(Closed) What are the signs of an abusive relationship? How can you get out of it?

posted 10 years ago in Relationships
Post # 3
327 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2018 - Holy Family Catholic Church, reception: National Infantry Museum

The only time a relationship got even close to abusive, he started pulling my hair and acting really jealous of imaginary boyfriends. 

He deployed, so I was free. 

Check with the local health department, they usually have great resources. 

Post # 4
1246 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2009

One of the hardest things about being in a relationship like this is that you start to feel so isolated. You know your friends and your family don’t approve and they often withdraw from you or make it hard for you to talk to them about your SO’s behavior. This makes it even harder to leave when you start to feel like you want to because you don’t have that social support.

As far as realizing you’re in one, sometimes it’s tough to do when you’re still in the midst of it. Part of the abuse is making you feel like things that go wrong are your fault. Belittling comments, isolating you from friends, control over your activities, invalidation of your feelings — abuse doesn’t necessarily mean physically hitting you or screaming at you. It’s a slow process of taking control over your life and making you question your worth as an independent person. I think this is why a lot of women don’t realize that they’re being abused, they think of it as something more overt and not something subtle and manipulative.

Most abusers are highly manipulative which can also make leaving really difficult. Their behavior will improve; they’ll make claims of not being able to live without you, perhaps even threaten their own lives if you go — they’ll be the Ideal Boyfriend/Fiance/Husband until you start to think they’re really not that bad, that there is something wrong with you if you thought the relationship was bad. 

As far as getting out of one, I think a clean break, if possible, is the best: just leave. Go somewhere the person doesn’t know about or somewhere where you’ve got lots of support, like family or dedicated friends, because you’ll need it when he comes around and either begs you to come back or threatens you. Don’t be afraid to call the police: They will not think you’re crazy, and you’ve *got* to leave a paper trail of the person’s bad behavior. Without a paper trail you won’t have much of a case if you need to make one later on for something like stalking.

Finally, get some counseling. Friends and family are great, but a neutral third party who can help you really put things in perspective without any bias can really help clear your head and help you recognize what was really going on. 

Edited to add: If you’re near a college campus, lots of them have women’s centers open to the community. The YWCA also offers services. 

Post # 5
216 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2018 - Outdoor ceremony, banquet hall reception

My sister’s friend has just started dating a guy who I believe has the potential to become abusive.

Here are some of the signs she’s been seeing:

Quick to form an emotional attachment. They’ve been dating for a week or so and he’s already told her he loves her.

Possessiveness and jealousy. She visited my sister this weekend and he was constantly texting her, calling, accusing her of flirting with guys, and basically freaking out. He’s also told her not to hang out with certain friends.

Control over how she dresses. Like I said before, it’s been a week and he’s already telling her not to wear certain things. Harmless things like yellow leggings.

Anyway, I told my sister that her friend needs to break up with this guy STAT. It only goes downhill from there.

I agree with Crabcake- check with the health department, or an abuse organization. They’ll have more information that could really help.

Post # 6
116 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: July 2007

This post couldn’t be more timely. Dearabby’s column today talks about abusive relationships, and it’s such an eye-opener. Here is the column, but I’ve pasted the high points below:

1. PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Comes on strong, claiming, "I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone." An abuser pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

2. JEALOUS: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone"; checks the mileage on your car.

3. CONTROLLING: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you’re late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.

4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.

5. ISOLATION: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of "causing trouble." The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car or try to prevent you from holding a job.

6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS AND MISTAKES: It’s always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong.

7. MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS: The abuser says, "You make me angry," instead of, "I am angry," or says, "You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you."

8. HYPERSENSITIVITY: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.

9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.

10. "PLAYFUL" USE OF FORCE DURING SEX: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.

11. VERBAL ABUSE: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you up with relentless verbal abuse.

12. RIGID GENDER ROLES: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.

13. SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS: Switches from sweet to violent in a matter of minutes.

14. PAST BATTERING: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person made him (or her) do it.

15. THREATS OF VIOLENCE: Says things like, "I’ll break your neck," or "I’ll kill you," and then dismisses them with, "Everybody talks that way," or "I didn’t really mean it."

