Dating is fun and can be great for both parties. It's meant to make you feel good and spend time with someone while getting to know them and share enjoyable experiences with one another. While we begin to fall for someone during the dating phase, however, too many times, people make the mistake of ignoring, or choosing to turn a blind eye, to warning signs of abuse. Not recognizing or deliberately choosing to see past these early signs of a potentially abusive relationship, whether emotionally or physically, can leave the person hurt or even put their life at risk.
This danger is persistent among women, where every 15 seconds a woman is battered, and the highest risk of dating violence happens with women aged 16-24. But males are also victims of abusive relationships, and need as much assistance as women do, with one man in the U.S. being abused by their intimate partner every 37.8 seconds. This violence is also very much present in same-sex relationships, not just in heterosexual female-male relationships, and deserve as much attention as those.
To help our friends and family who may be in an abusive relationship, we must all know the warning signs of a potentially abusive partner and what an abusive relationship looks like. These are 9 of the most prominent tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship and qualities an abusive partner may have.
During what some call the "puppy-love" phase, you can't seem to spend enough time with your significant other. All you want to do is be with that person since they're your favorite thing in the world. But if your boyfriend or girlfriend has an issue with you spending "too much time" with friends, family, co-workers, or anyone that isn't them, this is a major sign of an abusive partner.
Always spending your time with or always having to "check-in" with your partner when you're not with them is a sign of controlling behavior. Healthy relationshipss not only allow for alone time, but also time to be with and see your loved ones outside of your relationship. Your partner can try to disguise their intentions with sweet phrases such as, "I just want to have you all to myself," or "I can't get enough of you," but don't fall for it. Especially if they actively go out out of their way to try and stop you from seeing anyone else. This can occur in various forms, but some of them include: stalking you so that they show up after you're out of work or class, forcing you to spend your free time with them, answering texts for you and saying no to your friends trying to hang out with you, or strictly forbidding you to see them "or else."
A big reason why abusers try to keep you from spending time with others is that they are extremely jealous, insecure, or because the people in your life outside your relationship can recognize that keeping you from them is abusive. Your partner may think that if you see them, they will try to "take you away" from them and cause you to leave them.
When you find yourself never seeing your friends or family anymore, or only doing so when your partner allows you to, it's time to re-evaluate your relationship. Pushing away your friends so that you are left with none, and isolating you from your family so that you barely see them if at all, is not love. You should never have to sacrifice spending time that you enjoy with people that you love for the sake of a romantic relationship or keeping your partner happy. You deserve to be able to keep the people in your life that make you happy as well, not just having your life revolve around your partner.
Nowadays, people make memes out of your partner checking your phone, with things like "If I win I get to go through your phone" and pass it off as just "cute crazy girlfriend behavior." However, always checking your phone and demanding to know all your passwords including to your social media accounts, is another warning sign to watch out for.
If your partner does not want you to have any social media accounts or any without their supervision, that is toxic behavior. Not only is it an invasion of your privacy, but your partner should be able to trust you enough, and vice versa, to know you aren't doing anything behind their backs on your phone. Ask yourself; "Is my partner constantly snooping through my texts, DMs, and Facebook Messages trying to 'find something I'm hiding,' when I know there is nothing to hide?"
If the answer is no, then that is a good sign of a healthy relationship, but if your answer is yes or "sometimes, but not all the time," really evaluate what their behavior is like when it comes to privacy of your phone and how they act about it.
Snooping can also be considered to be a gateway behavior to stalking. Often, it starts out with just looking through your phone, but when they run out of places to look on your devices, your partner can try to keep tabs on you in person. Statistics show that about 66.2% of female victims of stalking were perpetrated by a former or current intimate partner, and 41.4% of men were also stalked by an intimate partner (The National Domestic Violence Hotline). Stalking can turn very dangerous very quickly, and if you feel or know that your partner is stalking you, you should let someone you trust know or contact law enforcement.
