This post originally appeared on Psychology Today.
When clients arrive to my recovery groups for women with controlling partners, it’s common for two to 30 plus years to have elapsed since their dating days. What becomes clear in recovery is her partner’s coercive control and how it’s adversely affecting her mental and physical health. It’s common for me to hear, “How did I get here?”
We start by examining a person’s dating experience before identifying coercive behaviors during the commitment period of their relationship. I’ve reviewed the courtships of a thousand women. And it’s fairly universal that the women don’t detect their partner’s coercive tendencies. This begs the question of how do women (and men) protect themselves from a controlling partner.
The Dating Period
Women with controlling partners frequently become entrapped during the dating period. And often, they aren’t even aware of this. While an unsuspecting partner may be seeking a meaningful connection, a controlling partner is looking for someone he can gain power over. Her heart is open, but her eyes may not see a controlling partner’s true motives. Sometimes, this is because she doesn’t know what to look for.