What Are The Signs That You Could Be With An Abusive Partner?

Sometimes it’s going to be blatantly obvious that you are with an abusive partner. The signs will be crystal clear. However, many times it’s not obvious until it’s too late and you are trapped.

Likewise, friends and family can often be blindsided. They can ignore things that are blatantly obvious, and they can even turn a blind eye to signs they don’t want to confront.

So let’s quickly talk you through what the signs are you could be with abusive partner early on. Then, we will go through the bigger set of signs for the longer term of them becoming more abusive and taking control.

We will also discuss if it’s possible to spot that someone is an abuser, or in an abusive relationship, and if you can mistake signs to make false accusations easily.

As well as heterosexual relationships, we will briefly talk about LGBTQ relationships, and also men who are abused by female partners.

Early On Its Not Usually Physical Abuse

Most relationships don’t start with physical abuse. If they do, then they don’t usually last for more than a few weeks anyway. The abused person has to be drawn into gaining feelings and developing fear through control.

An abusive person may in the beginning not even realize they are abusive, especially not in the first relationship. There could be reasons for this, including upbringing or trauma. Once they do realize they are, they can sometimes calm down and change, but more often they will fight between good and bad.

But if they are abusive and don’t care, or embrace it actively, then it can be a progression that is actually done deliberately, if not actually planned step-by-step.

So usually the early signs of domestic abuse are not always obvious until the tentacles of been wrapped around the entire relationship.

It can be about controlling emotions and the mind far more than hurting the body in the beginning. Physical fear and abuse are not part of this progression. It tends to creep up in stages. Putdowns, convincing you not to see family and friends, demands, making out you are unreasonable and they are very reasonable.

Then it ramps up into accusations of affairs, ignoring you, criticizing you. Controlling more and more. This can ramp up over time into full threats to hurt you or kill you. Or to attack someone close to you, or hurt your children.

Then it often progresses to throwing things and punching walls and doors. A tell-tale sign of male anger is always a punch mark in a door.

How Abusive Partners Usually Progress The Gaining Fear And Control

Once the threats, accusations, outbursts of anger, and general overbearing behavior progress, things can ramp up dramatically.

Cash and credit cards start to be removed, and the money is spent without your knowledge or input. Every single move you make will be tracked, sometimes being followed. All dressed up as saying they love you and don’t want to hurt or they will never let you go.

The emotional control continues by saying things as they will never let you go, they would rather die, and you will never be apart from them. Family and friends gradually get cut off. First, they are criticized, then certain friends are removed, and then the family is removed. It’s always their fault and never their partner’s.

This abuse can grow into a complete dependency born out of trauma. You start to ask for the okay to do anything, you start to comply. You feel completely trapped and emptied, yet emotionally dependent.

Walking on eggshells, you can often be locked in the house. Then the hitting begins. The first time there are usually apologies.

Then the physical abuse continues. Every time there will be apologies in the beginning. When you confront them, they will say that will change and it’s not them. But it becomes more systematic over time, a campaign of abuse designed to overwhelm you and keep you completely under control.

They may begin gaslighting you, making you question your very sanity in a sustained and targeted campaign.

The fear and breakdown become complete. There’s no fight left, you hide from family and friends, you make excuses, and you hide the damage physically and mentally.

Create Forceful And Unpleasant Sexual Encounters

One progression that always happens is forceful and unpleasant sex. It may start off passionate and raw, and many people like that.

They may like the bad boy, or bad slut type, not realizing they have let the devil through the door. Over time you feel compelled to have sex, and then forced. Once rape becomes normal, it becomes more violent.

You are told how to dress, including being sexualized, but then being punished if anyone dares to actually look at you.

You feel you owe them something sexually, you feel you owe everything out of the bedroom as well.

There is no respect for giving you an STD (they almost never loyal themselves), no condom to use, and they may even refuse birth control and just insist you have an abortion.

How Can You Spot That Someone Is In An Abusive Relationship?

Spotting that someone you care for is in an abusive relationship is difficult unless there are some really obvious signs that you are aware of.

Physical signs are obvious. If you know they aren’t into some sort of consensual rough sex then physical bruising and attempts to hide it, are usually a dead giveaway. If you are in the home, or out with them, look at the signs of control. Look at the mood swings, look at how they look at each other.

If it’s your friend, are they scared of going home? Are they checking their phone all the time?

Do they never seem to have money of their own, even if they earn plenty? Do they seem uneasy about leaving children alone with their partners?

Watch out for personality changes. Depending on how they are normally, watch for swings to the opposite end. If they have self-esteem watch for the swing to low self-esteem. If they have low self-esteem, watch for a swing even further downwards.

