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It starts off as something good. It’s nigh on perfect. The phoning to check you got home safely, asking if you have enough money, wanting to spend every waking moment together. All proof, as if you need it, that they care, this might even be “it”

At some undefinable point the balance shifts. It’s almost imperceptible. The phone call you used to get to check that you got home safely changes. The question “are you home ok?” Changes to “are you home?”, that in turn changes to “where are you?” Or “why aren’t you home?” Almost the same words, completely different question.

You don’t notice. It’s imperceptible.

Their concern that you have enough cash, might somehow turn into “how much money do you have?”, and then it may turn one of two ways; either asking what you have done with your money, or possibly requests to borrow cash, most likely small amounts at first, perhaps getting larger. There may be believable excuses as to why they need this money, the excuses may be increasingly unbelievable, as may the excuses they give for failing to pay you back. It doesn’t really matter, you love them, you can’t say no. Anyway, if you say no they may not ever pay you back the money, and you can’t afford to lose that. Or you don’t want to say no. You love them.

At first you spend all your time together. It’s intense, you can’t stand being apart. You cancel plans with friends and family because you’d rather spend time together, it’s a choice you make freely. Gradually you realise you haven’t seen friends for a while. You want to show off this new person in your life, show off the perfectness of it. You make plans. You meet with friends, your friends and family may be just as enthralled by your new relationship, they may be as charmed as you are. Your partner, on the other hand, may not be as enthralled by them. They pick up on things which seemed perfectly innocent to you and with the twist they put on them, things that family or friends say seem like insults and slights. You may begin to think perhaps your friends aren’t as good as you thought, or maybe you don’t believe it; either way the amount of hassle you have to go through to see friends or family means that you start to not bother. After all you have each other, that’s all you need. It is worth it. The other person is like an addiction, all you need.

Imperceptibly, your relationship with even your closest friends has changed.

One day, you realise that you are not your own person. Your world revolves around this other person. They are the sun to your earth, only like the sun, you only see the light occasionally. Unlike the sun, there is no way of predicting when that will be, or how long it will stay.

They may or may not become physically or sexually violent with you. It doesn’t matter; you suddenly realise you are walking on egg shells around this person. Your happiness, indeed your entire state of mind and self esteem depends entirely on them and the mood they may or may not be in. It was insidious. You can’t pin point a moment in time. It just happened, along the way, without you realising. Seemingly harmless, but ultimately cruel, and harmful. And because of the insidious nature of it, you have lost the resources (money, friends, family, self esteem), that you need to escape.

That’s when you need support the most, and somehow, the abuser has managed to remove every support mechanism from you. You are literally isolated; socially and emotionally. Every escape route blocked and secured with amazing vigilance by the abuser. You probably feel like you don’t deserve to be treated any better. That without this person you are alone. They may have even convinced you that this is your fault, that there is something wrong with you.

This is why I think it’s so important to discuss abuse. I have seen friends of mine getting dragged into unhealthy relationships and I always try to broach the subject with them. It’s a difficult conversation to have and I’ve lost a few friends afterwards, but hopefully, when the time comes that they find themselves creeping around on eggshells not knowing where to turn, they will remember that conversation and it may give them a route out. Hopefully they will know that no matter how long ago I last saw them, no matter what has happened in between, they can reach out to me for help. There will be no judgement. There should be no shame. At the very least I know that I have tried, I have tried to leave them a door to escape from, and sometimes that is all that we can do.