Warning signs that you are in an abusive relationship are often subtle. The abuser usually begins with smaller, more understated gestures that aren’t always seen for what they truly are, and can usually be taken as something much less sinister (for example, you may perceive their neediness and clinginess as cute, but in fact it’s the beginnings of possessive behavior).
Not all abusers show all of these warning signs, but they are a good indicator of what could lay ahead in the future.
Personally, during the emotionally abusive relationships I was in, I can look back and see the traits that I have laid out below run parallel to each relationship; the warning signs were there, I just buried my head in the sand.
#1 – Overly needy: The abuser will often require emotional support, in some form, from you. ‘Bleeding heart’ type behavior can be an early (and ongoing) indicator of emotional abuse.
#2 – Overreacting: Small comments and simple situations can make an abuser over-emotional, edgy and snappy. The abuser can also refuse to disclose what they are overreacting about, to further add to your confusion and upset.
#3 – Insecurity: Whilst we can all be insecure at times; the emotional abuser is often unjustifiably so – they question people’s motives and have unfounded suspicions.
#4 – Lies: Lies told by abusers can often be very small and seem very pointless and trivial. These lies can make you feel like you’ve been deceived for no apparent reason. Aside from being hurt by the lies, you would often be faced with anger or hostility when you confront the abuser about the lie(s).
#5 – Invasion of privacy: An emotional abuser will often appear ‘nosy’ about you and your life. In the beginning stages of a relationship, they may unexpectedly turn up at your home, ‘bump into’ you when you are out with friends or ‘accidentally’ read your mail. They can also often be invasive in their questioning which appears intrusive.
#6 – Possessiveness: Whether it’s not letting you out of their sight or becoming difficult and overbearing when you suggest you do something alone, possessiveness can soon turn from ‘cute’ to full blown abuse very quickly.
#7 – Pushy: Abusers will often show pushy behavior. It can be seen initially in conversations where they disagree with your opinion and feel the need to push theirs on you. They can also often take issue with others who don’t agree with them and be overly argumentative about things most people wouldn’t feel the need to delve into.
#8 – Past relationships: The best predictor of future behavior? That’s right, past behavior. If you have found out or gained knowledge of your partner’s past relationships and discovered that they have left them disgruntled, have been abusive or left them in a heated or drawn-out manner, these are signs that they have abusive tendencies.
#9 – Disregarding: Oftentimes the abusive partner will purposefully disregard your wants and needs and will push boundaries to deliberately do things to treat you in a disregarding / indifferent way.
Whilst some of the above warning signs may not be obvious at first sight, and some being cleverly disguised to make it seem as if you’re the one at fault, it can be tricky to unmask these characteristics.
What makes it more difficult, and if you are like I was, is the fact that you don’t want to accept the notion that the person you love can abuse you emotionally; at least not purposefully. Sure, they may hurt you sometimes, but it’s only because they care … right?
Take the above signs as red flags, and make sure that you don’t bury your head in the sand – it will only prolong the abusive relationship, and you deserve more than that.