Article by Daryl Campbell
It started with the subtle digs, disguised as jokes. You have a pretty good sense of humour so in the beginning you took it in stride. As a matter of fact you gave it right back to your dating partner. You figured a little verbal sparring was okay. It showed that both of you could take it and it kept you on your toes.
You cannot recall when it happened but somewhere along the line the digs at you stopped being so subtle; in fact they got a little stronger and a lot less humorous. You told your dating partner this more than once but they swore that you were wrong. They explained it away by saying the two of you were just getting more comfortable with each other.
Again you let it go. After all it doesn't happen with any particular regularity. Besides you always manage to hold your own and you really do like this person. No complaints about the times you two spend together. Truth to tell it looks like the both of you have gotten serious about each other.
But here it comes again. Not only is it intense but there is no humour at all. This time it is a scathing critique of your flaws and some of your mannerisms. To be sure it catches you off guard. You have never acted that way towards them so where did this come from? When you confront them, they tell you to stop being so sensitive. Can't you take a little joke?
Only you know they were not joking and they know it too. Nobody who really cares about the person they are going out with would trash them. The chances are you may be going out with someone who is practiced in the art of verbal abuse.
They are not doing this exercise to see how much you can take or to gauge whether you would be a worthy adversary for future verbal sparring. The point is to see what makes you tick, force that emotional door open and take control of the relationship.
Be very cautious especially if they are so cavalier when it comes to your feelings or when you do confront them they get very defensive and try to turn the tables back on you.
A little give and take in the relationship is healthy as long as both parties are okay with it and it is laced with caring, humour and affection. However if one person starts to become the constant initiator and aggressor then watch out. They are probably looking to tip the balance of the relationship overwhelmingly in their favour.