I tivo episodes of Oprah to watch while I am on the treadmill. Last night, I watched a particularly interesting (and frightening) episode about domestic violence and abuse. The expert, Gavin de Becker, wrote a book (The Gift of Fear) over ten years ago and it is still used today for risk management and assessment. One of the most important skills de Becker emphasizes is our own intuition. If your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t. We tend to ignore our gut reactions, our intuition, because we don’t want to seem like a hypochondriac. However, it is this intuition that is often the denominator that survivors have in common. Another key factor is our ability to recognize and predict dangerous behavior. If the person you are with is controlling, that is a major red flag warning sign. Gavin made two very important points.

1. Anyone who doesn’t take “No” for an answer and continues to be persistent is abusing you, emotionally.

2. When a man says no it is the end of the conversation. When a woman says no it is the beginning of a negotiation.

These warning signs are not necessarily sexual in nature. They can be found in all aspects of your relationship. If you don’t feel like doing something or going somewhere and say “No,” some men will take that as the beginning of a negotiation process. They feel they can wear you down and ultimately “win.” This is never a sign of a healthy relationship. There should be no delineation between winners and losers in a strong and healthy relationship. Oftentimes women feel that if a man is controlling or persistent, it just means he loves her. This is not a sign of love, it is abuse.

The concept of control extends beyond romantic relationships into friendships, family relations and professional dynamics. It is something to be recognizes at the first warning signs and dealt with immediately.

Have you ever been in a controlling relationship? When did you first recognize the controlling behavior? What did you do to rectify the situation?

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