The characteristics of an abusive relationship are many and varied. The characteristics are the result of the power imbalance in the relationship along with the abuser taking advantage of this imbalance. You can learn more about what an abusive relationship is and the dynamics involved here.
Nobody sets out to look for an abusive relationship. They are tricked into it. They are led to believe this new person in their life is warm, caring, loving and so on.
Outsiders may look at somebody in an abusive relationship and claim that the victim wants or needs this because they are dependent types who cannot make their own decisions. Or that because this person was brought up in an abusive environment they seek out other abusers because they're comfortable with that. These ideas indicate a lack of understanding of mind control and psychological abuse.
I don't believe anybody seeks out an abusive relationship, either consciously or unconsciously. In fact, somebody who has been in an abusive relationship already, and who recognises it as abusive, is actively looking for something that is healthy. They want to be treated well. They want to be loved. They want a relationship of equals. The fact that they may have ended up in another abusive relationship indicates that they were tricked into it.
What's missing for these people is information. Information about manipulators, about influence techniques and specifically about how these techniques were used against them in particular situations.
So let's have a look at the characteristics of an abusive relationship with links to other articles so you can delve deeper into the various techniques.
Are you struggling to make sense of your relationship? Do you know that something is wrong, but you can't put your finger on it?
Was your relationship fantastic initially, with lots of great feelings, happy moments and you thought that you had met your perfect partner? But now you're miserable a lot of the time and you are working hard to please your partner all the time hoping to have more of those good times back again?
Are you blamed if anything goes wrong, no matter how small?
Does your partner take credit for everything that goes right?
Do you feel that you are on a permanent emotional rollercoaster? Does it seem like you're crashing around from one crisis to the next with lots of drama and chaos?
Do your friends and family not like your new partner? Do you argue with them over this new person in your life, with you defending your partner?
Are you spending less time with your friends and family? If so, are you aware of how your partner is isolating you from your support networks?
Does your partner make comments on your clothes, hairstyle or weight that make you feel bad?
Do they make you personally feel bad about who you are even if they are criticizing what you have done or what you have said?
Does your partner insist that you run everything by them before making any decisions?
At the same time, have you noticed that your partner decides whatever they want without consulting you first?
Do you have to report everything to your new partner? Your thoughts, actions, feelings, where you were, what you did, what you spoke about two others, and so on?
Do you have the same level of detail about your partner?
Does your partner control the finances? For example, do they have access to your account but you do not have access to their account? Do they spend their money quickly and then ask you for some of yours because they are in need? Do they criticise you for spending money but they seem to buy anything they like? Or are you in a position where you have no idea about the finances at all?
Can they make you feel incredibly good?
Can they also make you feel incredibly bad?
Do they have a look or a tone of voice that makes you feel 2 inches tall?
Do they criticize you a lot? If you criticise them back, are you made to feel stupid, bad and generally wrong?
Have you stopped doing your hobbies and sports?
When you're having a nice time does your partner do something to ruin the moment? For example, when you have a success at work they tell stories about how they were more successful, or when you buy something you really like they criticize it and try to change your opinion about it?
Are there many threats in your relationship? These may take the form of, "if you do that, then I will have to..." If you are threatened with separation or divorce for things you do, then this is a very serious red flag. Because of the dependency of the victim on the abuser, this particular threat is very serious. It is specifically designed to make you jump to it and do whatever the manipulator wants because the manipulator knows you don't want to lose to relationship under any circumstances.
Keep in mind that not all these characteristics of an abusive relationship have to be present for a relationship to be considered abusive. They may actually be present but you just don´t recognize them for what they are. I will explain a bit more about this later.
Does your partner lie a lot to you? Sometimes this is very difficult to see because you have been trained to believe and trust in your partner. Do you even suspect them of lying to you? If you call them out on their lies, do they simply tell more lies?
After you were actually committed to the relationship, did you find out significant things about their past that you suspect were deliberately hidden from you initially?
Are you kept busy in the relationship? Do you find that you don't have a moment to yourself because you're running around after your partner the whole time?
Does your partner take normal activities and make you feel bad about them as if they are a mistake or a sin? For example, you're made to feel bad about talking to your family on the phone, a big deal is made over your spilling water or if you arrive a few minutes late you are labelled selfish and inconsiderate?
Now that you have been made to feel bad about these things, does your partner bring them up time and time again making you feel guilty and ashamed each time?
Are you expected to forgive them even the most horrible of things?
Do you feel you no longer have any privacy or intimacy? Does it seem that your partner knows so many bad things about you there is no separation between you and them? Almost like there's nothing about you they don't know or that they know you better than anybody else ever?
Are you expected to just listen and follow instructions?
Are you expected to be loyal? For example, your partner is allowed to poke fun at you, correct you in public and tell personal stories about you to others, but you are never allowed to do the same about them for fear of retaliation?
Do they use words like always, never, nobody, everybody in phrases such as:
These ideas are patently not true but they make you feel like you are wrong, they isolate you and they are fundamental to the process of getting you to change into the kind of person the abuser wants you to be.
Does your partner gaslight you? This means do they convince you that certain things happened when you know they did not? Or the opposite, where they deny certain things happened when you know for a fact that they did? Do they do this so often you actually begin to doubt yourself?
Has your partner led you to believe that it's you and them against the rest of the world?
Have you been led to believe that you can only be successful with your partner?
Does your partner make you feel guilty a lot? Do they make you feel guilty about a whole range of things? Your family, your friends, your past, your work, your thoughts, feelings and actions...
Does your partner make you feel afraid very often?
Are you afraid of leaving the relationship? Is this a general fear or a fear that your partner will behave in a particular way?
Have you ever considered that if you left the relationship you may not be able to survive?
Have you ever wished that your partner would just die because that would sort out a lot of your problems?
Have you ever thought that suicide might be a way out?
Do you have lots of arguments over the same thing again and again with your partner? Do you justify this by saying that perhaps you are not communicating well or that your partner just doesn't seem to get what you want? The thing here is that your partner does get it, he or she just does not care what you want and they take the opportunity to keep forcing their ideas into your head.
It can be very often difficult for a victim to recognise the characteristics of an abusive relationship in their own situation. They have been lied to, deceived, actions have been redefined and the victim is actually living in a very distorted reality.
For these reasons I suggest to people that if they have any doubts, it's useful to go through this list with a trusted friend (not your partner!). It's often easier for outsiders to recognise what's going on than it is for the victim to see these things on their own.
If you recognize lots of these characteristics of an abusive relationship in your own life then you really need to do something about it. The first step is to learn about manipulators and mind control. This is often best done with the help of a professional.
In the meantime, you can read more here about signs your partner is controlling, the signs of verbal abuse, living with the controlling person, dealing with a toxic family and recovering from an abusive relationship.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?