DASH’s early warning signs are meant to guide you in determining whether your relationship is healthy. In this series of articles, we will explore each warning sign in more depth so that you will have a better idea about what each sign means and if you need to address a problem in your relationship. Our first early warning sign of abuse is:

Control – He/she tells you what to do or how to act

Teen dating abuse is about control. It’s about your partner trying to control what you do, how you act, what you say. His/her control over you limits your personal freedom. There’s a fine line between expressing an opinion and requiring a person to act or do certain things. Telling the difference between an opinion and abusive behavior might seem easy, but sometimes it can be more difficult to interpret.

Abusive behavior follows a pattern; it happens frequently and is meant to make you question your own thoughts and feelings. It is meant to lower your self esteem. You may feel that you have to do things his/her way in order to keep the peace. He/she may challenge your ideas or actions telling you that the way you do things is “wrong”. Debating which is the better song or team or idea is something every one does, but if your partner insists that you think like he/she does your personal opinions are being limited . By questioning your ideas and thoughts, the abuser makes you vulnerable to his/her influence. After all, you just want to make him/her happy. You just want to show that you love them. When he/she confronts you, you feel that you can diffuse the situation by agreeing to do what he/she wants. This warning sign is a signal that what your partner is doing is not love: it’s control.Let’s look at what you wear. If your boyfriend or girlfriend likes to see you wear a certain style of clothing, that may be fine. She may be able to give you guidance about your style or he may really like to see you in a certain color. But a line is crossed if you feel you have to wear a particular style to avoid a confrontation. He may tell you not to wear revealing clothing because he doesn’t want others looking at you. It’s just easier to put on the jeans than to wear the short shorts so he won’t call you names. This behavior can be abusive because it takes away your personal choice.

Your partner may convince you to drop your favorite activities or quit your job to spend more time together. At first being together all the time may seem romantic. He only wants us to be able to do more things together. She loves me so much that she can’t bear to be apart. But this is a sign of control. If he/she is with you all the time, he/she can keep tabs on you and control what you do. He/she can keep you away from other influences that might convince you that your relationship isn’t healthy.

Break the Cycle’s Power and Control wheel (at http://www.breakthecycle.org/dating-violence-101) lists various controlling behaviors that fall into this early warning sign category including:

Telling you where to go, who to seeTelling you what to readLimiting outside involvement and activitiesTreating you like a servantMaking you do illegal things

You need to ask yourself these important questions to determine if your partner may be using controlling behavior:

  • Does your partner need to know where you are at all times?

  • Does he/she make all the decisions in your relationship?

  • Is your partner telling you to quit your job, favorite sport or activity in order to spend more time together?

  • Does he/she dismiss your opinions?

  • Does he/she mock your likes or dislikes?

  • Does he/she tell you what to think?

  • Do you feel pressured into doing things like sex, drinking or drugs that you would not normally do?

If you determine that these warning signs are part of your relationship, remember: you are not alone. You may not know how to get help. You may be afraid to leave the situation. Abusers know that they can control you emotionally because no one wants to admit that someone else has treated them so poorly. Do not be ashamed. Dating abuse is not your fault. Recognize the signs of dating abuse and get help if your relationship exhibits any of these characteristics. You don’t have to handle this alone. Sharing can save your life. For confidential help, please call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474, or here https://www.loveisrespect.org where you can find details of how to text for help. Helplines are for everyone, including concerned family or friends.