8 Subtle Signs Of An Abusive Relationship

When you think about what an abusive relationship looks like, you probably picture violence, yelling, and bruises.

While physically abusive relationships do happen, the signs of an abusive relationship are often far more subtle. Some people go through their entire lives with a partner who abuses them without fully coming to grips with it.

There are some subtle signs of an abusive person you should keep an eye out for.

Here are 8 you should know.

1. Putting you down in public

A little bit of teasing is pretty normal for a romantic couple. But there is a significant difference between some light-hearted ribbing and legitimate put downs and humiliation in front of others. You may notice that there is a change in the way they talk to you and about you when they are with their friends or, even worse, your friends. If you feel this is the case, take a deep breath and reflect back on other times you’ve been together with friends. Do you often leave those situations feeling bad about yourself? If so, you may be experiencing a subtle sign of an abusive partner.

2. Unpleasant sarcasm

Sarcasm can be objectively funny, but it can also be incredibly hurtful. Sarcasm that attempts to thinly veil loaded criticisms can leave you feeling hurt and looking inward at your own insecurities. When you are in a state of feeling insecure, you are much easier for an abuser to manipulate. The idea isn’t always to directly abuse you, but get you abusing yourself.

3. Gaslighting yourself

Gaslighting is defined as a way of manipulating a person into questioning reality and their own sanity. You hear a lot about how to defend yourself against a gaslighting abuser, but what do you do when you’re gaslighting yourself? Abusive people look for those who aren’t confident in themselves so they can rewrite your internal script. And once that script has been written, they can sit back and watch you gaslight yourself. It can be hard to come to grips with it, but you can protect yourself from this sort of manipulation by being sure of your own feelings, wants, and needs.

4. Deflection

Abuse coming from a partner is not always an attack, but is at times a defense. It doesn’t make their defensiveness any more abusive, but it is a misconception to assume that abusiveness is only an outward attack. Sometimes, an abuser will defend themselves with deflection. You bring up an issue you’re having with them and, instead of actively listening and looking inward, they deflect the issue and try to turn it around on you. Don’t allow this to happen. Say, “I really want to talk about the way that makes you feel but right now, I want to address the issue I’m having with you.”

5. Moodiness and anger

Anger is normal. There are things that make all of us angry. But abusers will sometimes use anger, and not even anger at you, as a means to manipulate your behavior. For example, if your partner comes home from work angry because they hate their job every day, over time, that’s bound to change your behavior. You’ll make room for the anger they bring home every day, and often the space you make comes at the expense of yourself. This type of behavior causes you to diminish the importance of what goes on in your day to day life and focus more of your attention on them.

6. Using sexuality as a weapon

A sad reality of life is that abusers will use sex, something that should make a couples’ bond even more powerful, as a means to manipulate you. They may try to force you to change certain things about yourself by deliberately having a ‘wandering eye’ in front of you, or going as far as to cheat. The idea is to make you jealous of the people they’re flirting with in an attempt to get you to behave in a certain way, thus getting more of what they want at your expense.

7. Control

When we think about how manipulators ‘control’ us, we tend to think about them controlling money or our social lives, but that isn’t always how control manifests. They will sometimes move to control some of the more banal aspects of a relationship, like paying the bills or doing yardwork. It may seem nice at first that they deal with all of these things for you, but you may find yourself suddenly no longer in charge of your phone plan, what flowers get planted in the garden, or even how much electricity you use. This type of control can be just as effective as controlling your money.

8. Isolation

Isolation can be a tricky thing to see from the outside of a relationship, which is what makes it a pretty common tool of an abuser. You can be sitting and having a drink at a bar with a person who is otherwise isolated by their partner and not realize it. It starts with the abuser always participating in group activities with you. Then it evolves into not wanting you to go out without them. The final stage is not letting you go out without them. Where once you may have been an independent and outgoing person, suddenly you can’t go anywhere without your partner without there being emotional consequences.

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