No one wants to be in an abusive relationship from the very beginning. In fact, many survivors of abusive relationships have expressed surprise at finding themselves in such a relationship. So, what are the warning signs to look for to know that you are in an abusive relationship?
“You can have a pet zebra and put that zebra into a small cage every day and tell the zebra that you love it, but no matter how you and the zebra love each other, the fact remains that the zebra should be let out of that cage and should belong to someone who can treat it better, the way it should be treated, someone who can make it happy.” ― C. JoyBell
Many survivors who open up about their relationship abuse regret they failed in identifying its early signs. Consider the scenario: you are blinded by love for your partner and living in denial of the toxic behaviour. Or, your partner is manipulating and making you feel incompetent in fulfilling your marital responsibilities. Or, your definition of an abusive relationship is limited to extreme forms, i.e., domestic violence, marital rape, etc. Amid a lot of uncertainties, there are chances that you don’t realise that you are getting dragged deeper into an abusive relationship. These are nothing but the signs you are going crazy but in an abusive relationship. To end this crazy cycle of pain and hurt, our relationship counsellors have analysed some crucial, warning signs that signal the danger of possible abuse forms. Let us have a look. If your partner shows any of these behaviours, it may be a sign of an abusive relationship. To help you further, we have classified the range of abusive patterns under different categories or degrees.
Signs you are in an emotionally abusive relationship
- Quick to commit: This is one of the earliest signs you are in an abusive relationship. If your partner is quick with becoming committed to the relationship from the very beginning, it can be a warning sign. That desperate attempt to woo you initially might feel as if he/she is romantic at heart, but you must not rush into this commitment wave. Instead, take your time to understand the reasons why the partner is so much in love with you. If they understand you, giving the desired time to weigh the pros and cons of a relationship will not be an issue. But if you feel pressured to become a part of an exclusive relationship from the very beginning, there is a good chance that your partner has a tendency to be abusive
- Constant jealousy: Jealousy is a crucial warning sign for a victim to identify the relationship abuse. If your partner is constantly jealous of your other male/female friends, keeps calling or turns up where they are unexpected, this is proof that he/she is trying to be possessive towards you. Most often, you tend to write off this insecurity as his/her genuine love and concern. But remember, this is the beginning of asserting control over your personal lifestyle and preferences. If this jealousy phase stays for longer periods in a relationship, then this poses trust issues in a relationship, making it emotionally toxic
Signs you are in a psychologically abusive relationship
- Isolation from friends and family: Isolation is the worst form of psychological abuse, where the abuser feels that commitment has entitled him/her to ownership of you. This is one of the prime characteristics of an abusive man or a woman. This starts with mild responses like criticising your friends and cousins about their attitudes. This pattern continues till you start believing that his/her criticisms are true. The initial goal is to strain or eliminate the existing support system so that the victim feels that the abuser is the only person who cares for him/her in the world. If your partner tries to sever your existing ties with your friends and even your family, then he is definitely a controlling spouse. In extreme cases, he may even try to confiscate your phone, or stop you from holding a good job. These symptoms are definitely red-alert signs that help define an abusive relationship
- Avoiding communication: This is another psychological tactic where the abuser shuns any form of communication with the victim. The silent treatment makes him/her think continuously about her faults or mistakes if any. At times, the self-doubt continues for prolonged periods, making the victim feel guilty about a mistake she may not have committed at all. When confronted, the abuser blames others for his mistakes. Most often, he finds fault in the victim’s behaviour, according to which this silence is justified. Blocking communication feels like silence before a raging storm. Psychologically, this communication gap can be more devastating than any other form of abuse and leave scars on your relationship for life. This is one of the telltale signs that he will abuse you more in future
- Makes you feel short of your skills and potential: To have better control in the relationship and hide his insecurities, an abuser tries to highlight your shortcomings and makes you feel incompetent. Even if you are talented and financially independent, he/she will try to make fun of your abilities or ridicule them in public. This is one of the most degrading signs in a psychologically abusive relationship. The series of constant attacks on your talents will eventually rip your confidence and hamper your potential in the long run. As a result, you feel depressed and see no hope in life, except being stuck in an abusive relationship
