When we first get involved in a relationship, we never imagine it will turn sour. It’s exciting to meeting someone new and attractive and we start to fantasise about our happy future together. At the beginning of a relationship both partners will be on their best behaviour to make a good impression but if there is a controlling personality in the duo the cracks can soon start to show.

Cathy Press, When Love Bites

Cathy Press, When Love Bites

The Keeper’s main aim is to establish full control over you in your relationship with the purpose of isolating you from your friends and family and making you dependent on them. Once isolated and on your own, you become easier for them to control. They want you to be with them all the time and will stop at nothing to achieve this.

It can be difficult to believe that some of the Keeper’s behaviours are considered abusive. You might prefer to think that the following behaviours are a sign that your partner really cares about you. The key here is context. Some of these behaviours may seem completely normal in the first few days/weeks. You may also want to spend all your time with this partner, so these behaviours seem reciprocal. But if these continue long-term or many of these behaviours are happening at once, perhaps it’s time to reconsider how you view your relationship.

1.Constant texting

The Keeper might text or message you all the time. This might seem attentive and a sign that they care about you and are interested in you; however, they will expect you to message them frequently too and will appear to get angry if you don’t reply to their messages immediately. They might ask for pictures of where you are or who you are with, or even ask you to call them from every place you go.

2. Tracking you and who you are with

Your partner may constantly ask who you are with, what you’re doing or where you are going. This might be under the guise of the Keeper having ‘trust issues’ with family or previous partners, meaning they can’t let you do anything alone or with your own friends and family. It may lead to them passive aggressively ignoring you should you choose to spend time with people they don’t want you to or stopping you from seeing them again. It might also lead to them wanting to go to all these places with you, never letting you leave their side. In some situations, they may have enabled a GPS tracker on your phone or installed apps that show where you are at any given time, this is called digital stalking

3. Control over passwords

In the spirit of sharing and being honest with each other, your partner may demand passwords to your devices and social media. If you say ‘no’, you will be told you must have something to hide and perhaps be accused of cheating or not loving them enough. Once they know your passwords, they can post things as if they are you. Even worse, they could change your passwords, so you struggle to open your apps. In some cases, the changing of passwords includes your online bank account, potentially leading to them taking your money or controlling how much money you can access from your own accounts.

4. Stays physically close to you all the time

If you are at the same workplace or work near your partner, the Keeper may demand you see them during every lunch break. They may wait outside your work and walk you to your car or walk you into work every day, or even vet who does. This allows you no freedom to do anything by yourself like walk with your friends or talk freely to others. It could be worse still if you work in the same place because they will be watching everything you do and everyone you speak to. These are all ways to keep you actively accountable for your every move and to making them your main focus and isolating you from others.

5. Stops you from going out without them

The passive aggressive Keeper might prevent you from going out by starting an argument with you just before you are due to set off to visit your friends or family. The argument is designed to hold you up, make you late, or make you feel so rotten that you decide you don’t want to go out anymore. If they were meant to be coming with you, they might use tactics such as not getting ready in time or trying to hold you up saying they are concerned about something. In reality, they just don’t like doing something they don’t want to do and have no intention of putting themselves out for you. They may also prevent you from going out by telling you that you will be unsafe if you went out alone, or late at night, so you might be fearful of going out alone or at all.

6. Turn you against your friends and family

The Keeper can turn you against your friends and family in order to make you reliant on them and their attention. They might lie and tell you that your friends have said rude things about you behind your back. You might put it down to your friends being jealous that you are in a relationship, and you stop wanting to see them. You will try to rationalise what you are told rather than doubt the truth of what your partner has told you. The Keeper might try to persuade you by gaslighting you into believing that your friends don’t care about you: ‘They don’t understand you like I do’. Having fallen out with your family and friends, you will feel more alone than ever, and feel much more dependent on your abusive partner.

7. Gets you pregnant

If your partner has refused to take responsibility for or won’t allow the use of contraception, you might become pregnant. Being pregnant makes you even more dependent on the Keeper because you might now be very isolated from your friends and family and believe you have no one else to support you. If you have experienced physical assault before the pregnancy, it is likely that the abuse will get worse during pregnancy. The Keeper will control you more easily, isolating you further at a highly emotional and important time in your life.

How to get help

If you recognise that you have been controlled in this way and isolated by your partner, try taking a leap of faith and contact a trusted friend, family member or someone you feel you can trust, so that they can support you. It is important to realise that you are not alone and there are people who care and can help. Alternatively, you can:

- Visit www.refuge.org.uk or www.womensaid.org.uk which offers help and advice to those who identify as female and are experiencing or have experienced an abuse from a present or current partner

- Visit www.mesadviceline.org.uk or www.survivorsuk.org which offer help and advice to those who identify as male and are experiencing or have experienced an abuse from a present or current partner

- Use hand signalling if you are online with a friend or family member but are unable to speak to them directly. Hold your hand up to the camera with your thumb tucked into your palm, and then fold your fingers down trapping your thumb in your fingers to indicate that you are trapped.

Cathy Press has been working as working as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor for over 25 years, specialising in domestic and sexual violence and abuse related issues with children, young people and adults.

Her new book When Love Bites: A young person's guide to escaping harmful, toxic and hurtful relationships is out now priced £14.99. Visit www.whenlovebites.co.uk for more information.