Post # 7
513 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 1969

1 out of 3 women will be asaulted by an intimate partner during her lifetime.

60-70% of men who abuse their female partners will also batter their children.  

I am sure some health care professionals will chime in here, but as a Nurse we are trained to look for subtle signs such as bruising… or lying (inconsistencies). But as a friend or family member, someone may notice lack of eye contact, change in personality, spending less time socializing with regular friends. Increased timidness, not willing to share anything about themselves.

I find it to be a red flag when the perpetrator is calling incessantly all the time to see what is going on (as if they don’t trust you), if the perpetrator becomes rude or over critical or insulting. And then after all the bad behavior, they become overly apologetic… they promise to change to be better… it’s like the worst power play because the perpetrator pulls on your heart strings and makes you feel bad for thinking the love between you isn’t strong because of ‘one bad day’. 

The thing about abuse though, is it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Domestic violence can come in all forms: verbal, psychological, & economical control.  They can make you feel worthless, like you never do anyhing right, they may even use other modes of control by threatening to harm your property, harm your pet, or threaten to harm themself. Intimidation and coerciveness also are signs of an unhealthy means to acheive power and contol over another person.

I think the best way to get out of a unhealthy relationship is to lean on those who can provide assistance. This may be obvious but sometimes victims feel helpless and don’t know where to turn or who to turn to. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has great resources and a hotline that is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week if you feel like you are in serious trouble and need immediate guidance on what steps to take: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 

In every state they have safe havens where they can protect victims and their young children who fear the ramifications from the perpetrator if they decide to leave. Usually these places are free, and will provide immediate services (such as a phone, food, shelter, clothes, counseling, will triage for legal intervention if necessary).

I wish we were better advocates for each other to help our friends, sisters, family members get through these tough times. But sometimes, even those closest to us, don’t know what to do or say to try to help. I think it is best to always seek out support groups or local/national programs to help direct us to be a source of comfort for those we cherish.

Post # 8
25 posts

Can abusers change and improve their behavior without couseling? 

Post # 9
309 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: March 2010

Other posters have done a great job outlining the warning signs of an abuser. Sparkles made a great point that you should always remember that abuse isn’t just physical or sexual. It can be mental or emotional too.

If your significant other puts you down or acts like a completely different person in public and private, that’s abuse. Don’t let him or her call you names or make you feel absolutely crazy ("I’m the only one who sees this side of him — so he must not really be bad…" OR "He doesn’t act like this around anyone else, I must be doing something to provoke him…")

A man or woman that loves you and cares for you should build you up and support you, not bring you down. If you’re worried about being in an abusive relationship, definitely seek out help. No one will look down on you or judge you — honestly, no one is going to look at you and think you brought this on yourself. Abuse is horrible and devastating. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great resource as are people that love and care about you. Seek out friends and family who can shower you in love and support you.

Post # 10
108 posts
Blushing bee

For the abuser to change, there must be a realization that the behavior is wrong and an internal desire to change.  Sadly, without significant consequences for their behavior (i.e., jail, restraining orders, losing custody of kids, etc), a lot of abusers do not arrive at this realization.  The violence or manipulation just continues to be rewarded– when engaging in these behaviors, the desired outcomes are assured (complaince, obediance, submission, fear). 

Counseling is a great place for change to begin… Violence tends to be a cycle where people learn the dynamics of relationships from our childhoods.  Importantly, since you get out of counseling what you put into it, the abuser must be willing to commit to the process. 

Also, the violence itself is an issue for the abuser to address, not the couple as a whole.  Seeking couples counseling while in an active domestic violence situation can be dangerous– honest feelings shared during session can become ammunition for abusive acts at home.  Above all, it is for the abuser to confront his issues with women, relationships and violence— not for the victim to learn ways not to make him angry.   

If you are a victim, please seek counseling and/or support from your local domestic violence organization.  Ultimately you can only control your own choices, not your abuser’s.  You are not alone!

Post # 11
25 posts
  • Wedding: August 2009

This link was given to me by a social worker friend when I was inquiring about signs of domestic violence regarding a friend. 


I found it quite informative, hopefully you do to.

