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Are Boyfriend’s Violent Jokes a Red Flag?

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My boyfriend and I met online and we have a long distance relationship. We talk every day, have visited each other for a week at a time, been getting to know each other for about a year now.  we have talked about getting married as well. We are both in our 30s and never been married before.  However, when we get into arguments, he likes to criticize me which i can’t tolerate. Although i love him and really want to spend the rest of my life with him, I refuse to be engaged in a verbally abusive relationship. So i broke up with him.

We recently started talking again and made up. He is clearly very upset with me that i broke up with him  and he said a few things to me that just doesn’t settle with me correctly. It made me very uncomfortable because I would never say these things to another being. Ever.  these are the things he said to me….

1) (laughing/jokingly)  you cant run away from me anymore. Im going to chop your legs off so you wont be able to.

2) I have been feeling bad when we were broken up. Recently I watched a horror movie. (I said: “oh I hate horror movies, how can you watch them, they are so disturbing”) then he said, “I was feeling bad so it felt good to watch someone die”

3) you can’t leave me anymore, I’m going to handcuff you to the radiator

4) what do you think about cabin in the woods? (I said, “I guess they are okay, why?”) He said, “oh I was watching horror movies and they were always in the woods and i thought it’s a cool place.”

5) i want you to get a tattoo of my name.

So it is clear that he doesn’t want me to leave him but why does he express his feelings in a violent way? Should I be worried or just accept his poor humor/way of communication? Also, I wonder if his experience in med school somehow made him desensitized to gore? (age 33, from US)

Are Boyfriend’s Violent Jokes a Red Flag?

Answered by on -


 Yes, I feel that these are red flags. Yes, you should be worried, not only that he makes disturbing/morbid jokes, but that he doesn’t seem to be respecting your boundaries. You broke up with him because he criticized you too much. It seems to me that he would be on his best behavior and be kind and respectful in an effort to win you back, not threaten you with physical violence and say creepy things.

I think he is trying to intimidate you. Otherwise he is just extremely immature and doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings like an adult. The fact that he is a doctor shouldn’t have anything to do with his tolerance of “gore” and fondness of horror movies. Everyone likes different things and that’s not the issue here. The issue is that he should be trying to woo you and prove that he is respectful and learned his lesson. Seems to me that maybe he didn’t.

If you choose to pursue this relationship, I would only do so after some couple’s counseling. You could work with someone who does online or phone work or you could see someone when you are physically together.  You also need to let him know how his comments are making you feel and that you are questioning your decision to give him another chance.  Be careful though and keep yourself safe.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

Are Boyfriend’s Violent Jokes a Red Flag?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Are Boyfriend’s Violent Jokes a Red Flag?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 8 Oct 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.