When with you are they engaged on the phone? Does the partner insist on dropping them off and picking them up? Does it seem like you yourself are being watched and judged?

signs of domestic abuse

Are There Different Signs For Abused Men?

The signs of abused men by female partners are usually mostly similar, especially in the progression.

However, physical violence is usually not so overwhelming and pronounced, because of the physical strength difference. It tends to be far more viciously verbal with the man being put down, both personally and on social media.

He is never good enough, he’s not a real man, he’s pathetic; anything like that is a warning sign.

Physical violence can be hidden by men as well. However, although women can hit men, they will also use implements such as knives and mallets, anything to hand that overcomes that strength difference.

Because women can’t physically overpower you, they may attack you when you’re off-guard, like when you’re asleep. They may attack children or pets, or viciously damage something you are proud of. It can be a far more insidious, personal, cruel style of abuse.

Do The Signs Differ For LGBTQ Relationships?

Really, the signs don’t differ in this type of relationship. Whatever the sexuality, however, the people in a relationship identify, it all boils down to control through coercion and abuse. But regardless of how they identify, you may be targeted because of your orientation. Even if it’s the same as theirs.

They will isolate you by saying that people won’t take you seriously because of how you are, or the police won’t take you seriously. That you will be ridiculed, that nobody will listen to you.

Could You Mistake Abuse In Your Partner Or Watching A Friend?

It is possible that you can mistake abuse. There are consensual relationships that can seem abusive but which are fully consensual, wide-awake, and happy. The best policy is to educate yourself if you have suspicions and watch carefully. Listen, and probe. Ask questions, be normal and see if the responses you get are also normal.

Never confront either partner. All this will do is force them closer together and push you away. By confronting either, you will just give a reason for them to push you away, isolating the abused partner even further.

What To Do If You Feel You Are Being Abused

If you know or suspect, that you may be with an abusive partner, then the first step is to talk to a confidential service in your home country. Search online, there will be plenty.

They will be able to put you in touch with people who can help you locally. If things are really bad, you can approach the police as well, but don’t do it by calling the emergency number unless you are really in danger because if you aren’t immediately then removed permanently, it could ramp up the anger.

If you really fear, or you can’t get anywhere, have an emergency escape plan and plan to use it as soon as you can put everything in place to get away without being found.

The Top Warning Signs Of Potential Domestic Abuse

Some of the obvious signs of domestic abuse can raise immediate warning signals in the people around the woman (usually), or the man suffering them. You may think it makes it easy to identify, but that’s not always the case.

Whether you are looking at someone you think is in an abusive relationship, or you think you are in one yourself, there are several key signals to look out for potential problems, or that you are ignoring or covering up sexual abuse.

What I’m going to do here is talk you through the top warning signs, both physical and emotional.

We will also cover some of the confusion that people can have which leads to accusations that aren’t actually true I’ll also cover the fashionable new buzz term “gaslighting” and explain exactly what it is, and what it isn’t.

Physical Signs Of Potential Physical Abuse

Not all abuse is physical. However, there are usually physical signs that physical coercion and aggression is part of the tactics being used. Sometimes physical abuse is calculated, while other times it is pure lashing out and aggression. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

There are a ton of physical signs, consistent with being pushed over, being punched, choked, being hit with things, or other signs of physical abuse/torture. The most obvious ones will be facial features ones, then the arms and legs, and then the torso. Also, marks around the neck can be a signal as well.

If you notice a friend covering themselves up when they did previously, especially in inappropriate circumstances then it can be a signal.

Likewise, if somebody used the go swimming, or to the beach, and is now not doing that, always wearing unusual clothing, then it could all be assigned.

However, also be aware that there are physical signs that are not abusive. It could be consensual sexual play, it could merely be accidents, or even an underlying health condition causing bruising that they just don’t want to talk about.

Emotional Signs Of Potential Abuse

Emotional signs of physical abuse are far more difficult to spot, and far more subjective.

Often, they can just be a signal that something else is going on. They could just be general unhappiness with the relationship, or it could be something like depression that is completely unrelated.

That’s why confronting someone about what you see as signs of emotional abuse can be so much more challenging unless you directly see them for yourself.

Some of the key signals of emotional abuse that could point towards this happening are:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Developing drug or alcohol problems
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Fearful outlook
  • Depression
  • Look of fear when someone is angry
  • Suicidal thoughts and comments
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of partner
  • Not wanting to talk about partner
  • Constantly defending partner

These can be your own signals, or you can spot them and someone else. But again, every single one of these can be due to another reason, you have to look at a bigger trend to see if someone could be in danger.

If this is you reading and trying to work out if you have symptoms of emotional abuse, and usually deep down you do know. If you look at that list and see many things on there and the root cause is the partner, then you know the truth.

