lying, bullying and trolling ways (which haven’t stopped since he was sworn in) and the kinds of bad behavior many women put up with in their relationships.
I want to help you avoid being “Trumped” in your relationship, so I outlined the top 3 red flags you should look out for.
1. He Makes You the Enemy
Trump partly succeeded during his campaign because he branded his opponents as the enemy and turned conversation about policies into conversations about how “crooked” the other side was. Since then, he’s turned his sights to the media, declaring war on them for not covering him fairly. His ability to create an enemy takes attention off of his own shortcomings as a leader.
You’re being “trumped” by your partner if, instead of seeing you as a loving partner whom he loves and respects, your boyfriend slowly makes you his enemy. Perhaps when he brings you into his inner circle of friends and family, he doesn’t treat you like royalty. Instead, he makes you the butt of his jokes or doesn’t defend you when his family talks about you. Maybe you get blamed for everything that goes wrong in the relationship and when you have discussions about your problems, he treats you with contempt. John Gottman, the author of The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, defines contempt as a form of disrespect because the other person believes, “I’m better than you.”
If your mate treats you like you are the enemy, you’ll have a toxic environment where there’s no joy, trust or mutual respect. It’s a tactic many emotionally unavailable people use to keep you at arms length and justify their decision to mistreat you and eventually leave you.
2. He Gas-lights You
Gas-lighting is a buzzword that’s been used to describe Trump and his administration when they pivot, lie and manipulate the public into thinking that what we just witnessed Trump say and do didn’t actually happen. His latest gas-lighting rampage happened when he tried to convince the public that the media was misrepresenting the crowd size at his Inauguration, even though we saw the photos and videos of empty seats with our own eyes.
From a psychological perspective, someone is gas-lighting you when they intentionally try to manipulate you into doubting your own perception of reality, leaving you feeling confused, fearful and full of self-doubt.
For example, I dated a guy who told me he wanted to meet another woman alone, at night, to counsel her because she was feeling down about her divorce. She was 20 years older than he was and had been divorced for over a decade. He was not a psychologist. I asked him why I couldn’t come with him, since I also knew this woman and could give her encouragement from a woman’s point of view. I also asked him why she wanted to meet with him instead of one of her long time girlfriends if she really needed support.
He evaded the question and calmly told me that he didn’t think he could date someone who was so insecure. He said if he were cheating on me, he wouldn’t tell me upfront, and that I was just jealous. He said he was qualified to counsel her because he’d be a minister one day, and was just doing the work of the Lord. He expected me to apologize to him for even thinking that he’d be unfaithful.
Months later, I had the evidence that he’d cheated in my hand (plus a confession from the other woman). However, instead of admitting he was wrong, he accused me of violating his privacy. The manipulation, blaming and avoiding accountability I experienced with my ex, are all classic moves of someone who is gas-lighting you.
3. He Uses “Alternative Facts”
One of Trump’s top aides, Kellyanne Conway, coined the term “alternative facts” during an interview on Meet The Press when she defended Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s use of fake data to claim Trump’s inaugural crowd was larger than what the reputable news sources had reported. He claimed he was just giving statistics that were given to him, and that the White House had no intention to lie to the public. Of course, the internet went crazy with memes in which people created their own perception of reality and called it alternative facts.
It would all be really funny if it weren’t so scary that we live in an era where a blatant lie can be called an alternative fact. The problem, however, is not just that we’re being fed a string of lies, but that we end up so busy fact checking and proving the truth, that we get distracted from the policies and protests that are affecting our lives.
Although we’re just now hearing these terms in the political arena, relationships have always been destroyed by alternative facts. I’ve coached women who were divorced after discovering their husbands were living a double life (the man had a wife and kids in another state for the entire marriage!)
I also recall a single sista telling me that her ex-boyfriend won her over because he looked like a baller. He drove her around in an Escalade during the first few weeks of their relationship, but when they became an official couple, he rolled up in a hoopty. She asked him where his car was and he told her that the SUV was a rental.
Some people us alternative facts when they’re writing their online dating profiles. One woman told me that she spent two years in a virtual relationship, never physically meeting the man she’d met on a dating site. “My aunt told me that she thinks he’s married,” she told me after she said he stood her up for the umpteenth time.
But his disappearing act wasn’t the biggest red flag. She told me that the last time they’d spoken on the phone, the call suddenly dropped. When she called back he didn’t answer right away. He called some time later and apologized. “I saw this mountain lion outside,” he claimed. “I got so startled that I dropped the phone in the wastepaper basket and I couldn’t find it.”
Don’t get trumped in your relationship. You saw what you saw, and you heard what you heard. If your man has a pattern of treating you like an enemy, gas-lighting you, or feeding you alternative facts, you don’t have to put up with it. Don’t excuse his bad behavior. Tell yourself the truth and walk away.
BMWK, have you ever dated someone who behaved like Trump? Tell your story below!