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15 Early Signs of an Abusive Relationship that Reveal a Dark Side

At first, everything was rainbows and butterflies. But the relationship changed and only getting worse. Are you seeing signs of an abusive relationship?

Signs of an Abusive Relationship

The thing is, when it comes to the signs of an abusive relationship, most people don’t recognize it until things get physical. Once something physical happens, then it’s clear what’s going on. But abuse can take on various forms, not just physical.

You don’t want to recognize abuse once it gets to a physical level. You want to recognize it the minute you see the first sign. That was my mistake.

How to tell the signs of an abusive relationship

When I was twenty, I fell madly in love with a guy who would end up being my long term boyfriend. In the beginning, our relationship was passionate and emotional. Something you’d expect from a movie. But with time, it slowly changed, and the other side of him crept out—and it was an ugly side.

Unfortunately, he drank as well, and it’s not a good combination for someone who’s emotionally unstable. At some point, our fights gradually became worse and worse. I felt like I was losing my mind. It’s not that I wanted to win the argument, I just wanted him to understand my point of view. But it was impossible.

[Read: Are you overlooking the signs of emotional abuse?]

Eventually, it reached a physical tipping point. When that happened, I realized I was in an abusive relationship. So, to help you avoid repeating my path, I want you to understand the signs of an abusive relationship early on. That way, you can leave as soon as possible.

Now, let’s get started. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get out.

#1 You’re always apologizing. But you don’t really know what you’re apologizing for. In fact, you haven’t done anything wrong. People in abused relationships will often apologize because they’re either scared to start an argument or have become so used to being blamed for everything. Apologizing becomes second-nature. [Read: How to be your own hero and re-take control over your life]

#2 You’ve pulled away from friends and family. In the beginning, you probably won’t notice this happening because when you’re in love, you want to spend all your time with your partner. But eventually, you make time to see your friends and family. If your partner is pushing you to end relationships and distance yourself from family, end this relationship.

#3 They punish you. This doesn’t mean they spank you or lock you up in your room *if that does happen, it is abusive behavior*. But usually, abusers will punish their partners by withholding something of meaning from their partners. This can be money or affection. By withholding these things, they make their partner have to work for it. And that is sick. [Read: You should never, ever tolerate these signs of a bad relationship]

#4 You need permission for everything. Listen, I like to tell my partner what I’m up to. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a difference between letting them know what you’re doing and receiving permission for plans. If you must ask for permission before committing to plans, then that’s a red flag.

#5 They always change plans. Though they like to tell you it’s a “surprise,” they’re always changing plans last minute. Though it sounds sweet in the beginning, this is them exerting their control over the relationship. These changes don’t come with any discussion between you, they make the decision, and you must follow.

#6 They don’t support you. Maybe you just graduated from university at the top of your class or received a job promotion. Those are amazing achievements and something you should be proud of. But your partner doesn’t celebrate those with you. Instead, they make degrading comments and insult your strengths. But this is their insecurity. They can’t handle being with someone who achieves more than them.

#7 You always need to check in with them. It’s one thing if you’re walking home alone at night, and your partner asks you to text them when you get home, that’s fine. But if you’re at school and your partner asks you to take a photo of yourself to see who’s sitting next to you, that’s a big problem. Trust issues and low self-esteem are the ingredients of abusive behavior.  

#8 You have to walk on eggshells. You’re terrified of making your partner upset or angry, so you walk on eggshells to avoid any conflict. But if you have to make yourself feel uncomfortable for them to be emotionally stable, then you’re already experiencing subtle abusive behavior from them. [Read: The subtle signs you’re being manipulated by your lover]

#9 They’ve threatened you. Maybe you’ve tried to break up with them, but it didn’t go down so well. When you brought up the topic, your partner made numerous threats about hurting you, your family or friends, maybe even themselves. This is a manipulation tactic to get you to stay in the relationship. If they’ve made those threats, tell your loved ones, and go to the police.

#10 You’re not sexually attracted to them anymore. If you’re in an abusive relationship, your trust has been broken. Once that happens, it’s very hard to become sexually aroused by someone you trusted and loved. Though you still may love them, the feelings of anger and hurt override everything. Your body no longer sees them as a partner.

#11 They’re very jealous. We all can be jealous from time to time. But there’s a line. For most people, jealously never reaches an abusive point. If your partner is accusing you of cheating on them or makes aggressive comments when you speak to someone of the opposite sex, then this is a huge red flag and one of those clear signs of an abusive relationship. And it’s not going to get better. [Read: 15 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]

#12 They insult you. We all like to make jokes and tease each other, whether it’s with our partners, friends, or family members. But there are jokes and then there are insults disguised as jokes. Your partner likes to use “jokes” as a way to put you down with harmful comments. When you address this, you’re told you’re overly sensitive and “can’t take a joke.”

#13 You feel if you leave, no one will want you. Maybe you thought about leaving your partner, and if you have, you already know something isn’t right in your relationship. But, you feel if you leave, you’re going to be alone. No one else will want to be with you. That’s simply not true. I had those thoughts, but with time, I found someone who appreciated and respected me. 

#14 You feel bad for them. They abuse you, but you feel bad for them. This isn’t a natural reaction, they’ve manipulated you to the point where whatever they do has some sort of past trauma connected to it. While they’re hurting you, you’re feeling bad for them. But their behavior is something they can control and get help for, so don’t fall for that. [Read: The devious signs of manipulative behavior you should never ignore]

#15 They’ve physically hurt you. Whether they pushed you, slapped you, or grabbed you, that’s physical abuse and cannot be tolerated or accepted. If your partner has touched you with the intent to hurt you, that’s abuse. It will not get better from here. It will get worse. Call the police, leave the area, and go somewhere safe.

[Read: The biggest and most obvious signs of a controlling personality]

When it comes to intimate relationships *or any relationship*, the moment you see these signs of an abusive relationship, get out now and go somewhere safe.

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Natasha Ivanovic
Natasha Ivanovic is an intimacy, dating, and relationship writer best known for her writings on Kiiroo, LovePanky, Post Pravda, and more. She's the creator and ...
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