Are you in an abusive relationship? Here are 7 subtle warning signs

Everyone is talking about Chris Brown and Rhianna, but what about your own relationship? Has it gone from normal to abusive?

Caitlin Gray

That TMZ photo of Rhianna’s face, bruised and swollen from the alleged Chris Brown domestic violence incident, has brought up some really important relationship issues. I think that simple arguing leads to real violence more commonly in young relationships than people care to admit. It can happen to anyone, and it is not a simple issue.

The fact that there are rumors of them getting back together really show how complex an abusive relationship can be. Sometimes there are strong, overt signs that a relationship is dangerous and that it’s time to leave, but what about the more subtle signs?

Your partner doesn’t have to beat you up for a relationship to be abusive. Are you wondering if your own relationship might be on the brink of being physically or emotionally damaging? Read these seven warning signs and see if any ring true.

1.) Isolation.

He or she isolates you from your friends and family. Has your contact with the people you love dwindled since your relationship began? Does he or she get unreasonably jealous of the time you spend with your loved ones? Are you made to feel punished for engaging in social activities that exclude your partner? Does he or she make your friends and family feel unwelcome?

All of these are signs that your partner may be trying to isolate you and force you to become increasingly dependent on them for all of your social needs. It is a way of taking you away from loved ones, especially those who might not approve of your partner, and of controlling who you allow in your life. You have the right to decide how much time you spend with people you love in your life, not anyone else.

2.) Irrational Jealousy.

He or she is consistently paranoid and jealous. Does your partner get insanely jealous over nothing? Do they forbid you to maintain innocent friendships because they don’t believe they are innocent? Do they try to control what you wear because they don’t want you to look “too sexy”? Are you constantly accused of “flirting” when you are just talking to someone?

This type of unreasonable jealousy is another sign that your partner’s insecurities and need to control may be manifesting in unhealthy ways. Not only is jealousy annoying, it can be dangerous.

3.) A subtle presence of physical violence.

Obviously, if your partner seriously physically assaults you, you should get help immediately. Call the police or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Any type of physical violence has no place in a loving relationship. It is important to note that there are more subtle forms of violence that can be very serious and also indicators that a relationship is abusive. Does your partner threaten to hit you?

Punch or hit things near you? Throw things at you, push you, or break your things? I would say that 99% of long-term relationships have had an incident where the anger in the room is so fierce, that one or more of those things have happened. It’s complicated, and it’s hard to tell what’s “normal” and what’s going to eventually really hurt you. If a pattern is emerging, or if you are really nervous and reading this article because you are worried about your relationship, you should enlist some help from the pros. You have choices. Get help before it gets work.

Call the hotline mentioned above, or find counseling for you and/or your partner. Of course, you can also consider simply leaving the relationship before something seriously awful happens. According to the statistics, the violence only gets worse. There is no shame in getting professional help before it gets ugly and there is no shame in leaving because you don’t want to be in a violent relationship.

4.) Discounting, Minimizing, and Trivializing.

He or she acts like a serious incident is “no big deal.” Does your partner do something terrible to emotionally or physically hurt you and then act like you are being irrational when you get upset? For example, they might have a scary outburst that you recognize as seriously harmful, but when you attempt to speak to the severity of the situation, they may blow it off like you are making a big deal out of nothing. Another way trivializing sneaks into a relationship is when your partner trivializes positive things you do.

In other words, if you are bending over backwards in some way for them or your family, or are working very hard, rather than rationally acknowledge your hard work, they act like your task is easy. In fact, they may focus on everything they think you are doing wrong instead. Read more about that below.

5.) Criticizing.

He or she is overly critical and frequently puts you down. This is a direct assault on your self-esteem. It’s another form of control - if you can make someone feel bad enough about himself or herself, you can keep them down. They may begin to believe that they can’t be with anyone better or deserve anyone better. This manifests itself in many ways.

Your partner may be irrationally critical of your physical appearance, your intelligence, or your housekeeping skills. They may make fun of you in front of other people or belittle your job. They may name-call or put you down in general. All of this negative behavior indicates a problem, and it’s a problem you don’t have to put up with. 

6.) Withholding.

He or she purposefully withholds communication or intimacy as a punishment tool. They might refuse to communicate at all, shutting down, and giving you the silent treatment for an extended period of time. They may refuse physical affection in order to manipulate you.

Recognizing this behavior can be tricky, because constantly demanding physical affection can be a problem too, and sometimes, if you are fighting, no one really wants to be affectionate or intimate. The issue is whether or not the person withholds affection it in order to punish, manipulate you and control you.

7) Blaming.

He or she blames you for their bad behavior. You might hear, “You just don’t know when to stop,” or “I wouldn’t yell so much if you didn’t make me so angry.” They rationalized their abusive behavior and make it sound like you pushed them to that point. Now, if you are equally antagonistic towards a partner, engaging in abusive behavior yourself, you may need to get personal help or counseling to deal with those issues.

However, if you are not antagonistic or aggressive towards them, you are in fact “walking on eggshells” around them most of the time, and they still blame you for causing their out of control behavior, that can be a sign that the person is abusive.

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or on that track, you and your partner can get support. You have choices, options, and freedom to choose a life that is safe and fulfilling to you. The point is, if you’re reading this article, you need to enlist some professional help. Call a local counselor in your area, most are covered by insurance. Set up an appointment for you and your partner, or just you. If you need to get out of the relationship immediately, call the police or the hotline number above. There are organizations that can help counsel and protect you.

If you are still not sure if your relationship is abusive, the National Domestic Violence Hotline website says that: “Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.” There is also an extensive list of types of emotional abuse here and some useful abuse-identifying tools here.

Our Take:

No one deserves to be in an abusive relationship. If you are scared and hurt, get help now! It is your life and you have a right to make your life safe and sound. 


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2009 05 23

Great compilation. Abuse - mental, emotional, or physical - is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Hopefully, anyone who comes across this and sees that they are in an abusive relationship will seek the help they need.
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