It’s not always easy to spot (or accept) that you are living with an abuser. Read 15 telltale signs of an abusive relationship and get details of where you can go for help.
I have a confession to make: I was once in an abusive relationship. My five-year marriage was miserable, difficult, violent and controlling. But for those five years, I refused to accept it was abusive.
One of the reasons was that I didn’t fit my own pre-conceptions of an abuse ‘victim’. I was the breadwinner in my relationship, a successful, confident career woman. I had lived overseas for years and travelled the world alone. And I didn’t have a history of abusive relationships.
You can just get unlucky
As it happens, you can just get unlucky. You can be all those things and still wind up in a relationship with a controlling, abusive person who is very clever at hiding their alter-ego behind a veil of charm when they first meet you.
In fact, many abusers can appear to be quite normal when you first meet them. But during your relationship they push you tiny, imperceptible steps further towards abuse until, one day, without realising it you are living in a relationship you’d never willingly choose.
And it’s not just me. I have lost count of the number of friends that have slowly come to the realisation that their perfect marriage wasn’t quite as wonderful as they’d been trying to kid themselves – and that they too were in an abusive relationship.
Abuse often starts when women are pregnant
All too often, abuse first rears its ugly head when women become pregnant (as happened in my case), which is why I wrote this comprehensive guide to abusive relationships.
But now, because this is such an important issue, I wanted to again highlight some of the signs of an abusive relationship.
It’s very tough I know (as I mentioned earlier, I fooled myself for years) to accept that your partner may be abusive. But if any of the 15 signs I list below resonate uncomfortably with you, please DO read this article and take action. It’s very rare (bordering on impossible) for an abuser to change their ways.
15 quick telltale signs of an abusive relationship
- Your relationship progressed very quickly in the early days.
- You sometimes feel afraid of your partner’s reaction to something.
- You hide innocent things from your partner because you don’t want to cause a fight.
- You often do things you don’t want to do, or that don’t feel right, to keep the peace.
- You see friends or family behind your partner’s back.
- Your partner often overrides your feelings or wishes when making decisions.
- You delete innocent emails and messages because you don’t want your partner to get the wrong idea.
- You often feel that you are walking on eggshells around your partner.
- You feel you are responsible for your partner’s feelings or actions.
- You feel like you can’t do anything right.
- You avoid bringing up subjects that may set your partner off.
- You are always looking for signs your partner is about to get angry.
- You try to manage the world around your partner to keep them happy.
- You feel that you are worthless and that no one else would want you.
- You feel like things that go wrong are your fault.
This is by no means a definitive list, but if even just a few of these signs feel familiar, there is a good chance that you are in an abusive relationship. (Note that none of these signs mentions violence… a relationship doesn’t have to include violence to be abusive.)
Where to go for help
If you are in an abusive relationship, here are some resources you may find helpful:
- You can get free legal advice on the Rights of Women advice lines
- The Women’s Aid website has a wealth of advice
- Citizen’s Advice has a list of organisations that help women and men
- The Freedom Programme has a brilliant online course to help you escape and recover
You CAN recover from abuse
And just to end this article on a happy note, if you are in an abusive relationship I want to reassure you that it IS possible to recover from an abusive relationship. You can find love again and enjoy a happy, healthy, mutually-respectful relationship with a wonderful new partner – as I have.
Read more about abuse
Romantic relationships don’t have the monopoly on abuse. You can find yourself in abusive scenarios with family, friends and even co-workers and managers. If you’re concerned about any relationship in your life, you may find useful advice in these articles:
- The 10 giveaway signs of a toxic person – and how to handle them
- The five types of toxic colleague (and how to handle them)
- Seven signs you work for a toxic boss
- How to build healthy relationships with positive people