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How to Know If You Are in an Abusive Relationship?

Lisa JacksonSeptember 2, 2021,

While the obvious signs of an abusive relationship are physical, yet the more common forms of abuse are mental rather than physical. These forms of mental abuse are harder to detect in relationships, are often misunderstood as usual, and go ignored for years to come. 

To help you understand the clear signs of an abusive relationship, we have consulted relationship experts, therapists, lawyers, and those with experience dealing with such cases. The following are some of the main red flags to watch out for according to them;

  1. Walking on Eggshells Around Them

“Perhaps the biggest sign you're in an abusive relationship is if you're walking on eggshells most of the time. Even when things are seemingly fine. Abusers aren't abusive all the time. They blow hot and cold. This can fool people into thinking everything's fine. And that the relationship problems are normal, or even their own fault. If you're worried you might say or do the wrong thing to set them off, then it's a huge red flag. You should be comfortable and relaxed when around someone who supposedly loves you. And be able to be yourself.”

Jon Rhodes, Clinical Hypnotherapist and narcissist relationship expert; Narcissisms.com

  1. Gaslighting

“Abusive relationships don't always signal toward physical injury. Mental abuse is one of the biggest reasons that people end things with their partners. Surprisingly enough, it is shrouded in smiles and niceties, and we don't even realize that we're in a toxic setup until it's too late. 

“The number one red flag for me in a relationship is my partner gaslighting me. Shooting down my confidence, mocking my life choices, telling me that I don't know better, treating me like I'm juvenile and naive, or making me question the things that I know to be true. Making me feel bad about the things that I eat, telling me to ‘man up’, laughing at my insecurities, or the classic you're so dramatic. As a survivor of physical and mental abuse by a former girlfriend, I can attest to each and every single point here.

“One faces gaslighting in every environment, whether it is family or work. So the last thing anyone really wants is to be treated that way when in love. It is important for the partners to listen to each other and respect their choices, decisions, and opinions. A relationship is only toxic when there is no mutual respect.”

Ashish Singhal, Engineer and Blogger; Prose And Chords

  1. Your Partner Has Control Over You

“One of the biggest signs of abuse is when one partner is too invested in the social life of another, makes comments, criticizes, and directs other partners on how to behave, what to do, what choices to make either subtly or openly.

“Gaslighting: Gaslighting is probably one of the most dangerous things an emotionally abusive partner can do. These partners go above and beyond to undermine their partner’s feelings, often telling them they’re too emotional, they overthink things, or telling them they’re making up situations.” (Nikolina Jeric)

  1. Isolation

“Abusive partners usually try to isolate their significant other by displacing them from the familiar environment, away from friends and family. This way, the abused partner doesn’t have anyone to talk to or complain to, and others cannot see what the tortured person is going through. Furthermore, the abused partner in these cases feels weaker and less confident to do something and improve their situation.”

Nikolina Jeric, Founder 2Date4Love.com

  1. Abuse Can Take Many Forms Besides Physical Violence

“The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that 95% of contacts for assistance involve emotional abuse. And a survey conducted by the Allstate Foundation revealed that financial abuse is the most common and the hardest form of abuse to detect.

“Non-physical abuse is just as dangerous as physical abuse. Unlike physical injuries, emotional wounds can go undetected, and without intervention, can lead to lasting damage. In the absence of physical injuries, you may not recognize the signs and not seek help. Your loved ones may also be unaware and leave you unsupported, thinking your partner is a catch.

“Abuse is often disguised as love, where your partner acts jealousy and wants to spend all the time with you, demanding to always know your whereabouts. It can consist of relentless criticism pretending to make you a better person. Or hidden in ‘jokes,’ with insults followed by the words ‘Just kidding!’

“Abusers can be charming and affectionate, especially in front of others. So victims cling to the illusion of the loving partner they can be at times, while friends and relatives are deceived, unaware of what’s really going on.  Abuse can start suddenly after what appears to be a healthy relationship. It can start after the abuser feels the victim is less likely to leave, like after marriage or pregnancy.

