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 third early warning sign of abuse is:
Isolation – Keeps you from spending quality time with friends and family
Sure, it’s romantic and fun to spend lots of time together. You just want to be with each other and wrap yourselves up in each other. You don’t want to pay attention to anything or anyone else. It feels nice to have someone pay attention to you exclusively. This behavior can become abusive when one partner won’t let the other partner do anything with anyone else. If you want to hang out with your friends at the mall, or go on vacation with your parents, the abusive partner becomes jealous. He/she may complain that you aren’t spending enough time together even if you think you are. The abuser may convince you to quit your job, favorite activities or hobbies so you can spend more time together. After all isn’t that what being in love is all about?
Isolation from friends and family is a key controlling behavior. If you are with your partner constantly (or you are in constant contact with your partner) he/she can keep tabs on you. The abusive partner can control where you go, who you see and what you do. You may feel that it’s easier to give up spending time with others in order to keep your partner happy. But you deserve to be happy, too! Spending too much time together can stifle your individuality making you live a life your partner determines. Our relationships with friends and family help keep us grounded in what really matters in life. The hobbies and activities we enjoy give us a sense of purpose that is integral to our well being. An abuser just wants to keep you under control.
Your partner may be isolating you from people who realize that your relationship is abusive. He/she doesn’t want you to be influenced by others. Your friends may have already voiced their concerns about your relationship. Your family will notice the changes in your behavior as you make excuses for missing events and giving up favorite activities. Your partner may allow you to spend some time with others, but it will be limited by what he/she wants. He/she will keep checking up on you via text or phone calls. He/she never trusts you enough to let you do anything without his/her being there.
Ask yourself if the time you are spending together is quality time. Are you actually doing things you enjoy or just sitting around all the time, never leaving the house? Do you only socializing with your partner’s friends? Has he/she decided that you don’t need that job or that friend? Has he/she convinced you that none of your family or friends cares about you, that he/she is the only one who loves you? How does he/she react when you are with other people or when you pay attention to others? If you are not “allowed” by your partner to do the things you like or see the people you love, it is a red flag of abusive behavior.The best advice in this situation is to listen to what your friends and family are telling you. You may not agree, but they only have your best interests and safety at heart. You may not be ready to leave the relationship or you may be too afraid to attempt it because of your partner’s threats. Don’t dismiss the jealousy, isolation and control as something that will get better if you just spend more time together. Abuse escalates. An abuser wants to have complete control of you.