5 Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship
And What To Do If You Are
Abuse is an understandably uncomfortable topic for most people, sometimes because of the way we've been treated in the past, but more often it is about the sense of unease that we feel knowing it's more common than we'd like. Recognising abuse isn't always easy, however, especially when you're living in it.
The Definition of Abuse
The dictionary defines abuse as the "cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal", but of course this is a very general definition of a hugely complex issue.
Four types of abuse have been defined by researchers and non-profit organisations;
- Emotional or Psychological
- Financial or Material
Each of these type of abuse have a set of characteristics and red flags, but the results for the victims tend to follow the same path. Fear, insecurity, instability, mental illness, eating disorders, substance abuse; all of these are common long-term results for victims of abuse. While we would all like to think that we will never be victims of abuse, it really can happen to anyone.
If you're here, it's probably because you have a bad feeling about your relationship (or a friends relationship), or you're looking at the past differently. Here are the red flags to look out for.
5 Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship
Each kind of abuse has it's own unique markers, however abuse rarely occurs in isolation; financial abuse, for example, is often found in cases of emotional or mental abuse. These 5 signs are neither mutually inclusive (nor mutually inclusive), nor are they the only signs of abuse; they are, however, the strongest signs.
1. Extreme Jealousy or Possessiveness
A little bit of jealousy can add spice to a relationship, or so they say; it's only natural that your partner might be worried or upset if you spend all of your free time with someone new and ignore them, for example.
With that said, extreme jealousy or possessiveness is a warning sign; if you feel worried about talking to or spending time with anyone other than you partner it's time to ask yourself why. If you're culling friendships or avoiding passing conversation at the bar because your partner is apt to fly off the handle this is a huge warning sign that should not be ignored.
If your partner demands to know where you are and who you're with at all times, or if they try to control where you go and who you see, this behaviour could quickly escalate.
2. Threats and Manipulation
All couples fight, of course, but arguments should be infrequent, about things that matter, and resolved with respect even when agreement cannot be found.
If your partner frequently sullks, withdraws communication, takes tantrums, or throws/breaks things when they don't get what they want, however, you should be wary. This can quickly escalate into threats, for example, threatening to leave you if you don't comply, or even threatening harm to you, your family, or your pets.
These kind of threats and manipulation are a read red flag because this behaviour can eaily snowball into control and violence.
Your partner may not always agree with you, nor like the things you do, but if tehy habitually put you down, undermine you, attack your intelligence, capabilities, or compare you to others unfavourably this is a real problem.
By continually reinforcing or stating a negative opinion of you, or by trying to undermine your opinion of yourself, your partner may (consciously or unconsciously) be trying to make you more dependent upon them.
The most classic and obvious example of this behaviour would be statements like "I'm the only one who cares you", or "no-one else will want you".
4. Financial or Material Control
Though less common today, financial or material restriction and control are major warning signs/ indicators of abuse. When your partner witholds the resources that you need to go about your life in order to exert control there is a high risk of their behaviour escalating.
Removing your access to a joint car or bank account, or communication opportunities like a mobile phone or wifi connection, is often the last stage of escalation in a situation of financial abuse. At this point, the abuser feels they have sufficient ability to isolate and dominate the person they are preying upon.
If your partner removes acces to a car or takes funds from your account as a 'punishment' you should be very wary.
The most obvious and extreme warning sign for abuse is physical or sexual violence; there is no reasonable version of this and no reason why it should ever happen. If your partner assaults you physically or sexually you are facing an abusive person.
What To Do If You Are Facing Abuse
If you feel that you're in an abusive situation and you don't know what to do, you should know that you have already taken the first step; acknowledging that there is abuse happening, even ust to yourself, if often the hardest part for victims.
Once you have accepted the presence of abuse in your relationship, however, there are a few other steps ahead of you if you are to get out:
1) Recognise the extent of abuse
Be honest with yourself; what position are you in? Are you financially dependent on your abuser? Are they undermining you, have they seperated you from your friends and family? Can you communicate with others privately and safely?
Above and beyond all this; can you get the police involved at this point?
2) Talk to someone you trust
Even if you're not ready to leave yet, talk to someone you can trust and make them aware of the situation. Tell them about anything that happens, and give them any evidence you have for safekeeping. A support network is key when trying to escape abuse.
If you have children, consider getting them away from the situation first.
3) Reach out
When you are ready to leave, and you feel it is safe, reach out to authorities or official bodies for help and guidance. Call the a helpline from a secure phone to get advice;
National Domestic Violence Hotline (USA) - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Domestic Abuse Helpline (UK) - 0808 2000 247
4) Assess yourself
While no-one brings abuse on themselves, there are factors which can contribute to our willingness to put up with abuse, or which give abusers a handle to begin manipulation. Therapy is not only a good way to begin healing the wounds caused by abuse, but to begin unpicking any old traumas or issues which may make us vulnerable.
More than anything else, however, remember that this is not your fault and you are not alone. There are thousands of people in your position, and tens of thousands of people ready and willing to help you escape it.