Gaslighting: What It Is & What It Isn’t

Gaslighting is a phrase which is thrown around more and more nowadays. In extreme circumstances, simply disagreeing with someone’s recollection gets you accused of gaslighting.

The truth is that most people have very limited recollection skills. Studies have shown that people’s recollection of events can be hugely different. One person is adamant someone was wearing a certain color, and someone else states a completely different color.

The second thing to understand is that anxiety and previous bad experiences can cause you to project this onto a partner with no evidence at all.

The third problem is that drugs and alcohol can affect how people recollect things and this increases the severity of the differences in the realities perceived.

To be clear, gaslighting is a consistent, orchestrated, campaign to make you lose your mind. A person will deliberately move things, lie, and state that black is white to make you uncertain and back down.

It’s a control mechanism designed to break the person down and get them to not believe their own thoughts, and to completely rely on the person conducting the campaign. It’s psychological abuse in order to condition for complete control.

Forgetting where you put your car keys is something we all do. But if you have got it into your head that your partner is gaslighting you, then finding them where you didn’t expect them immediately makes you think that they moved them deliberately to mess with your head. But nine times out of 10, you simply forgot.

So don’t fall for the modern trend of attacking anyone or whose perception is different to yours. You have to look at the long-term trend of the person in relation to you, and you have to take into account your own biases, past experiences, and mental health.

Gaslighting is something incredibly difficult to prove. However, by understanding what it really is and taking a step back you can spot the long-term trend confirmed yourself if it’s happening, or whether there is something else going on.

Behavioral Changes That Can Occur With Domestic Abuse

Behavioral changes are actually the biggest sign that something is going on. Both with yourself, or someone you know, it’s the behavior changes that are often most noticeable and the biggest red flag.

For example, someone who was previously outgoing and happy and suddenly becomes withdrawn, especially a few months into a new relationship, could be suffering from abuse.

But it might not be that. It could be another health concern, money worries, depression, literally a myriad of other things changing them. Generally, though, you’re looking for several notable behavioral changes. It’s not about someone happy becoming miserable, it’s about big swings in usual and established behavior patterns.

This can be isolating where previously they were outgoing. But on the other side of that coin it can be someone who is usually reserved demanding to go out and then getting very drunk and angry.

So it’s not necessarily about what you would assume, withdrawing, cutting off, going quiet. It is about a big swing in established, normal behavior, into abnormal behavior.

What Controlling Behavior Looks Like & What It’s Not

It’s very easy to assume controlling behavior, and often that is the case. But you should remember that every relationship is different and not judged by your standards, or the cookie-cutter standards of newspapers or advice columnists.

Someone could be completely happy in that style of relationship and be thriving on it, even though you feel it’s unhealthy.

So controlling behavior is not always black and white. However, if someone is referring to the partner as moody, or having a temper, and their previously established behavior patterns are dramatically different, then it is a big red flag.

Physical violence signs, emotional abuse of signs, limiting on socializing, control over all aspects of life, questioning, short temperedness, fear, dramatic swings in previous behaviors, shunning family and friends; you have to put together the big picture if it’s someone you are concerned about.

Should You Step In If You See Any Of The Physical Or Mental Signs?

As you can see, it’s not simple. Although sometimes it is blatantly obvious, and the person may say it to you, or if it’s you, you will know, it’s not always clear-cut.

If you have concerns about someone, you should try and get close and observe. The more information you get, the more you can reach a good conclusion, rather than a knee-jerk one that could be wrong.

For example, many guides say that “excessive privacy” around their partner’s relationship is a warning sign. But think about that, why is it? Many people are very private and don’t talk about themselves.

Also, consider alternative lifestyles. Some people have unusual relationship types that they both thrive in.  BDSM-influenced relationships, for example, can look incredibly odd and abusive on the outside but are actually very close and mutually consenting. Just because you don’t understand it, it doesn’t mean it’s abusive.

Consent is crucial, and if somebody understands that and expresses it to you, you must accept their word, whatever your own views.

So you cannot look in isolation, or look at a handful of things. If you spot signs, you need to be educated and spot many of them before you can have the confidence to consider stepping in. Stepping in should also be very gentle. It should be sitting with that person alone and prompting a discussion where they could open up. Give them signals that you are concerned.

Whatever you do, do not go wading in accusing people of abuse, gaslighting, physical violence, demanding that the relationship breaks up, and attacking both parties.

If there isn’t any abuse and you have misjudged, then you are causing trauma and being abusive yourself. If there is abuse, it could trigger a circling the wagons that create a shared attack which strengthens resolve and leaving you unable to have access at all.