Helping Hannah: A monthly relationship advice column

Written by Editor on . Posted in Advice Columns

“You look so much better with your hair down than pulled back — can you change it before we see my friends?”

“I was so worried when you turned your phone off during that movie. Just keep it on vibrate, okay? I love you so much and need to always be able to reach you.”


“I think you should quit your job. It’s so stressful, and I make more than enough money for us. You’ll be happier that way.”

These are the types of comments we hear from our clients all the time at the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA). Each statement on its own isn’t necessarily abusive. People may hear these comments and think, “Wow, this person really cares about me” or “This person just wants what’s best for me.” But when you look at these statements as a pattern over time, you begin to see the underlying assertion of power and control that defines an abusive relationship. First, someone wants to change how you look. Then, they want to be able to contact you at all times. Finally, they convince you to give up your career goals and financial independence, making it more difficult to leave. This is the definition of an abusive relationship.

The warning signs of emotional, verbal, and financial abuse are far less obvious than those of physical abuse; they tend to creep into relationships over time. As we often tell people at JCADA, no one enters a relationship they know is abusive. A central part of the work we do is educating individuals about the early warning signs of abusive behavior, such as:

Your partner treats you differently when you’re in front of other people than when you’re alone;

Nothing is ever their fault;

You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them;

The relationship moves very quickly early on in a way that makes you uncomfortable.

While some warning signs — such as a boyfriend or girlfriend being rude at home, but charming around friends — are more noticeable, others are not so obvious. For example, someone may not pick up on a relationship moving too quickly at first, especially if they are caught up in it and falling in love. Furthermore, a relationship moving quickly in and of itself does not equal abuse. These subtleties can be tricky to navigate and are something the licensed therapists at JCADA are well trained on. This makes them an excellent resource to talk with about different relationship dynamics and to educate the community on how to build healthy relationships.

We at JCADA know firsthand that domestic abuse does not discriminate and can affect individuals of any gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, income level, education level, or immigration status. It’s not something that happens to “other” people or to “other” communities. It’s something that happens in our community; something that happens to our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our family members.

For the past 17 years, JCADA has offered support to victims and survivors of domestic and dating abuse. These free clinical and legal services are available to any resident of the Greater Washington area, 14 years of age and older, who is affected by any type of domestic abuse. In addition to these traditional methods of support, JCADA also offers support groups, yoga, pro bono financial counseling, and other advocacy services. Our holistic method helps ensure that all of our clients are able to fully process their past trauma and create a healthy future for themselves and their families.

Staff are available to answer questions, offer support, and connect callers to services on our free and confidential helpline Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1-877-88-JCADA (52232).

We’ll offer support and advice through this monthly column, so if you have a question about a relationship that you’re in or that your parent, sibling, colleague, friend, or neighbor is in, please write us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and your question may be answered in a future article.