Is it possible not to see the signs of an abusive relationship? Definitely! Why? Because abuse isn’t “just” hitting or name-calling. These signs of an abusive relationship will help you learn how abusers control the women they say they love.
In this article, the signs of an abusive relationship are described through a survivor’s perspective. Keri Kight was with a man who abused her for years. Here, she shares how she finally found the courage and strength to open up to other women who were with men who were abusive, and how she left the relationship.
Now, Keri mentors women who want to feel more in control of their lives. She understands how quickly and easily women fall into abusive relationships, and she helps them regain their lives.
Are you confused about your relationship because you aren’t being physically abused? Read 5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship. That’s a great article for women who aren’t sure what emotional manipulation is, or whether they’re being controlled by their partners.
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
If you think you’re being mentally or emotionally abused by your partner – but you’re not sure – this article will change how you think about your relationship.
1. Your partner wants your relationship to move too fast
“I was in the relationship for almost a year and a half, and I ended up moving in with him after only knowing him for 3 months,” says Keri. “It was a disaster from the start. He asked me for money within a month because he said he ran out of money to pay his rent.”
She says part of her wonders how she missed the warning signs of a bad relationship, but she realizes now that she wasn’t strong enough to say no. Her self-confidence wasn’t where it needed to be and she had low self-esteem. She thought she was being nice and helpful, but in reality she was just hurting herself.
2. He makes you think you can’t survive or be loved without him
“What held me back from leaving this relationship was that he brainwashed me into thinking he needed me for survival,” says Keri. “He made me think that if I left him that he would be homeless. I was a nice girl, but looking back I see that I wasn’t being nice to myself. Looking back I can now see the process he used to keep me around.”
In hindsight, it’s often easy to see the signs of an abusive relationship. You can see how your partner controlled you, and how you let him manipulate you.
3. You ignore the more obvious signs of abusive relationships
“First he made me think that he needed me to survive,” says Keri. “Then he wanted to be with me every second of the day, and I later realized that it was because he wanted to watch my every move. I remember when he got so mad at me for texting a male friend. I had left my phone in the car, and he saw the text message. I thought I had done nothing wrong, but he brainwashed me into thinking I had somehow cheated on him. He helped ruin most of my friendships because I wasn’t able to talk to them without upsetting him.”
Keri’s partner started telling her nobody liked her. She lost her friendships and relationships with family members (which is one of the classic signs of an abusive relationship). After she was isolated and separated from her friends, her partner started doing things without her.
“It was so heartbreaking and confusing,” Keri says. “He would go places without telling me, and then not answer his phone. I think that was his ‘downfall’ because that’s when I started secretly talking to other people.”
If you’re beginning to see yourself in Keri’s relationship, read 5 Signs of an Abusive Boyfriend.
Signs of an abusive relationship – a summary:
- Pushing you to move to fast
- Making you think you won’t be loved without him
- Constant togetherness
- Isolation from friends and family
- Extreme jealousy and possessiveness
Sometimes, one of these signs of an abusive relationship can be flattering. For instance, if he wants you all to himself and doesn’t want to share you with anyone, you may see it as a sign that he loves you. Possessiveness isn’t a sign of love; it’s a sign he wants to control and manipulate you.
How Do Women Escape Abusive Relationships?
“I finally broke free when I met this guy at a party,” says Keri. “My boyfriend was off with his friends, not answering his phone, so I went to a party with one of the last friends I had. I met this guy and we started talking. Nothing more than a friendship blossomed, but he opened my eyes to what I was missing. We started hanging out and watching movies together, and he was so sweet and nice to me.”
Keri’s friend listened to her, and actually cared what she had to say. This interaction helped her realize how abusive her relationship with her boyfriend was. She started talking to people about the trap he put her in, and ended up filing for an injunction with the local police department.
If you feel like you can’t live without your partner – much less call the police or tell your friends – read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
Sometimes leaving makes the abuse worse
“That’s when things spiraled out of control,” says Keri. “He started texting and calling me, hundreds of times a day. I was told by the police to save as much as I could because it was evidence against him. He threatened to kill me, and told me I better watch my back. He ended up not showing up for court, and later went to prison (he didn’t have a great record to begin with).”
Keri flunked out of school because she stopped going to classes. Her boyfriend knew where her classes were, and had threatened to find her. That’s another classic signs of an abusive relationship: threats about what will happen if you leave.
Make sacrifices to leave your relationship
Recognizing all the signs of an abusive relationship is just the first step towards getting free. The second step is figuring out what sacrifices you’ll have to make to leave.
“I had to file for a Medical Withdrawal for the semester,” says Keri. “It meant I had to create a file of everything that had happened, which felt like I was reliving the signs of abuse all over again. My father had a similar personality of my ex boyfriend, so living with him was hard.”
Keri moved back in with her mom and dad. Six months later, her father filed for divorce. Her mom was going through her own emotional upheaval, so Keri felt truly alone and abandoned. She had ruined most of her friendships, her father was mad at her for not seeing the signs of an abusive relationship sooner, her sister was too young to understand, and her mother was experiencing a similar situation from her father.
Leaving won’t be easy, but it could be the best thing you ever do for yourself. Read 5 Stages of Leaving an Abusive Relationship.
How to Leave an Abusive Relationship
Here are Keri’s tips for finding freedom from a man who abuses you:
Find space to heal
“I finally moved in with a friend and that’s when the healing truly began,” says Keri. “I had freedom, and I had the opportunity to explore more about myself and who I was. Self-exploration is so very important if you want to know what makes you happy. I started going on vacations, and trying new things. I finally felt alive.”
Find your happiness – and hold on to it
Keri says she wish she had done more things for herself when she was younger.
“Every woman needs to explore who they are, learn more about themselves, love themselves, and do what makes them happy,” she says. “If I had been self-confident, I believe I wouldn’t have let him control me. Find your happiness and hold on to it. You deserve it.”
Remember you are not alone
The signs of an abusive relationship may make you feel like you’re trying to survive this alone, but you’re not. There is always someone out there that is experiencing exactly the same thing. It’s truly comforting to talk to someone who understands.
Start talking to people. That doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone about your relationship – but you need to be honest with yourself and people you trust. Find someone who understands the signs of abuse and how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. Build friendships.
What to Do Next
Talk to someone you trust. Don’t hide any more, and don’t believe him when he tells you that you’re useless, stupid, or unlovable! And, don’t let anyone tell you how long it’s going to take to recognize these signs of an abusive relationship and leave. You are your own person and you should take as long as you need to heal.
If you know you’re in an abusive relationship, read The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope by Leslie Vernick. You’ll learn how to identify damaging behaviors, gain the skills to respond wisely to abusive actions and words, promote healthy change, and understand when, why, and even how to leave. You’ll recognize that God sees and hates what is happening to you.
If you’d like to share your thoughts on these signs of an abusive relationship, please comment below. I can’t offer advice, but sometimes writing about your experiences can bring clarity and insight.
For another woman’s perspective on leaving a man who abuses, read A Hells Angel Book About Surviving Abuse.
Keri Kight works with women to build their self confidence so that they can find their true happiness. She believes the first step is to believe in yourself. You can find tips for positive living, happiness and gratitude on her website www.kerikight.com.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.
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