A lack of trust or insecurity inside your partner could provoke them to act in such a way, but remember that you are entitled to your privacy, and you shouldn't have to worry about the person you're dating violating that right and putting a strain on your relationship.
This a tactic used to emotionally or mentally abuse a partner. If you often find yourself feeling sorry for things you shouldn't have to because your partner makes you feel like it, know that this is toxic behavior that can lead to an abusive relationship.
Guilt tripping can come in many forms, but usually intimate partners try to disguise their blames on you as loving. For example, they use "If you loved me you would ____," or "If you do this that means you don't love me," etc. They make you feel bad and cause you to think that maybe you are a bad partner and that in turn makes you want to make them happy in any way you can and giving into their wants each time. But a relationship shouldn't be a constant cycle of you doing things wrong, according to your partner, and you are having to make up for or prove your love to them.
Another way abusive partners try to guilt trip you are by blaming you for their aggression, making you think you are the reason they act the way they do, and if you'd only "act right" they wouldn't have to be abusive. This is not true. These partners have no one to blame but themselves for their actions, and you are never the one to blame. You did not ask for it or push them to do the things they do, especially if they physically or sexually attack you, and nothing about your own behavior needs to change. Abusers are just that -- abusers, and no one anything does causes it. You should never forget this and never feel to blame for anything your partner does.
Probably the biggest sign of an emotionally abusive relationship, gaslighting is a technique used to make you feel like you're crazy or delusional when you call them out your partner on their behavior or actions. They make you question your reality and yourself by downsizing the problem and saying things like "You're tripping," or "You're just overreacting," and manipulate you into believing you are the one with an issue.
Gaslighting in specific is a problem among men and women relationships, with the man gaslighting his female partner, although it can exist in various relationships such as in friendships, work relationships, or parent-child and same-sex relationships. Your partner, or friend or whomever, will try to discredit your claims in respsonse to their behavior by making you and everyone else believe you're crazy or delusional. When you try to address the problem of whatever they did, they deny how it happened and instead say "That's not how it happened," and twist their version of it to make it seem like the situation was less problematic than it was.
But you are not neurotic, overly sensitive, emotional, or crazy -- your feelings are valid and just, and you shouldn't undermine yourself because of how your partner is turning the situation around. If you find yourself questioning if you're overreacting to your partner's actions, chances are you're not, and you're being gaslighted. If it's taking a toll on your psyche and your emotions, it's unhealthy for you to be in that relationship where your partner is gaslighting you. When you find yourself in this situation, talk to a friend or family member about an instance where you had a problem with how your partner acted or behaved, and if they agree with you that it wasn't okay, but your partner thinks you're irrational, most likely you aren't.
Don't let gaslighting go unnoticed because it's one of the most effective tactics of control and you'll find yourself numbing down your emotions to your partner's wants.
Your partner telling you-you should "lose more weight" or calling you stupid when you make any mistake is not love. It is abusive, and to those who are more vulnerable, it can cause an emotional weight on them that leads to depression. Your partner should be the one to uplift you and remind you of how awesome and beautiful you are through charming compliments and reassurance. They are not supposed to put you down every day, make you feel bad about yourself, or insult you to gain power over you by making you feel like you are lesser than them. Never mistake these insults as your partner trying to be helpful or do it because they are trying to make you better. In a healthy relationship, both partners see nothing wrong in one another that they need to change regarding appearance or the person as a whole, but instead they help you improve the things that aren't helping you and make you better in that sense. If you find yourself feeling more insecure than you feel confident in yourself while being in your relationship, the way your partner treats you is a significant factor in that.
You should not stay with somebody who puts you down and makes you feel like no one could love you except them because of how "ugly," "stupid," or "crazy" you are. Chances are you are none of those things but it is your partner instead who feels that way about themselves and is scared no one could love them except you, and they project those fears onto you through insults and make you believe you are the one who can't be loved.
But you must remember that you are not the one who is unlovable, and you are not the things your partner says you are.
