Today on Upworthy I saw a quick video called ‘If You’re Dating Someone and Get this Phone Call- Run- Don’t Walk Away’.  It shows typical dynamics of power and control and how many can play out in just a 47 second conversation. People are often perplexed by how folks end up in abusive relationships… and why they stay. The relationships don’t start out abusive. Often the abuser initially seems caring and thoughtful. I’m struck by how similar some of the early red flags of abuse are to the early characteristics of love; the often-hard-to distinguish differences are degree, choice and intent:

  • social isolation- It’s natural at the start of a relationship to want to spend as much time together as possible. Sometimes that means less time with friends and family. But when your partner is constantly checking up on where you go and who you’re with, or preventing you from spending time with others, “Your sister is just jealous of what we’ve got, stay away from her”-  that’s control.
  • possessiveness- This can start out as something that feels wonderful. “You’re so beautiful/handsome that you turn heads when you walk into the  room.” But in time this compliment can turn to control. “Why were you looking at that guy (or girl)? Were you flirting with them?”… and then to “I know you’re cheating on me.”
  • constantly checking up on their partner- At first this seems sweet. He (she) calls frequently throughout the day, “I was just thinking of you and wanted to say hi” to “so what are you doing?”… but in time progresses to, “Where are you, why are you there, who are you with?”
These changes can be so subtle and insidious that it’s hard recognize them at first. For a neat look at an abusive relationship played  in reverse, check out this video ‘Catch Domestic Violence Early’, made for DVRC by Skidmore students. By showing us the abuse first and then rewinding the relationship back we can more easily identify see seemingly harmless moments in the courtship that were early red flags of a pattern of power and control.