The warning signs of abusive relationships are many and varied and are not always easy to spot if you are still in the relationship. Everyone thinks that they would be able to recognize very quickly if they were in an abusive situation, but because of the nature of psychological abuse, it does not work that way.
A victim's perception of the world and their thinking are distorted by the abuser which makes it difficult to realize what is actually being done to them. This is why people end up in abusive relationships for years!
I have not put the following list of warning signs of abusive relationships in any particular order. But what I have done is to try and make them as clear and obvious as possible. So, for example, instead of saying 'they isolate you from family', I have made a list of what they actually do and say to isolate you. In this way it makes it easier for you to recognize the abuse in your own particular situation. So let's start with that idea of isolation...
Does your partner regularly laugh at or make fun of your friends and family?
Do they make you feel bad about your friends?
Do they start arguments or otherwise upset you when you want to spend time with family?
Do the tell you that you are a bad judge of character for having such friends?
When your friends come to visit, does your partner ignore them, argue with them or act weird with them so that they feel uncomfortable?
When you are with friends and family and your partner is at home, do you feel uneasy and concerned and you keep thinking about getting back home? Or do you worry that there will be problems as soon as you get back?
Has your partner very few or no friends of their own? Do they tend to hang out only with your friends?
Does your partner make nasty comments about you?
Do they say things that seem like they are concerned but these things don't make you feel very good at all?
Do they lie to you?
If you challenge them in a lie do they just change their story and lie some more?
Are they very good at lying? So good that it took you a while to figure out they were, in fact, lying?
Do they repeatedly call you names, making you feel worthless, useless, stupid or defective in some way?
Will they even make disparaging comments about you in public?
Are you often treated with contempt?
When you get upset over something they do or say, are you told that you are overly sensitive or overly emotional?
Do they say hurtful things and then scoff at you because they say you cannot take a joke?
If anything goes wrong, is it always your fault? Do you have to apologize a lot? Even when you feel that you are the one who was wronged?
Do they ever apologize? If they do, do they mean it? By that I mean do they change their behavior so as not to upset you again, or do they just carry on doing the same nasty stuff over and over again, no matter how much they promise that they will change?
When you tell then that something upsets you, do they keep doing it anyway?
Are there lots of ups and downs in the relationship? One minute things are great, the next it's just awful?
Are the good times getting less and less and the bad times more and more?
Are there frequent arguments over the same problems? Do you feel that they don't get your point of view? (They actually do, they just don't care!)
Are you told outright that your feelings and ideas are just wrong?
Are you made to feel that your partner is always right? Do you think you are less intelligent, or inferior in some way?
Do you have to check with your partner before doing most things because if you don't World War III may break out?
Does your partner, however, make decisions with talking to you first?
Do you make decisions with your partner in mind and you choose the things that are most likely not to upset them? But it's impossible to please them and they criticize you anyway?
Do you feel that you can never do enough? No matter how hard you try, how much effort you put in, or how much you do, they always want more?
Does your partner threaten you? Does he threaten to leave the relationship but never does?
Does you partner seem cold, heartless and emotionless at times?
Do you wonder how someone can be so cruel to a person that they love?
Do you ever question if they do actually love you?
Does your partner criticize other people regularly? Do they hate criticism directed at themselves? To the point that they get angry or even aggressive?
Have you become aware that whenever you are happy or have had a good time or a success, they do something to spoil the moment? Or they switch the attention to themselves?
Do they have a poor memory for things they said or did? "No, I don’t remember that!" But for things you do or say, their memory is supposedly perfect?
Do they forgive you for things or do they remind you frequently about these things to make you feel guilty and ashamed about them?
Do they decide when you made a mistake, an error or that you have sinned?
Do they make you doubt your own memory of events? Do they claim that things that you remember happening did not actually happen or vice versa?
Does your partner play the victim role very well? Can they make you, and others, feel sorry for them very easily?
And about the rules in the relationship, do they have rules for you and different rules for themselves? Do they change the rules a lot? Do they change the rules and not let you know about the new rules until you are in trouble?
Is your partner jealous of your being with other people? But they can flirt with others, even in front of you? And if you get upset they say that you are the jealous one?
Has your partner cheated on you? More than once? Do they typically have reasons and justifications whereby you end up forgiving them for it?
Have you noticed that your partner accuses you of doing the very things that they do themselves? Or of being a certain way when, in fact, the label would be better applied to them?
Are you afraid of your partner? Because of their temper? Because of how they might react or punish you for what you do or say? Is there a general fear present and you don't even know where it came from?
Has this fear spilled over into your developing fears of other things that you were not previously afraid of, elevators, flying, the dark etc?
Does he or she criticize your clothes, your hair, your diet, your body?
Does your partner give you the cold shoulder often? Even for days?
Has your partner ever disappeared for days on end without telling you where they go?
Has your partner ever been physically violent? Even once? This includes hitting, pushing, slapping, pinching, burning, strangling, hurting with objects, throwing objects, damaging your property or punching the wall beside you?
Does your partner have a nasty temper? Do they get angry over seemingly little things?
Do you think that there is a lot of chaos and drama in the relationship?
Have you thought that you might be going crazy?
Have you thought of suicide?
Do you feel like an object to your partner? Do you feel like a servant in the relationship?
Are you struggling to make sense of what is going on in your life?
Are you told that you are the problem but you really suspect that there is something wrong with your partner?
Do you feel that you are at war with yourself? There is a constant internal battle that you cannot sort out? And this makes you think that there might be something wrong with you after all?
Do you often go along with your partner just for an easy life? Even if it costs you a lot in terms of time, energy, your dignity and your self worth?
Do you feel that you are losing yourself in the relationship?
Do you even know who you are anymore?
If when you read this list of warning signs of abusive relationships you are not sure about some of them, (or even lots of them!) this is normal. It may help a lot to sit down with a trusted friend or family member (not your partner!) and go through the list again. It's often much easier for an outsider to recognize the warning signs of abusive relationships than it is for the person who is being subjected to the abuse.
You can read more here about why it is difficult to spot the signs of controlling relationships.
If you can begin to see that you are in an abusive relationship, or this list of warning signs of abusive relationships has confirmed for you that you actually are, then it's important that you take action.
You need to assess the nature of your partner. What kind of person are you dealing with? You need to understand something about psychological abuse. And you need to understand what was done to you at a very fundamental level.
If you are still not sure after reading this list of warning signs of abusive relationships whether you are in a controlling relationship or not, then the best thing you can do is to assume that you are. (It's better than thinking you are not, carrying on and later realizing that you have lost more years of your life to an abuser.) The fact that you are looking for information suggests that there is something seriously wrong with your situation and the safest thing is to assume that you cannot see things clearly right now and you need help to clarify what is actually happening. Again, sitting down with a trusted friend can help a lot now.
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.
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