“It can consist of a string of acts designed to chip away at your self-esteem that, taken by themselves, may seem harmless.”

Sonia M. Frontera, Attorney, Empowerment Trainer, Domestic Violence Advocate and Speaker, who is currently spearheading a domestic violence awareness campaign with her upcoming book “Stop the Hurt: The Truth about Domestic Violence Everyone Needs to Know.”

“Abusers aim to deceive, manipulate and catch their victim off guard in order to exert power and control over their partners. As such, it can be hard to spot the signs that you are the victim of abuse, thus, it may take the intervention of a loved one to highlight when abuse is occurring.” says Rachel Clare, “With the help of the list below, we can spot the telltale red flags that we, or anyone else in our lives, is falling victim to an abusive relationship;

  1. Isolation From Friends And Family

“Abusers are able to exercise their control to a far greater degree when a partner's loved ones are also veiled from the reality of their actions.” (Rachel Clare)

  1. Constantly Keeping Track Of Whereabouts

“Similarly, abusers often feel the need to know exactly where you are, what you're doing and who you are with. As soon as a partner of abuse finds their independence, an abuser's ability to control is severely undermined.” (Rachel Clare)

  1. Dismissing Feelings And Gaslighting, Leaving A Victim Questioning Themselves

“When the red flags start to build up, a victim may begin questioning the actions of their abusive partner. Sadly, this is often met with manipulation, gaslighting and a dismissal of the victim's feelings.” (Rachel Clare)

  1. Constant Belittling And Criticism

“Going a step beyond the typical bickering of most relationships, abusers are masters at destroying their partner's self-esteem by constantly putting them down. This feeds back into an abuser's desire for control, as victims with low self-worth are more likely to depend and rely on their partner.

“If you find yourself questioning whether or not the relationship you or a loved one is in is abusive, consider if your partner is displaying any of the signs above. While there may be occasions of affection and happiness, ask yourself if you feel sad, fearful and anxious more often than you feel content and comfortable with them.”

Rachel Clare is a Brand Ambassador at Mysticsense.com, creating content and providing advice to businesses and consumers across the globe.

  1. Some Questions to Ask Yourself for Spotting the Red Flags

“Most people think of physical abuse when they hear the term abusive relationship, because it is the easiest type to understand, and the physical signs are undeniable. Emotional and verbal abuse are considered invisible abuses because they are not as obvious, but are just as damaging, and the two that people tend to need the most help recognizing.” says Shannon McFarlin, “Aside from obvious physical harm, there are a number of red flags indicating that you are in an abusive relationship:

  • Does your partner insist on controlling the finances?
  • Are you prohibited from seeing friends (or do you pay a price when you do?)
  • Are you treated one way in public and another in private?
  • Do you feel ridiculed, criticized and belittled on a regular basis?
  • Does your partner read your email and listen to your phone calls, and
  • accuse you of hiding something if you object?
  • Does your partner threaten and intimidate you?
  • Are you afraid of speaking up for yourself or asking for what you want?
  • Are you called selfish for wanting to pursue individual interests and hobbies that take time away from your partner?
  • Does your partner withdraw financial or emotional support when you don’t do what he or she wants?
  • Does your partner yell, slam doors, or give you the silent treatment?
  • Does your partner blame you for everything wrong in the relationship?
  • Do these types of behaviors seem to be increasing over time?

“Victims may also experience collateral physiological symptoms from the stress, such as gastrointestinal distress, weight loss/gain, headaches, loneliness, depression, anxiety, or frequent crying. Because the abuser is someone you love, the road to acceptance can be long and confusing as you work through the grief of what is happening. A licensed therapist is an important ally.”

Shannon McFarlin, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with over a decade of professional experience in helping people heal from abusive relationships. 

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