Victims of an abusive relationship often feel like they can't be themselves anymore or feel so unsafe in the relationship that they are afraid to do anything to upset their partner. They are very cautious about what they do, say, or even look like around their partner. If you live with your abusive partner, this is worse, and you are in a constant state of survival mode, trying to avoid any conflict with your partner as much as possible.
If you can relate to any of this behavior or recognize yourself in these statements, it's time to get out of your relationship. You desrve to feel free to be who you are and shouldn't have to worry about your actions causing your partner to blow up at you every second or worse, hit you, in a relationship. Being afraid to upset your partner because of how they might react should be a definite warning sign that they are abusive, and if you notice they respond poorly to situations that make them angry or upset, it's a good idea to leave the relationship as soon as possible.
Your partner should be the last person to ever lay a hand on you. Love is not fists, slaps, or blood and bruises -- it is kisses, cuddles, and talking out your problems and not resorting to violence. Usually, after dating your partner for awhile and they've convinced you that they are the perfect man/woman, that's when the abuse starts to happen, which is why most people are reluctant to leave the first time it happens. But some signs to watch out for to spot a physically abusive partner before they turn into one with you are if they are physically violent with other people (i.e., get into a lot of fights), are violent with pets, cruel to strangers, or damage your belongings.
If your partner doesn't threaten you with violence but threatens other people you care about such as your family, friends, or even your pets, that is still abuse. Threatening your life by saying things like "I'll kill you," should be more than concerning for you. If you notice any of these behaviors in your partner you should leave them before their anger turns to you. Violence is never okay, and it is never right to hit your partner.
Jealousy is a human emotion and one that we all experience, especially in a relationship. Of course we don't like someone eyeballing our partner, but a healthy habit to practice is just to brush it off and remind yourself that your partner is with you for a reason. If your partner is jealous to the point where they start to accuse you of being the one trying to cheat on them or pursue other people, when you have done nothing at all, you should question that behavior. If they're jealous to the point where you can't even look at or talk to someone of the opposite (or same) sex because they'll get jealous, that is not healthy.
Your partner should be secure in themselves and you enough to be able to know you're not flirting with every person you meet. You should be able to see and talk to your male or female friends without them supervising you or restricting you from doing so. Excessive jealousy is a form of possessiveness, and you are not their property, and vice versa. Trying ot control who you see and who you talk to out of jealousy is another tactic used by abusers to keep you in the palm of their hands, but by recognizing this behavior, you can stop that from happening and choose to leave the relationship.
As I mentioned, violence in the relationship doesn't usually happen until you're both well established in the relationship. You think they could never hurt you, but then they do. The minute your partner realizes what they've done, they'll be quick to say, "I'm so sorry, I don't know what I was thinking, it won't happen again -- I promise," but then never again starts occurring more often.
Don't believe them when they say they won't do it again -- if it happened once it's more than likely it will happen again. In healthy relationships, your partner would never dream of hurting you physically, so when your partner can do it, you should leave the relationship immediately. Do not question it or think to yourself, "maybe they really won't do it again," because they will. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to abusive relationships.
When dealing with an abusive relationship, remember that it is never your fault. You are not to blame for the actions or behavior of your partner because usually, there is something inside them that causes them to act this way, and is actually an internal problem rather than you. No one deserves to feel unsafe, be harmed, or have their lives at risk when in a relationship. Your relationships should make you feel good, bring you joy, make you feel safe, and ultimately like you've hit the jackpot with your partner.
But leaving an abusive relationship is not always so easy. Sometimes your partner is financially restricting you from using any funds you'd have to get out, or they threaten your life or their own if you ever decide to leave, or maybe you have children with that partner. Either way, we should never judge somebody and say "Why don't you just leave?" because some don't have the luxury to just get up and walk away. You never know the complete situation someone is in when in an abusive relationship, so the best thing to offer them is support and time, and let them know they are not going through it alone.
If you or someone you know needs help and resources to get out of their abusive relationship, or you're concerned you or someone you know might be in one, here are some organizations that can provide you with assistance and help you get out of your relationship.
Resources by State
Resources for Men