In a relationship, it’s often difficult to distinguish between minor incidences of unfavorable behavior versus patterns of abusive behavior in your partner. Every relationship has its issues, and every couple fights at one point or another—some much more frequently than others.
While arguing is normal in any relationship, it’s important that we understand the difference between healthy argumentation versus abuse. Abuse comes in several different forms—not just physical. If you think you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, check out the following 10 signs that will determine whether or not the relationship is abusive. And if it is, it needs to be ditched ASAP.
1. Verbal abuse
Verbal abuse is a common form of abuse that sometimes goes unnoticed because during an argument, you and your partner might say hurtful things to each other that you don’t mean. Using hurtful language or calling names is a dangerous gateway to chronic verbal and emotional abuse, so avoid it at all costs!
An abuser will often put you down with their words to intentionally lower your confidence and make you believe that you can’t do any better than them, which subsequently reinforces in your mind that you have to stay in the relationship. This type of abuse can be traumatizing to its victims and can cause them to have a poor self-image.
2. Refusal to communicate
It’s very common for two people in a relationship to want to avoid discussing certain subjects. The point where this behavior becomes unhealthy is when your partner continuously brushes off something that’s important to you and pretends like the issue doesn’t exist.
If your partner refuses to communicate on issues that you feel are important, then they are likely not prioritizing your happiness in the relationship and are more prone to engaging in other types of verbal and emotional abuse to influence you to “just get over it.”
3. Isolation from friends & family
Abusers often go to considerable lengths to distance their victims from their friends and family. This tactic stems from jealousy and the desire to control, neither of which is a desirable characteristic in a partner. Another reason why abusers prefer their victims cut off from their friends and family is that we are less likely to seek guidance and disclose any details of the relationship, which increases the chance that the abuser’s actions will go unnoticed and unhindered.
4. Physical violence & discomfort
Any form of unwanted physical contact is a form of physical abuse, including pushing, shoving, touching, and striking. If your partner physically abuses you even once, you should ditch the relationship immediately—even if they promise it will never happen again. If your partner is capable of physically abusing you one time, then that means they’re capable of doing it again.
Similarly, if your partner pressures you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, including sexual acts, group activities, or anything else that compromises your own values or your integrity, you need to let them know immediately that you are uncomfortable with the request. If they persist, then you’re likely dealing with an abuser.
5. You’re constantly tiptoeing and apologizing
Abusers don’t want their victims to be independent or fight back, so they’ll often reprimand their victims for doing things without them or for “getting in their way.” If you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting your partner, then you’re most likely in an abusive relationship.
Similarly, if you’re constantly apologizing for things you haven’t done of for things that are beyond your control, then your partner is probably displaying aggressive behavior that frightens you and makes you feel like you’re in the wrong—both of which are signs of emotional abuse.
6. Close monitoring
As I mentioned before, abusers like to control their victims. So if your partner is constantly asking where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing, they’re probably looking to gain and maintain control over all aspects of your life.
In a healthy relationship, both you and your partner should hang out with your friends separately and be able to trust each other when you’re not together. In an abusive relationship, one party—or both parties—lack the ability to trust their partner when they’re not around.
7. Loss of confidence & self-worth
Abusers maintain their power over us by negatively affecting our confidence and making us feel like we’re worthless. If you feel that your confidence has generally decreased and your self-worth has significantly worsened, then there’s a good chance you’re in an abusive relationship.
In a healthy relationship, your partner will go out of their way to make you feel special and appreciated, which will subsequently have a positive impact on your self-esteem and confidence.
8. Questioning what’s “normal”
If you’re in an abusive relationship, then you probably often wonder whether or not the way your partner treats you is “normal,” which is often accompanied by feelings of chronic stress and uncertainty.
Normal (healthy) relationships might cause some feelings of uncertainty from time to time, but a non-abuser will be willing to ease your anxiety however they can, which is often as simple as practicing open communication. As I mentioned earlier, abusers tend to refuse to communicate, and so those feelings of uncertainty will linger.
9. Making excuses
Victims frequently feel the need to make excuses for their abusive partners’ behavior. If you find yourself often justifying your partner’s behavior with phrases like “they just had a rough day,” “they’re under a lot of pressure right now,” or “they really don’t act like this when it’s just us,” then it’s possible you’re in an abusive relationship.
10. Threats & feelings of fear
Couples don’t fear or threaten each other in normal relationships, so this sign is definitely one of the easiest to spot. If your partner threatens to hurt you, hurt themselves, or otherwise act in such a way that would be detrimental to your physical or mental health, then you need to get out ASAP.
Similarly, your partner’s actions or words should never invoke fear. For instance, if your partner destroys objects during a fight or for no reason at all to frighten you into submission, this is probably a sign that they have some deeper issues that could manifest into physical abuse over time.
Did these 10 signs help you determine whether or not you’re in an abusive relationship? Give us your feedback below!
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Jamie graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is an aspiring writer, professional editor/proofreader, and piano player. In her free time, Jamie enjoys reading classic literary works, composing music, and playing Xbox with her husband!