The following symptoms of an abusive relationship should not be ignored under any circumstances. If you are realizing that you are in a controlling relationship, hoping that your partner will change is not a good strategy. Trying to do things to please your manipulative partner so that they suddenly realize how good you really are is one of the main reasons that people end up in abusive situations for years.
The following list is in no particular order.
You are always wrong. Your partner is always right.
You have to apologize for all sorts of things. Your partner does not.
You are expected to forgive your partner many times. Your partner does not forgive or forget. In fact, they will trot out all your mistakes and errors on a regular basis when they want to make you feel rotten.
Your partner makes you feel bad a lot! Initially they may have made you feel fantastic, but those times are few and far between now.
You used to do things to please your partner because you felt good about them and the relationship. You wanted the nice times to keep going. Now you do things to make sure you are not going to upset them. Even if they are not present, you ask yourself if what you are about to do will cause any problems. If you think they will not like it, you don't do it. Or you do it sneakily and make sure not to tell them about it.
Your partner can make you feel guilty about a whole range of things. What you do, what you say, your past, your family, your work, your hobbies, your beliefs, your friends, your problems and so on and so forth.
You are afraid of your partner in some way. It may be their temper, they may have been physical in the past (even if it was only one time), or there may simply be a general fear of upsetting them. You may be afraid that you may not be able to manage without your partner. It is an interesting phenomenon that many people in abusive relationships are not aware of just how much fear they are living under until they have spent some time out of the relationship and away from the manipulator.
You are on an emotional rollercoaster. Your life seems to be one crisis after another. No sooner are you recovered from one chaotic situation than you are hurled into the next one.
There are cycles in the relationship. Tension builds and you know something is about to happen. Then your partner gets upset about something. Then afterwards, they minimize things, blame you for what happened or act as if nothing at all happened. Then things seem calm for a bit. (This nice phase is actually the most dangerous!) Then you know something is going to kick off again... and around and around you go.
If anything goes wrong for your partner, it's always someone else's fault, usually yours! Even for the most ridiculous things where you cannot be reasonably blamed for it, your partner manages to twist the information to put the responsibility on you.
You end up believing everything is down to you and you apologize a lot. Your friends tell you to stop saying sorry, but it just comes out of your mouth before you can even think about it.
In fact, your thinking has been affected. Your memory and concentration are not what they used to be. All you can think about is your partner (and specifically, not upsetting them!). Your whole life revolves around your partner and most of the things that you used to enjoy have become boring or uninteresting. You may have even stoped your hobbies and sports. They are nowhere near as appealing now and, besides, you seem not to have much spare time anymore.
Most of your time goes to making sure that your partner has what they want, that they are comfortable and this all comes at the cost of your wants and needs. Somehow, the wants and needs of your partner are always more important, urgent, necessary etc., than yours are. You convince yourself that things will change soon and you will get what you want later.
You are made to feel horrible for who you are. So bad, in fact, that you are willing to try and change yourself to please your partner, or at least to try and get them to stop harping on at you for how bad you are. This takes the form of criticism at the level of identity. So instead of being told that your idea was pathetic, you are told that YOU are pathetic for having such an idea. Another example would be where you have done something and you are told, in no uncertain terms, not that the action was stupid, but that you are stupid for having done that. This criticism of who you are is a major step in destroying your personality.
Not only does the abusive partner destroy your personality, but they impose another personality on you. This is a false personality, or pseudopersonality. This new personality is the kind of person that the manipulator wants to have around them. It is subservient, accepting, grateful and programmed to take care of the needs of the manipulator. Think slave! You can read more about these dynamics in these articles about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands.
This pseudopersonality is also programmed to be dependent on the manipulator. You can't make any decisions without running it by them first. They may insist on controlling the finances. You have to ask permission for many things. You may feel that if you lost the relationship your life would not be worth living. You need the approval of the manipulator to know you are ok as a person. If they criticize you (which they do a lot) you feel like you are a failure, worthless, a flawed human being. If they praise you in any way, you feel like you are ok as a person.
Your partner criticizes you, and others, a lot. They do not, however, tolerate criticism of themselves. After all, they are perfect human beings!
There is gaslighting going on. The name comes from the play and movie of the 1940s, Gaslight, where a manipulative husband convinces his wife that she is imagining things that are actually happening. The term is used nowadays to describe the action of denying things that have occurred or claiming that certain events have taken place when the reality is that they did not. The effect is to make the victim doubt themselves. In the end, the victim turns to the manipulator to know what is real or not. The common expression of this is that the person says that he or she feels that they are going crazy.
There are also double binds. These are damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't situations. Whatever choice you make, you lose one way or the other. One of the conditions for double binds is that the person has to stay in the situation. Remember the dependency I mentioned above? Leaving an abusive relationship is actually very difficult so in order to stay the victim has to deal with the double binds as best as they can. This usually means tolerating the abuse.
When things are bad, do you usually blame yourself? "Well, I did upset him!" or "Maybe I am too demanding of him?" or "I should have known better than to do that!"
Does your partner sometimes do things that are cold hearted and even cruel? Do you wonder how someone who supposedly loves you could do such things?
If you recognize these symptoms of an abusive relationship in your own situation, what do you do?
The first thing you need to do is to figure out who you are dealing with. Is your partner abusive because that's their nature? Yes, there are some people who are not just insecure but who control for the sake of controlling. These are people with personality disorders, more commonly known as psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.
If you are dealing with such a person then you do need to take action, and quickly. These types are not going to change and it's up to you to put a stop to the abuse. I know, that's easier said than done!
You can read more here about leaving an abusive relationship.
Then you need to learn about abuse, manipulation, coercive control and how the abuser was controlling you. It takes time and effort, but it's worth it!
There is a lot more information here about how to recognize a psychopath, signs of verbal abuse, signs your partner is controlling, the stages of an abusive relationship, why people stay in abusive relationships and dealing with controlling people.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
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