There can be many behaviors a batterer exhibits early on in a relationship–red flags–that may foreshadow their abusive and controlling patterns in the future.
A key ingredient to a healthy relationship is healthy mutual boundaries. These boundaries can include physical, emotional, mental, and sexual boundaries, as well as privacy and maintaining your own personal interests. If your partner actively ignores, criticizes, and/or minimizes your boundaries, this could be a red flag.
Working to undermine your personal boundaries is a tactic used by batterers to more easily control you. For instance, some healthy boundaries include you having friendships outside of your relationship and having time alone when you need. When your partner is insistent on you spending all of your time with them, or degrades you for giving your time and attention to your friends instead of them, then your partner isn’t respecting your boundaries. Another example is if your partner looks through your phone without your permission, because they have been cheated on before and expect you to prove you aren’t cheating; your partner isn’t respecting your right to your privacy.
Having and maintaining healthy boundaries means you are being assertive, or claiming your legitimate rights without undermining the rights of others. In trying to establish or enforce their boundaries, a victim may find the batterer escalating their abusive or controlling behavior in an effort to try to regain further control. This escalation can take the form of name-calling and criticism, such as calling the victim “bossy”, “nit-picky”, or “controlling”, or saying the victim “doesn’t care about the relationship”. The goal of such escalation would be for the victim to capitulate, thereby lessening their own boundaries, so the batterer gains more control in the relationship.
You have every right to maintain your boundaries in any relationship, and being told otherwise should be of concern. If you suspect your boundaries are not being respected, or your partner escalates when you try to enforce your personal boundaries, then this may be a warning sign that your partner is controlling, and your relationship is, at best, unhealthy.
If you or someone you know may have a partner with boundary issues, and want to know more about other potential early warning signs of domestic violence, Arkansas Valley Resource Center Staff are available 24/7!
415 Colorado Avenue, La Junta, CO 81050
TTY: (719) 384-1938
After Hours Colorado Relay dial 711 or 1-800-659-2656