The Early Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship
If we say ‘domestic abuse’ to you, what do you picture?
We can almost guarantee that many of you would have thought of black eyes, bruising, tears… in short, the signs of a violent attack.
However, there’s still a big difference between what people might imagine and the reality.
Although physical violence will often eventually happen in an abusive relationship, the actual abuse starts long before this. Control, manipulation and, as strange as it sounds, charm, are all part of it.
While it’s difficult to condense something so complex into a few points, here are some of the things you should look out for.
At first, they are incredibly romantic
In the early days they will be very, very romantic – probably the most romantic person you’ve ever known.
They might lavish you with gifts, pay you shedloads of attention all the time, be chivalrous and attentive. They will act completely and totally, 100% devoted to you – at first.
Just being romantic by itself isn’t a sign of abuse, of course. But abusers often uses romantic gestures and gifts to distract you from other, more sinister behaviour.
They move really fast in the relationship
They tell you they love you, that they’ve never been so in love, that they can’t live without you, and they’ll want to see you all the time.
Then they will want exclusivity straight away. They may even insist you move in together.
If you’re a woman, some abusers might also push you into having children before you’re ready (or at least try to – and make you feel bad if you object).
It feels like you’re in a speeding car that you just don’t know how to stop – you’re overwhelmed by the romance, but you feel like it’s moving too soon.
Listen to your gut instincts. Don’t go faster in the relationship than you’re comfortable with, no matter how much they insist.
They get jealous easily and want you for themselves
At first, they get jealous about other men or women looking at you. You might think this is sweet, at first.
Then they’ll say they don’t like you hanging around colleagues and friends they think might be interested in you.
And then, the paranoia sets in. They text or call you almost constantly, and want to know what you’re up to all the time. They might even tag along to things with your friends and family when they haven’t been invited.
Soon, they will get suspicious that you’re flirting with other people, or maybe even cheating. They might accuse you of these things.
And it’s all only because they love you so much, and just can’t stand the thought of anyone else being around you. Or at least, that’s what they’ll say.
They dislike your friends – and make sure you know it
Everyone wants their other half to get on with their closest friends. Sometimes this isn’t quite the case, but they all make an effort anyway. And that’s fine.
But if your partner hates your friends and badmouths them to you, this should ring alarm bells.
Soon they might make you feel bad for meeting a particular friend or group of friends, and will refuse to go along when you extend invitations.
Then they want to know why you’re hanging out with your friends so much, and asking whether you really need to meet up with your family again.
You’ll feel guilty and may start cancelling plans or making excuses to people just to keep your partner happy.
This is how abusers isolate you from your support network. Eventually, you’ll lose touch with people who were once closest to you.
They’ll worry about you
A little bit of occasional worry is normal in a relationship. No one wants a partner who’d happily let them walk down a dark alley at 3am.
However, there are different levels. An abusive partner will seem to be constantly on edge – wondering why you haven’t texted or called back straight away, or why you’ve come home late.
Then they’ll grill you on who you saw, where you went, what you did… but it’s only because they’re concerned.
Or at least that’s what they’ll say. Really, their concern for your well-being is a mask for control.
It won’t be long before they start claiming to know what’s best for you, and deciding on your behalf who you can see and where you can go.
Soon you’ll be asking for their permission and approval for all of your decisions, as they gradually take control over your life.
They check up on your internet history
They might ask a lot of questions about what you’re doing on your computer, and will probably check up on your browsing history.
They’ll ask to know what your passwords are for your accounts, and if you don’t tell them they’ll accuse you of hiding something.
You might even suspect they’ve been reading your texts or Facebook messages. If they see you’ve received a message, they’ll ask who it’s from and what it says.
Eventually, you might find yourself switching your phone off to make things easier.
They criticise your spending
You might notice them making comments about what you’re buying and how much you spend, even if you don’t spend that much.
You’ll feel like you’re with two different people
Sometimes they’ll be sweet, charming, loving. This is the side of them that everyone else sees. This is who you fell in love with.
Other times, they’ll make you feel like Hell. They might put you down constantly, pick on small aspects of your personality and blow them up to massive proportions.
They’ll start to make you feel insecure, inferior, weak. They might tell you off, shout at you and belittle you.
Then there are the guilt trips. You’ll feel guilty a lot of the time for things ‘you’ve done’ – even very small things become a big deal.
And you convince yourself that if you just do things a little differently – become a bit better – then they’ll be that sweet, loving person all the time.
You keep hoping for the charming person you love, but will spend most of your life under the thumb of the one controlling you.
Eventually, you won’t be able to tell the difference between them.
They are always the victim
Someone else is always to blame.
Bad day at work? It’s a colleague’s fault. Problems with friends? It’s their problem.
Just having a generally bad day? It’s your fault. They shout at you, hurt you, put you down? That’s your fault too.
Even when it makes no sense they will find a way to make it all your fault. They might say things like, ‘It’s just because I love you so much’, or ‘I wish you didn’t make me so crazy. I’m never like this’.
You will be made to feel responsible for all of their bad moods and behaviour, and will be blamed when you can’t cheer them up.
Eventually, when they hit you, they’ll blame you for this too.
What does this mean?
If this sounds like your relationship, it doesn’t matter whether or not they’ve hit you.
This is already abuse.
But this doesn’t have to define you. You deserve much better than this – you deserve real love.
Anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse – regardless of gender or sexuality. What is happening to you does not reflect on you.
And you don’t have to deal with this alone.
If you need it, reach out for help. Today.
- Emergency? Call 000
- Telephone Counselling 1800 737 732