All relationships have ups and downs. Some seem to have more downs than others. A relationship that’s on the rocks can often be fixed with commitment on the part of both partners and with professional counseling. However, some relationships are abusive, and these cannot be repaired until the abusive partner decides to change his or her ways. However, since abusers often bring a strong sense of entitlement to the relationship, they rarely look at themselves as doing anything wrong and therefore rarely take stock of their own views and behaviors.
If you are the victim in an abusive relationship, it is critical that you take steps to protect your safety and well-being. You cannot change your partner, and until your partner decides to do things differently, this relationship is not where you want to be.
How can you tell if you’re in an abusive relationship? Here are some red flags to be aware of.
Signs of an abusive relationship
- He’s always jealous. He questions your interactions with other men, implying inappropriate behavior on your part, or outright accuses you of cheating, sometimes incessantly. He reads through your e-mails, texts, Facebook, etc. and makes you feel like you’re always under his watchful eye.
- She’s always putting you down. Whether it’s comments about your clothes, your looks, your professional success, or anything else she can find to criticize, the bottom line is you’re just no good. She makes you feel like a loser and she declares that a guy like you is lucky to have a woman like her. She repeatedly reminds you that nobody else would ever take you.
- He makes hurtful or threatening comments but then says he’s just kidding. He attacks your most vulnerable points to make you feel terrible, makes frightening threats to your safety, then backpedals to try to get you to feel like you are overreacting. He laughs at your hurt and fear and says things like, “can’t you take a joke?” after comments that aren’t humorous at all.
- She’s controlling. She tells you what you can wear and what you can’t. She decides where you can go and whom you can see. If you don’t comply, you face anger, accusations of being selfish and uncaring, or retribution. You find yourself deciding it’s easier to go along with her demands than to start another fight.
- He has a history of abuse which he acknowledges, or which is indicated by a legal track record or accusations which he denies. He admits that he acted improperly with past partners, but blames them for being crazy and pushing him “beyond his limits.” Or he has been accused of domestic violence, possibly multiple times without a conviction, and he claims that in each case his partner made false accusations and was just out to get him.
- You feel increasingly isolated from others. She doesn’t like your friends and doesn’t want you hanging out with them. She thinks you’re too attached to your parents. Eventually it becomes easier to avoid them rather than always having to explain away or hide her behaviors, so you slowly have fewer and fewer people you talk to outside your relationship.
- It’s always your fault. Whatever the problem is, somehow you are responsible. If there are financial issues, it’s because you spend too much, not because he only works part-time. If he hits you, it’s because you forced him into it. He may even blame you for the most absurd things, like the traffic or the weather.
- She humiliates you in private and in public. She makes you feel like trash and intentionally embarrasses you in front of others. She tries to rid you of your self-esteem in order to make you more dependent on her. This is another way she demeans and isolates you.
- He makes you feel crazy. He will be extremely nasty and then claim nobody loves you like he does, or try to be romantic with you moments afterwards. He will insist that you’re the one with the problem and that his behavior is totally normal. He will lash out, hit you, break things, and then deny having done anything at all, instead claiming you fell down or that he simply has no idea what happened.
- You feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You’re constantly worried about upsetting her or about whether she’s already upset from something else. You feel you must avoid saying the wrong thing – and forget about bringing up anything that’s bothering you.
If you are experiencing any of these red flags, consider speaking to a professional to sort out what’s going on. Contact us to find out how we can help you in this difficult situation. You don’t have to live this way – we can help you make a change. If you are in immediate physical danger, please call 9-1-1 or your local crisis hotline.