How to avoid a bad relationship 101

Is it really possible to avoid bad relationships? Are the romantic movies wrong – aren’t we doomed to simply fall in love with another person whether it makes sense or not? Or can we really decide how far to let ourselves get into a relationship based on a more objective look at our partner’s current and past behavior?

My answer to the last question is an emphatic YES! Jerk Radar is designed to help you look at what are often called “red flags” – signs that someone may have less than honorable intentions despite their attempts to convince you otherwise.

I researched this question in depth with a large number of domestic abuse survivors, who were themselves very interested in figuring out how they got into these dangerous relationships and how they might avoid such relationships in the future. Their recollections of their Jerky partners’ early behavior fell fairly easily into categories, and those 11 categories form the basis of Jerk Radar. These categories include somewhat subjective assessments, such as being excessively charming, egotistical, and sexually aggressive, to more concrete measures such as criminal history, substance abusing behavior, and prior violence toward partners and children. This assessment comes together with the Jerk Radar Quiz, a quasi-mathematical way to put a partner’s “red flags” into a broader perspective.

It’s important to note that almost all of us engage in some kind of Jerky behavior some of the time, and so everyone will score some points on the quiz. It’s also clear that not all abusive partners are the same, and some will score high in several areas while scoring low in others. So it’s not each individual area we want to look at, it’s the big picture of all these areas considered together.

For instance, a woman might be dating a man who has traditional views on sex roles. He may be very competitive and also exert some over-the-top efforts to charm her on early dates. Is this enough to say he’s a risk for a bad relationship? Not necessarily. It’s possible that he’s a kindly person who needs a little education in the sex role area (or perhaps that’s OK with you), and he may be very safe and respectful as long as his team isn’t playing a game tonight. Jerk Radar can provide some very specific ways to “test out” his Jerky tendencies, mostly without him even noticing that you’re checking at all.

However, if you find that the same person above also says he loves you after the second date (quick involvement), has a spotty work history (irresponsibility), drinks a lot and thinks nothing of driving a car drunk (substance abuse) and talks trash about all his prior girlfriends (poor attitude toward women), he’s probably going to be trouble, and Jerk Radar will let you know this. And if he’s got prior history of restraining orders or assault charges or child welfare involvement, it’s time to call a cab and get the heck out of there!

This is where the Jerk Radar Quiz comes in very handy. You can go ahead and score your current beau on the 11 areas of the quiz and add up the score. He may have wonderful explanations for each and every one of his/her ‘red flags,’ but a high score on the JR quiz almost certainly means you will want to make this relationship a short one. When the domestic abuse survivors I interviewed tested out the quiz on their former abusive partners and compared to more healthy relationships they’d had, we found that the average score for a domestic abuser was near 30 (out of 50), whereas the average for healthy relationships was around 8. It’s a pretty accurate took to predict what’s coming.

So if you really want to avoid bad relationships, run every potential partner through the Jerk Radar quiz. If s/he scores high, read Jerk Radar cover to cover and try out some of the tests I outline at the end of each chapter. If you do, you can screen out 98% of bad relationships right at the start.

So yes, with Jerk Radar in your toolkit, it IS possible to stop a bad relationship before it starts!

More songs that romanticize and support Jerky behavior

There are lots of songs that support and even romanticize abusive behavior. Remember, I’m not criticizing these songs musically – I’m simply pointing out that our culture allows the romanticizing of dangerous behavior, and this is sometimes celebrated in song. I won’t go into details, just listing them out with a comment or two.

“Run for your Life” by The Beatles (1965): Cheery song about threatening a girlfriend with death if she leaves him for someone else.

“She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones (1967): Lyrics are loaded with references to “taking” what the man “dishes out” and being properly subservient being the key qualities of being “a lady.”

“Vehicle,” by The Ides of March (1970): “I’m a friendly stranger in a black sedan/ won’t you hop inside my car?” Need I say more? “Because I love you… need you… want you… got to have you” – he falls “in love” with someone he just picked up on the street and conned into getting into his car with candy????

“Build Me Up, Buttercup” by The Foundations (1968): Song about how an abused partner recognizes being set up over and over but “can’t leave” because he loves her so much. Says he’ll “make her happy” if she’ll just give him some time.

“Kim” and “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” by Eminem (2000): Simply revolting lyrics. Songs (based on his actual relationship with Kim Mathers, which Kim reports as very abusive) fantasize about killing his partner and telling his young child about it or having the child watch.

“Ultraviolence” by Lana Del Ray (2014): “He hit me and it felt like a kiss/ Violins Violins/ Give me all that ultraviolence.” The lyrics speak for themselves.

“He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss” by The Crystals (1962): You get the idea.

“Under My Thumb” by The Rolling Stones (1966): I can hardly read the lyrics – the whole song is about him getting control of his girlfriend and making her do as he pleases.

“Animals” by Maroon 5 (2014): Song romanticizes rape. Makes “Under My Thumb” look like easy reading.

“Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart (1976): More subtle, but read the second verse:
“Come on angel my hearts on fire
Don’t deny your man’s desire
You’d be a fool to stop this tide
Spread your wings and let me come inside”

Kinda creepy…

“Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel (1977): Now I love me some Billy Joel, but in this one, he sings a light and chipper song about pressuring a “good Catholic girl” into having sex before she’s ready. “You Catholic girls start much too late…”

The list could go on and on. Again, I’m not necessarily critiquing the songs (with a couple exceptions as noted) but want folks to think about the pictures they have been given about what is romantic. From 1962 and long before, right up to the present, being pressured to be sexually active and to accept violence from a man is romanticized, and male violence and control toward partners is justified and excused in hundreds of popular songs. I encourage all of us to listen carefully to the lyrics of songs we like and see what the real message is. You can still enjoy the song, but don’t let it sell you on the idea that “no means yes” or that violence “feels like a kiss!”

What is a Jerk?

What is a Jerk?

Many people think of a Jerk as someone overtly mean and inconsiderate. Such people do exist, but they are usually pretty easy to suss out, since they are not hiding their attitudes.

Unfortunately, there is another kind of Jerk, more subtle and harder to detect, and probably much more common: the covert Jerk. Such people seem normal, even unusually charming and charismatic. We're talking the kind of person who could sell fur coats in the Congo or fishing boats in the middle of the Sahara. They are very capable of handling people and making them feel important, wanted, and valued, and at the same time conditioning their victims toward a compliant or dependent attitude. 

I've heard many people wonder why victims stay in domestic abuse relationships. While there are many reasons, it is frequent that the victim is confused because they are dating a covert Jerk. It can take years of alternating abuse and "nice" behavior before a victim realizes that the "nice" behavior is not real.

Jerk Radar uses the stories and experiences of real Jerk victims so you will be able to see a Jerk coming, no matter how sweet s/he might appear on the surface, and get out before things get too serious and confusing for an easy exit.