The potential for abuse can be identified early in a relationship

The potential for abuse can be identified early in a 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'll start off incredibly romantic (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

They’ll start off incredibly romantic (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

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

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They’ll check your browsing history and messages, and demand to know your passwords (Picture: Getty Images)

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

They may even try and control your finances (Picture: Getty Images)

They may even try and control your finances (Picture: Getty Images)

You might notice them making comments about what you’re buying and how much you spend, even if you don’t spend that much.