Many women wish there were a few, basic signals to tell us when we’re about to enter a really bad relationship with a man. If only a road sign would pop up somewhere along the way (“Do Not Enter,” for instance), so we can back up and get out just in time. Something needs to replace the awful advice we get from TV, movies, magazines, and books about relationships and men.

The media is full of images of gullible, trusting women who fall for and then spend years trying to please some abusive jerk (often he’s the “hero”). These women always end up living miserably-ever-after in a world where nothing they do or say is important. Of course, the Never-Never Land of TV never portrays the long-term consequences that women suffer in the real world when they give abusive men the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve all seen or heard about an abused woman who always believes what her abuser says, always accepts that it’s not his fault, and knows he’ll change eventually. She’s trying to fit a media and cultural ideal of feminine behavior, while ignoring her own better judgment. It’s time for women to turn off the TV and listen to our own instincts and the advice of other women.

We are not responsible when some jackass takes a swing at us, yet we need to be prepared to say “no” when a particular type of man treats us badly. We can’t always predict when violence will happen or even who it will come from, but we can be on the alert for the road signs that say “Warning: Certifiable Asshole Ahead.”

Here’s a list of a few “CAUTION: FUCKING LOSER” signs, to help us get in touch with our natural instincts for self-preservation. Be prepared to dump him and run if you encounter any of the following:

1. You find out the man you’re dating has no friends, and his relatives either won’t speak to him or have all left town.

2. He invites you to his apartment and you notice big, fist-sized holes in the wall.

3. His friends (all male, of course) call him by some cute nickname: Crazy Joe, Screwy Louie, Slammer, Punch Drunk, Killer, Slap Happy…you get the drift.

4. He hates his mom. He hates his grandma. He hates his sister. He hates his female co-workers. He really hates his ex-wife. He will eventually hate you, too.

5. He takes a lot of pills. He says they’re vitamins, but they all come out of the same prescription bottle with no label on it.

6. He likes guns. He has the damn things laying around everywhere: on the kitchen table, on the sofa, on the night stand next to the bed, or on the front seat of the car. He never answers the door unless he has a gun tucked in the back waistband of his pants. Don’t wait for an argument to happen before you decide to leave–do it now. Change your name, too. Radical cosmetic surgery is advisable. And remember that the world is not as hostile as he claims it is–his paranoia was a problem before he bought all the guns.

7. By the end of the first date, he’s already talking about marriage. This guy thinks you’re a piece of property–i.e., possession is 9/10ths of the law in regard to “ownership.” Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, then climb out the window. Always carry enough money for a cab or bus fare. If he calls you again, change your phone number.

8. You never see him sober. He needs a drink just to loosen up and talk to you. And remember, just because you never see him drink anything doesn’t mean he’s not an alcoholic. The aroma is a dead give-away. So is a perpetually red face. If he can’t remember your name, stumbles or drops things a lot, talks too loud, slurs his words, laughs too much, and smells like piss, send him packing.

9. You have sex with him for the first time. He immediately gets up, pulls on his pants, his shirt, and his shoes, looks at his watch, puts on his coat, says he has to drive his mother to the grocery store, and leaves. He calls you back the next night for more fun. Hang up on him and unplug the telephone.

10. You have sex with him, but he never stays the whole night. He waits for you to go to sleep, then he leaves. Months later, when you’re standing in line at the courthouse to take out the restraining order, it dawns on you why he never stayed till morning. You can’t get a restraining order against someone who hasn’t spent at least one complete night at your home. Now, why would he have known that?

11. After you move in with him, you find out that his method of cleaning involves throwing every loose thing of his and yours into a big box and hiding it somewhere else where you’ll never find it again. Of course, he knows where it all is…and if you want something you’ll have to ask him for it!

12. When you decide to leave, he begs you to stay. He pouts, he snivels, he threatens. He may threaten before he thinks about trying the pouting, snivelling part. Don’t fall for it. Phrases like “you can’t make it without me,” and “don’t come crying to me when you need help,” are a dead giveaway that you’ve made the right decision.

13. When you decide to leave, he gets violent. He trashes your things. He scares the shit out of you, and may even hit you…until you give in and tell him you’ll stay. If you think or know that he’s capable of this, you must leave right away, but do it quietly, while he’s at work or passed out. Listen to your instincts–seize the first safe opportunity to flee. Take only what you need–just your coat and purse and money, and do not waste time packing. Get in the car, on the bus, in a cab, on an airplane, whatever. Just don’t hesitate and don’t let him catch you. Oh, and don’t go back for your stuff. “Stuff” can be replaced. You can’t. Congratulate yourself for getting out in the nick of time.

We all know what happens when women don’t get out in time. We read about that in the newspaper every day: “Ex-husband kills wife, then kills himself” (he’s her “ex,” but she’s still his little wifey, even in death!). You know what those marriage vows say: “til death do us part.” Well, abusive guys really believe that.

Women can’t afford to.