Warning: the article content contains and discusses words and phrases that may affect people sensitive to the topic.
Abuse has many forms and interpretations. Generally, the word ‘abuse’ represents behavior that’s harmful, damaging emotionally, physically, sexually, culturally, etc.
There are misconceptions on what an abusive relationship represents, and it’s one of the many reasons why a victim of abuse continues to stay in an abusive relationship.
Abuse can be solely emotional, solely physical, solely sexual, or it can be all/some of those combined. It doesn’t have to be only physical for it to be called abuse.
For more clarification on what an abusive relationship looks like, here’s a list of 10 signs of an abusive relationship:
An abusive partner threatens by yelling and shouting making the other feel fear and insecurity, so the abusive partner gets what they want from the other partner.
They use it as a tool to force their partner into doing something they’re currently refusing to do.
An abusive partner may threaten the other partner that they’re going to leave the relationship, they’re going to do something in particular to humiliate the other partner, that they’re going to get physically violent, or even kill the other partner/themselves if the other partner doesn’t behave a particular way.
Threats often lead to:
- Feeling that leaving the relationship is an impossible thing to do;
- Fear in/of their presence;
- Insecure when it comes to reaching out for help;
Abuse is often perceived as only physical violence. That’s a misunderstanding that leads to a lot of people keeping up with harmful behavior other than physical from their partner.
Emotional manipulation is practiced by abusive partners through gaslighting, criticism, guilt trips, overreaction to small situations, playing the victim, accusing, etc.
Emotional manipulation is very damaging and can lead to:
- Questioning one’s reality;
- Mental disorders/illnesses (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc);
- Feeling helpless, insecure, and unworthy;
- Extremely unhealthy lifestyles;
Small situations turn into big arguments that escalate into accusations and shoutings. You’re accused and blamed for things you didn’t do, or things that you did but are of a small matter.
It comes to a point where almost everything you do seems to be hurtful or unacceptable to the abusive partner.
Accusations can lead you to:
- Start believing that everything is your fault;
- Be very careful with your behavior towards/when around your partner;
- Feel overwhelmed and question every action you take;
One of the signs that a partner is abusive is also controlling behavior. Controlling behavior often includes:
- Excessive jealousy;
- Full control of your finances (i.e. financial control);
- “Allowing” or “Prohibiting” a particular way of dressing, talking, or behaving;
- Monitoring your online activity, your social activity;
An abusive partner uses control so that you lose a sense of independence. It can happen abruptly or eventually to the point where you start normalizing the situation in your mind.
Such behavior affects your life in a tremendously negative way. It affects your thoughts of yourself (turning them more and more negative), and your sense of freedom.
An abusive partner uses imposing as part of their abuse to the other partner.
Due to your partner’s behavior, you find yourself doing things you don’t agree to. It can often seem that you have no other choice but to do those things.
It can be talking a certain way, acting, doing, or performing something particular that the abusive partner asked/forced you to do despite your unwillingness to practice any of it.
- They can passively make you do things that lead you to humiliate yourself for their pleasure.
- You fear they’ll harm you, so you’re left without a choice but to do what they asked you to do.
You’re forced to quit your job, to cut off friends/family, into unhealthy behaviors, and you’re forced into sex.
An abusive partner forces you to a particular behavior through threats (verbal or physical).
In those cases, they don’t leave you a choice but do it. Unlike the imposing, when the abusive partner is forcing you into something, they’re being direct rather than passively pushing you into doing something.
- You feel helpless;
- Refusal infuriates them leading to more emotional/physical abuse;
- You see no choice but to do what they’ve asked you to otherwise they’ll harm you.
They use violence to get what they want from you, to put you down, and to make you lose your sense of self-worth.
In abusive relationships, violence, is often practiced such as:
- Emotional abuse;
- Physical violence;
- Sexual violence;
- Psychological violence;
Violence can start from calling you names, manipulating you emotionally, sexually abusing you, and physically harming you.
8. Direct or indirect insults (publicly and privately)
The insults are often delivered through jokes, nicknames, or directly expressed verbally. Such behavior often leads to humiliation in public, or in front of friends or family.
Oftentimes those insults are shouted in the form of criticism such as “You’re useless, you can’t do anything right!”
You’re constantly exposed to negative comments, criticism, insults, and humiliative behavior directed to you by your partner.
- A negative response to your attempts to fix a problem in a relationship;
- Offending you privately or publicly;
- Offending you indirectly by putting you down through insulting nicknames;
You’re not allowed to leave the house, meet friends/family. You’re isolated because you have no choice.
Isolation is used by an abusive partner as a tool to keep you away from socializing to prevent you from realizing that the situation you’re in isn’t normal, to prevent you from getting support regarding the way your partner treats you.