Post # 12
203 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

As someone who was in an abusive relationship for two years during high school I would say everyone has been spot on. But the biggest thing to remember is emotional abuse is just as bad and sometimes even worse than being hit. It really can paralyze you and isolate you. I was very lucky my mother is a clinical social worker and totally recognized what was happening to me and fought to get me out of it even when I didn’t want or know I should. He would threaten to kill himself if I left him, which was what made it the hardest thing to walk away. Also, when it is emotional it is harder to just say I’m going to leave I don’t deserve this. Although, sadly he did hit me once and that wasn’t enough either. The most important thing is to be patient and there for a friend, criticizing the abuser is not the best way to be there either. Remember she is very torn between loving a person that abuses her and she could become very defensive. I’d say the biggest eye opener for me was my first women’s studies class that outlined the cycle of abuse:


Post # 13
203 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

Oops posted before I was done: http://www.heart-2-heart.ca/women/page5.html

This Web site has some great explanations. I’d say to help your friend get the counseling/ medical resources she needs to leave this guy behind.]

@Miss Powder Puff: I think you are SOOO right about your sister’s friend. Sounds very familiar to my own situation. She wants to lose this guy stat.

Post # 14
14183 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

I personally believe that some people never change. They always promise to, but people are unfortunately hard wired a certain way. The need to put somebody down, belittle them, be jealous, be possessive, etc does not go away. I was in a possessive relationship before starting college and something told me it would just get worse and worse and worse. Mom said it didn’t seem right either. After 8 months, I let him go, then met somebody FANTASTIC a few months later (yeah that guy i’m marrying now!). I firmly believe everything works out for a reason. Even if the abuse isn’t physical, the emotional abuse is just as bad! A relationship should never make you unhappy or take you away from your family or friends. A relationship should contribute to the overall good in your life and you should ALWAYS feel safe, loved, and appreciated. I think your family and friends can be excellent judges of people. If your mom or sister or brother doesn’t like the guy, chances are they have a legit reason. They only want you to be happy and sometimes it takes somebody from the outside looking in to really, truly see it. My mom is the only person I know who will tell me the truth, no matter how bad it hurts (like when my butt gets big? she’s the first to tell me!). My only advice to somebody in this sort of situation is to seek shelter immediately. Trust your gut! It isn’t worth your health or your life as abuse always escalate, and they always promise to change and be better, sometimes claiming they cannot live without you, knowing full well the guilt will make you stay. You should never be made to feel bad about yourself in a relationship or feel threatened. I’m glad to see this thread appear so women are more prepared and maybe somebody out there will see this and some good can come of it. It breaks my heart to see women in abusive relationships, then turn around and run back to the guy.

Post # 15
883 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: April 2009

While I feel those are all great posts about signs and patterns… it seems like they are only focusing on one kind of abusive relationship.  (NOTE:  the "I knew" "I felt" etc are all what it was for me then inside of it. Now, on the outside, its a different perspective obviously).

For me (yes, me personally), it started with being so head over heels in a passionate relationship.  He was adventerous and had a great Aladin complex (street rat who can show you a whole new world).  I knew that I would never find a love like this again… I knew because he told me… alot… and I believed him.  That was the first step off the edge for me. I went to college and he traveled the country, and then he was back with a vengence because he knew I had betrayed him. (I kissed another guy at a party, but he was convinced that it was far more than that.) I was desperately in love, and desperate not to let this once in a lifetime love slip away from me…. I was going to fight for it. And I did. Verbally, mentally, and eventaully physically. He controlled when I went to class, and who I talked to.  He checked my phone and followed me from time to time. But I was ok with that because I was still proving to him that I hadn’t actually cheated on him… and it was my fault for kissing the other guy anyway. When it turned physical, I fought back.  I didn’t loose every fight… we were in this together.  Because I fought back and it wasn’t one sided, it had to be partly my fault too.  I wasn’t being abused, we were fighting.  If I lost all the time, that meant I was being abused. But I wasn’t the only one with brusies, so this was just a very complicated passionate relationship.

It ended in a restraining order and police intervention, but it started with the mental control and me thinking that I would never find a love like this again, so it was worth it.

For the record, I am a smart, driven, strong individual.  I am not the meek, mousy woman that most tv portrayed battered women are. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it can’t befall a strong, strong willed woman.

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