- There is constant criticism: Criticism is hurtful and demoralising for the abuse victims. Not only does it harbour a lot of negative feelings, but also creates a lot of tension in a relationship. If you face the constant strain of verbal abuse and criticism about everything, including looks and weaknesses, it is the time to acknowledge it as a symptom of psychological abuse. At times, your partner points out your vulnerabilities in the past and degrades you constantly in the present. Such sarcastic comments also inflict silent suffering on a continuous basis. Ideally, it is expected that partners understand each other’s points of view, but such instances widen the rift between the couple and intensify the abuse
- You find yourself asking for permission to do everything: Marriage is all about equals. It is not a superior-subordinate relationship where seeking permission for taking any decision is a considered a big deal. Mutual discussions on a decision are different, and securing their approval is on a different plane altogether. The first scenario features a healthy couple free from any insecurity, but the latter addresses an unbalanced marital equation. So, if your partner makes it customary for you take his permission to do every little thing or go anywhere, then it’s time to call it quits. It’s a good sign that this is going to turn into a psychologically abusive relationship
Signs you are in a physically abusive relationship
- Sexual Abuse: Just because you both are committed to each other or married doesn’t mean he is entitled to abuse you sexually, without your consent. ‘No’ means ‘No’ and if the partner tries to blame you for not giving quality time, or forces you without your consent, then it is nothing but sexual abuse. Usually, in such situations, the abuser uses sulking and emotional blackmail to manipulate your compliance. Many times, he takes out this frustration of your denial in the form of forced sexual relations or marital rape. If these symptoms are becoming a pattern in your life, then the time has come to acknowledge that you are in a physically abusive relationship
- Threatening violence: When the abuser doesn’t get what he wants, he resorts to psychological threats. Sometimes these revolve around physically hurting you, abandoning you, hitting your children, or killing you to show his anger. Displaying weapons and slyly threatening you about dire consequences is also an abuser’s way to show his superior side in the relationship. He/she can also threaten to commit suicide if things don’t go their way. The victim, already bruised due to constant abuse, avoids any altercation and tries hard to keep things in control with her conduct. But all in vain, as a little mistake can trigger spurts of physical violence. The struggles seem unending here, and victims, even after knowing the intensity of abuse, fail to retaliate. Undoubtedly, these extreme sufferings are one of the clear-cut signs you are not going crazy but in an abusive relationship. Recognising the abuse and taking an exit route is the only solution to get out of this ordeal
Signs you are in a financially abusive relationship
- Interferes in your career choices: For a modern, independent lady, her career is as important as her personal life. She finds it satisfying to earn and contribute her bit in the family’s expenses. But at times, this doesn’t go well with her spouse. Instead of being supportive of her career goals, he assures the victim of no need for a job after marriage. He builds trust in her over a period of time that she doesn’t need to work and he is fully capable of handling the family’s expenses independently. Many times, the controlling spouse masks his financial insecurities by asking her to concentrate more on house duties than on office work. If she is working, he tries to create situations where the victim has no other option than to give up her job. So, if a partner is preventing her from getting or keeping a job, then it is a sign of a financially abusive relationship. Remember, love liberates; it does not restrict you and your talents. So, if he loves you, he would never have a problem with you pursuing your job or talents
- Uses money to control you: One of the key signs of an economically abusive relationship is that your partner tries to use his or her money to control you. It may be that your partner is in a better financial position, and tries to win your favour by his or her wealth. If a lady is working, he tries to milk the financial opportunity by extracting her income for loan installments. Like a kid, she is allocated monthly expenses allowance for the upkeep of savings, which is not right. This behaviour may also manifest in financial controlling, where your spouse might keep asking you for bill records and keep all the extra money with him. According to our relationship experts, this is nothing but your economic exploitation. If the spouse is too finicky about finances, then this points to nothing but financial abuse. In case a lady gives up her job, the situation becomes worse, as she stands a greater chance of financial isolation. Making her ask for money, giving her limited finances to run the household, asking for petty accounts and bill receipts are some of the prominent symptoms to identify financial abuse
If you are in an abusive relationship..
If you are facing any of the above signs of abuse in your marriage, then now is the time to act. Remember, it is never too late to transform the tale of your life. The change is in your hands; try to find out the intensity of relationship abuse you are in and get out of it. ‘Quit it’ route might look tough to implement in the beginning, but trust us; this will liberate you from all the troubles and miseries of life. We all have the right to live in peace and harmony. Our relationship counsellors are always there to help you out in achieving clarity on your current situation. Do contact Bonobology’s panel of expert psychologists to chart out your next course of action.