- Isolation is often done slowly, in ways that it’s barely noticeable;
- Your calls and texts are monitored to keep you away from reaching out to the people your partner doesn’t like;
Codependency shows as a sign after a while of being in a relationship with an abusive partner.
They make you quit your job, lose your circle of support (friends/family), make you believe you’re not capable of anything, control every movement of yours to make you believe/and leave you no choice but to be with them.
With the emotional manipulation, they make you believe that there’s nowhere else to go and that no one will accept you but them.
- This leads you to see them as the only choice in your life;
- Financial dependency because they took control over your finances;
- Believing that you’re deserving of such treatment;
How to get help if you’re in an abusive relationship?
Keeping in mind that your partner might be monitoring your activity on your devices through tracking, or your daily activity through cameras, if you’re in need of help then you can follow the tips below:
1. Use a phone your partner doesn’t have access to (e.g a neighbor’s phone, a trusted friend’s phone, etc).
2. If you don’t have any other device in your possession, use a public payphone.
3. Reach out to domestic violence shelters.
4. Find the hotline numbers appropriate to help with abuse in your country.
5. Ask for help from a trusted person to report your case.
Once you know you’re able to safely send a text or make a call, or that you’re not being followed/traced then you can reach out to authorities to report and get immediate help.
If in danger call: 911 (USA) or 999 (UK)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
(UK) National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 200 0247
Keep in mind and be wary to not leave traces behind for your partner to find out about it. Look out for tracking apps, hidden cameras, or people that might let your partner know about this.
Early signs of an abusive partner
These signs don’t necessarily inquire that your partner is going to be abusive, however, they are red flags that you shouldn’t ignore at any cost.
Such behavior can be early signs of an abusive partner, a toxic relationship, or a relationship that can potentially turn harmful in the long-term:
1. Love bombing at the very beginning of the relationship. Abusive people tend to be very charming, and attractive during the early stages of a relationship.
That way they entice you into a relationship through words they know you want to hear, and actions they know you want to see. They manipulate you into believing that a relationship with them is a movie-like relationship.
2. Insensitive to others’ feelings. If your partner is insensitive to other people and beings, they’re very likely to be insensitive to you too.
They seem to not care about whether they harm something/someone while reaching a goal. They treat animals poorly, bad-mouth their best friends, etc.
It’s a warning sign that this person lacks empathy. And the lack of empathy is one of the main characteristics of an abusive person.
3. You feel bad about not doing something they want you to do. You find yourself doing things you’re not comfortable doing for the sake of pleasing them.
It’s a warning sign because they’re already capable of manipulating you into things and thoughts.
They’re inconsiderate of your feelings and/or emotional state, they’re getting you to do what they want you to do.
4. You feel the need to go out of your way to please them. It’s often a sign that they’re passive-aggressively putting you down to see them higher than you: to make you feel inferior in their presence.
They put you down without you even noticing they’re doing so. You’re automatically seeking ways to please them and to make yourself look/be more presentable when they’re around.
5. Extreme ups and downs in their mood. Now, it’s normal to not always be calm and happy. But there’s a problem when those mood swings occur in extreme ways, within extremely short periods.
This behavior often leads you to confusion, because in one moment they’re loving and caring, in the next, they’re in rage because of something you/someone else did.
Take it as a warning sign if similar situations occur continuously.
How to leave an abusive relationship?
Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult to do, it can lead to dangerous outcomes. That’s one of the reasons why many people keep up with abusive behavior/domestic violence.
Even though it’s a difficult process, it can be done when done carefully.
1. Look out for cameras, tracking apps on your devices, or microphones at home.
2. Find a trusted person to whom you can tell about the situation you’re in.
3. Have cash, extra clothes, documents, phone numbers (especially emergency contacts) written (you can memorize them just in case), and essentials which you can carry once you leave.
4. Reach out to the closest domestic violence shelter.
A trusted person can help you a lot in making and the realization of an escape plan. However, if you’re all alone in this, you’ve got this.
Letting your abusive partner know you want to leave might make them take precautions to prevent you from leaving, hence it’s best that you leave without letting them know about it.
Find safe spots and don’t take action unless you know you’re not being watched, followed, or heard by your partner which can be done through devices or people around.
You’ll be safe once you reach the shelter. If you know any trusted person that can offer you a ride there, then ask for it.
If you have someone who can offer you shelter and safety, reach out to them if you’re not ready to go to a domestic violence shelter yet.
Finding a way out
It’s okay to feel lost, unheard, and unworthy in such situations. You might even catch yourself blaming yourself for what happened to you.
You’re heard, you’re understood, you’re worthy of love and care.
You’ll soon be feeling okay and seeing the situation from a different perspective. You’ll soon be safe and sound under warm blankets without feeling fear.
You’ll be calm and at peace, soon.