Sadly, abusive relationships are not a rare thing, with thousands of men and women in Australia and around the world dealing with them on a daily basis.
Survivors of these relationships often wish they recognised the warning signs of an abusive relationship before they became embedded.
In many cases, physical abuse isn’t where abusive relationships begin, and the early signs of relationship red flags are missed because they are much more subtle. Here are some things you should watch out for in your relationships and in those of people you care about.
1. Your Relationship Got Intense, Fast
In reflecting on their abusive relationships, one common thread among victims is how quickly the relationship grew intense. If this intensity is mutual, practiced by both parties and a result of really being head over heels, that’s fine. But if your new partner texts you constantly, even if you don’t reciprocate, and tries to convince you that you should be in a relationship with them, it’s worth being cautious.
2. Your Partner Is Controlling
When people enter into relationships in their youth, they aren’t always sure what’s appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to their partner’s opinions. However, for the most part, personal decisions are just that, personal. Whether you stay out late with your friends, wear a certain outfit, or get your hair cut is up to you, not up to your partner. In abusive relationships, partners work to exert control as much as possible, limiting who their partners can talk to, what they can wear, and how they can behave. This is never ok.
3. Your Social Circle Is Much Smaller Now
It’s true our social circles can shrink and grow throughout our lives as we develop and evolve as people. However, one of the biggest signs of an abusive relationship is that your social circle has shrunk rapidly following the start of your relationship. Abusers need to be the most important person in their partner’s lives, which can result in them working to push other people away, even your own family. In this way, the victim’s self-esteem remains low, and they’re easier to control.
4. Your Partner Tries To Convince You You’re Crazy
Manipulating someone into doubting their own memory, perception and mental health is a common play with abusers. In fact, it’s so common, it has its own name: gaslighting. An abuser might say “you’re overreacting” or “you’re crazy” or “nobody does that” to make you think that you aren’t on the same page as those around you. The result is that the victim relies on their abuser to ‘translate’ the world for them, because they’ve been made to feel as though they cannot do that themselves.
5. You’re Regularly Humiliated
Abusers humiliate their victims for one reason and one reason alone: to lower their self-esteem. When victims have low self-esteem, it’s much easier for their abuser to take control of their lives, and to maintain that control so the victim isn’t able to see their life without the abuser. This humiliation might start with insults or little jabs, and then escalate into yelling and public embarrassment over the smallest thing. Victims are often made to feel as though they’re in the wrong, making them apologetic and submissive.
6. Your Partner Is Really Jealous
Jealousy in relationships is always problematic. The simple fact is, relationships that are built on a mutual sense of trust don’t suffer from jealousy because it isn’t an idea that people allow themselves to entertain. A common trait in abusers is jealousy, with people being jealous of their partner, people around them, and anyone else they perceive as a threat. Often, abusers are jealous of their partner’s dreams and goals, accusing them of wanting to leave them when they try to better themselves or gain more independence.
7. You’ve Changed Your Mind Against Your Personality
Everyone changes their mind at some point, but there are some things that just go against who you are. In an abusive relationship, victims often find themselves ‘coming around’ to ideas that initially they never would have entertained. Victims find themselves doing something because they’re concerned at how their partner will react, which is a part of the way abusers take away people’s identity and autonomy. This might include being pressured into sexual behaviours that make someone uncomfortable.
8. Your Partner Shifts The Blame
Being a responsible and independent adult is about accepting that sometimes, you make mistakes, do the wrong thing, and need to make amends. Abusers are rarely responsible in this manner, and they’re always trying to shift the blame for their own actions onto other people. This can be for things bit and small, and the conversation often goes “I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t done that”. This is a serious warning sign!
9. You Tell People Things Are Ok
People often get sucked into abusive relationships thinking that they can ‘fix’ their abuser or that things might get better if their circumstances change. For example, victims might stay with their abuser thinking “things will get better once we get married” or “it will be different once we get this money”. As a result of this, violent and abusive situations are shrugged off by the victim to their family and friends. If you have to regularly convince people that you’re happy in your relationship, and that everything is ok now or will be soon, it might be time to take a closer look at yourself.
10. There Is Verbal Or Physical Abuse
Obviously, any kind of verbal or physical abuse is a sign of an abusive relationship. Even if the person said they would “never do it again” and even if they tried to convince you that it was “your fault really” or that they just had a stressful day, or any of a multitude of reasons let us tell you this: that is never ok.
If you feel you are in an abusive relationship and need help, here’s some numbers for you to call:
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 (24 hrs)
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 (24 hrs)
Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Men’s Line – 1300 789 978 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
It’s never ok to verbally make someone feel less than they are. And it’s certainly never ok to harm someone in any way, no matter the excuses.