Early signs of domestic violence in a relationship

Experts say that domestic violence is all about control. The abuser wants to obtain -- or maintain -- his or her power over the victim. That's why it's often possible to spot an abusive relationship in the making -- long before any physical violence starts.

How can you detect the warning signs that a partner or potential partner is dangerously controlling and potentially abusive? Experts on domestic violence offer these tips:

1. They over-emphasize the passion of the relationship

Passionate relationships are good, but the level of passion that comes with a new relationship isn't generally sustainable over time. When someone seems overly-focused on maintaining that intensity, that's usually a bad sign. They may want to use that emotion to override a victim's normal sense of caution.

2. They may push hard to get into a deeper relationship

Most people are naturally hesitant about getting too deeply into a relationship with someone they've just met. A romantic partner who pushes you to "jump all in" with both feet -- whether that means moving in together almost immediately or getting married after a whirlwind romance -- may be trying to stake a claim over you and limit your freedom.

3. They want to monopolize your time

If you're having trouble getting breathing space in a relationship, that's not good. That's a sign that the other person may be obsessive about you and trying to control what you do (and who you do it with). If someone is putting a demand on all your time, it's time to step back. That's not normal in a healthy relationship.

4. They encourage you toward isolation

If you find yourself constantly encouraged to drop out of your social circles, cut off contact with a friend the other person doesn't like or avoid family gatherings -- it's time to question what's going on. Isolation is often the first step toward abuse.

Keep in mind that many people who eventually become abusive are charming in social settings and start out seeming like concerned boyfriends and girlfriends. Their friends may never believe that they'd be abusive. The signs that someone is controlling may start out slow -- but they'll usually escalate quickly. If your instincts are telling you to get away from the relationship -- follow them. If you need help getting out of a situation involving domestic violence, there are legal options.

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