WHEN we started dating, I thought he was the perfect gentleman.
He would open doors for me, take me on picnics and buy me flowers.
It wasn’t until six months into the relationship when his controlling and manipulative tendencies surfaced.
I’m fortunate I got out before things became too serious.
Others haven’t been so fortunate – like a friend of mine who didn’t see any warning signs until she was honeymooning with her newly wedded husband.
Or another friend who took over 40 years of marriage for her to realise her husband had been financially abusing her.
That’s because one of the common practices of an abuser is to create power in the relationship by showering an abundance of “love” upon their victim and isolating them from their support network.
It is also one of the reasons why a victim will stay in the relationship – because they believe their abuser is capable of love, having witnessed it in the beginning of the relationship.
But it was probably never real love to begin with.
In those early days in a relationship, if they’re lavishing you with love, how are you to know whether it is genuine love and care or merely a ploy to establish control?
What signs do you look out for when navigating the dating scene?
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to tell when you first meet or go on your first date or around the time when you start saying “I love you”, but there are some early warning signs to look out for before getting too deep into the relationship:
They pressure you to move the relationship at a faster pace than you are ready for
They seem overly concerned with your life and offer frequent advice that feels like non-negotiable instructions
Your friends are less than thrilled about your relationship
You find yourself making excuses for their behaviour
They blame their problems on other people or play the victim
They start sentences with “If you really love me you’d …”
They don’t like it when you spend time with your family or friends and can’t look your parents in the eye
They have possessive or controlling tendencies
While there are many forms of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, verbal, economic, and mental), the best way to know if you are being abused is to ask yourself the question, “Do I feel afraid of what might happen if I do something contrary to what my partner would prefer?”.
I know from experience how hard it is to look past that initial feeling of being loved and pursued to see your partners’ controlling tendencies for what they really are, but early detection is so important.
Preventing getting too deep into an abusive relationship is always preferable to curing the wounds of domestic violence.
Know the signs and steer clear of anyone who doesn’t treat you right.