It’s easy to recognize an abusive relationship when watching Lifetime—but it’s damn near impossible to see when it’s with the person you love.
Abuse can manifest in many behaviors and situations; and it doesn’t just happen with a sudden slap. If you are being physically abused like that, then please STOP reading this so you can get help. But if you’re uncertain of whether you’re in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship, read on.
1. You’re constantly asking, “will this make them angry?”
It’s true that we should consider our partner in everything we do (how else do you create a life with somebody?). But considering our partner shouldn’t mean we have to ponder all the ways a single action could piss them off.
A suitable partner respects their beloved, but doing something out of love is not the same as doing something out of fear.
2. You tell yourself you “just have to try harder”.
There’s no doubt that relationships take work, but that work has to come from BOTH parties. Relationships are about coming together through love and understanding, and that doesn’t happen by pinning someone as “wrong” or “bad.” It happens by understanding each other and seeking a solution that gives both of you peace of mind.
No one has to work harder than the other. It took two people to create the relationship and it will take those same two people to maintain it.
3. You’ve stopped spending time with friends and family.
Maybe your partner doesn’t want you around your family. You might avoid loved ones out of embarrassment for your partner’s behavior, or out of fear that your friends and family will load you with concerns and advice.
Then again, you may just not be feeling up to doing much of anything these days. Regardless of the reason, all the above are signs that something isn’t right.
4. In an abusive relationship, you’re constantly being checked on.
When I was with my ex, I was taking night classes. He knew what time I got out of each class, and if I hadn’t biked home within 25 minutes of class ending, there would be hours of yelling awaiting me at home. I came to hate my cell phone because I had to respond to every call and text—on the spot.
If I missed one by more than a few minutes, he unloaded a guilt-trip of put downs and accusations that no apology or explanation could stop. This kind of blame is a sure sign of an abusive relationship.
5. You suddenly have new habits.
Have you gained weight because you are a stress eater? Is your kitchen stocked with alcohol so you can drink down anxieties and emotions? Do you struggle to fight the urge to hit or scream at your partner when you’ve never been like that before?
Habits like these are a clear red flag, but even “healthy” ones allude to trouble. Running to clear your head is a healthy outlet, and reading relationship advice is always smart. But if you’re doing them obsessively, they may be a coping mechanism that enables you to endure behaviors and situations you shouldn’t have tolerated.
6. Your partner will act irrationally in an abusive relationship.
Whether they’ll admit it, abusive partners are loaded with fears and insecurities. Because of this, they will be irrational even when their convictions don’t add up.
One day, when I was still with my ex, I stopped by the Co-op so I could buy poblanos and cheese for a chile relleno fix. It only changed my expected time home by ten minutes, but my ex was enraged when I walked in. His reason? That was my second trip there in a week, so I obviously must have some secret motive.
As he followed me around the house, his yelling turned to accusations of cheese being an excuse for me to see some guy named Andy. I was totally lost because I couldn’t think of a single person I even knew with that name.
As I fumbled through my mind to make some logical connection, I noticed the Co-op receipt waving around in his hand. On the top right corner read, “your cashier: Andy.”
7. You never get to explain yourself.
It seems like your partner is always doing the right thing while everything you do is wrong. There are times you’re sure you had good reason to do something and your partner thinks you’re wrong. However, when you explain yourself, they cut you off or say you’re making excuses.
Why? It’s because they’re stuck thinking that they know what’s really going on. They’re convinced they’re right, and they won’t consider otherwise. This is a definite neon sign blinking “you’re in an abusive relationship.”
8. They make threats and break your things.
This is not normal behavior, and it’s never justified. No one ever has cause to break (or threaten to break) their partner’s belongings. Expressions of anger like this can be categorized as an abuse crime, as it’s a violent way for one to assert control through force and intimidation.
If your partner feels justified in breaking your things—or is even considering the thought—the day will come that they can rationalize breaking you.
9. You’re scared to do everyday things.
The incident I had with my ex over shopping had me afraid to go to the store. If I went “too much,” he was certain to think I was cheating or using the store as a cover-up. Because of this, any “abnormal” shopping had to be done in secret with groceries hidden in my school bag. His constant eye on the time had me speeding home from school to avoid another night of screaming accusations.
10. You doubt your sanity.
You finally get the courage to speak up about something, hoping you two will finally reach some sort of understanding. But when you talk about what happened, your partner says you’re wrong because it happened differently.
Sometimes they look right at you and say it never even happened. You swear you saw these things with your very eyes, so now you wonder if you’re confusing dreams with reality or suffering from some selfish bias. Our perspective can definitely screw up our ideas of reality, but this is a sign of hardcore denial.
When someone isn’t willing to swallow their ego, they’ll deny everything in their desperate attempt to “save face.” This known abusive behavior is called “gaslighting” and it has no place in a relationship of any kind.
11. Nothing you do is ever good enough.
You really try to give your best, but you still fail your partner nearly every single day. You’ve worked so hard to be a better partner, but every issue in your relationship gets pinned on the things you are (or aren’t) doing.
This isn’t right. A partner is meant to be a constant source of love and support. Love is encouraging, uplifting, and hopeful. It’s not about one person rising above the other because, if one partner goes down, the whole relationship falls down with them. We have to be strong individuals to create a strong relationship, and that means we have to strengthen all the weak points that lead to collapse.
In an abusive relationship, blame and anger will only break down these weak points even more.
With love, one should always know that they’re loved. A partner that truly loves you with everything can’t blame you for everything. Every couple brings their own baggage to a relationship, but love is about creating something that’s bigger than you. That takes work from both parties, and that work needs to be put in every single day.
Whether your relationship will last is unknown. Regardless, you have the power to break bad relationship habits. Make this a priority and start NOW. You may save your relationship, but you can’t find happiness by finding someone to complete you.
Happiness can only ever come in being complete with yourself.