When I first started working at Villa Majella, I was in contact daily with women who were victims of abusive relationships. They ran the gamut from emotional to physical abuse. I acknowledged the bravery of these women for finding the courage to respect themselves to get out of these relationships so their babies and themselves could have better lives. From the outside, these women are different from me. I am not a single mother, I have never had the fear of being homeless and I’ve never been addicted to drugs. It wasn’t until I started reading about the signs of abuse that I realized I wasn’t different from these women because I was being emotionally abused.
After recently separating myself from an abusive relationship, which is still a constant struggle after officially separating from him in September, I started to do research as to what the signs of abuse could have been at the beginning of dating him. The more I read, the more I realized the abusive qualities were right in front of me, I just didn’t know what I was looking for and I was too entranced in the love and lust to fully see them. I know how tough it can be to leave a person you thought you loved and you never want to think there are people out there that aren’t looking out for your best interest, however, they do exist, and I feel compelled to write this blog post to further educate myself and any woman out there who is currently in an abusive relationship or is newly dating someone. Being aware of the signs that may seem like commonplace at the beginning of a relationship will allow you to make more educated decisions on whether you want to continue dating this person or to leave for your own emotional and physical safety.
I admit these signs can also be difficult to detect if you sleep with your partner too quickly. So anything you can do to elongate the courtship will help you to gather more information about a person before you fully invest in them to the point where you want to get intimate in that way.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #1: Blame
Do you notice when you talk to your partner that they seem to shift the blame of their issues onto other people? Do you find them shying away from taking responsibility for their actions? Some things they may say could include:
“ You are so sweet to me, I wish my ex was like that.”
“My boss is such a jerk, I can never get anything done when he’s around.”
“You are so nurturing, I never had that growing up.”
When you hear these phrases, you may feel he is reaching out for support and it can feel so good in the beginning to give it, almost like you feel you’re going to change his life for the better, however, think for a second, if he isn’t taking responsibility for his own actions in his daily life, will he be able to with you? Furthermore, in these instances, he is putting himself in the seat of the victim. Since he feels victimized he believes he has the right to retaliate in any way he sees fit. When it comes to blame, a blamer will tend to turn on the person closest to him, this could be you.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #2: Desire for Constant Contact
It can be nice in the beginning to receive text messages that make you feel all fuzzy inside. He may say:
“Thinking about you, I feel so good when I’m around you.”
“Your kisses are so sweet.”
“I feel like I could be with you forever.”
You can accept these messages as compliments but don’t dive right in for the messages, keep your ears open, because, eventually these nice messages could turn into him wanting to go with you everywhere or you notice he panics when he can’t get in contact with you right away. These are all signs that he may have attachment issues. The healthy man will feel good doing activities outside of his relationship with you because he doesn’t feel threatened by your desire to do the same.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #3: Hypersensitivity
When I first started dating my abuser, I noticed how I was drawn to his strong attitude towards life. He was steadfast in his opinions, and I was always impressed that he seemed to know his stance on every aspect of his life. I took these for morals and at times felt inadequate I hadn’t adopted the same “strength”. I later realized all of that was a façade to cover up his low self-esteem. When he would break down when I would give my opinion, I never thought to think what he deemed to be personal attacks were fueling the anger within him.
You may also notice how often he reverts the conversation back to him, even when you’re trying to speak about something related to you. Hypersensitivity can also be illustrated when he points out how your opinions differ and why his is right. This can be as little as your taste in food to big things like your personalities.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #4: High Standards
Sometimes, a smart guy is good at covering up his high standards with making the excuse to you that he knows what he wants. The moment he says:
“I know what I want and I usually get what I want.”
This is a clear indicator of abuse or of him displaying controlling tendencies. Here is where I see many educated and high-powered women get trapped. These women make decisions all day, which makes them desire a man to take charge. When these particular women hear that phrase, they think the man is illustrating his ability to take care of her and not that he will try to control her to get what he wants.
Sometimes, a man with high standards can be illustrated more subtly. Notice how often he gets offended or disappointed with the people or situations he finds himself in every day. Do you feel like every time you see him he talks about a time when he didn’t get his way? Those are also signs of abuse. The worst part is over time, the more enabling a person like this gets, the more they will regard their feelings as being superior to yours. When I look back at my last relationship, I rarely remember conversations being about me or if they were, he constantly shut them down by seducing me or turning the situation back on him, to make himself the victim.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #5: Family Dynamics
At the beginning of a relationship, it is good to talk about how you both grew up. It can tell you a lot about your partner’s core temperaments and what their morals are. If they had a close family and there was healthy communication, they will hold family, kindness, and connection in high regard. If they had a turbulent upbringing where their family felt strained due to divorce, money, illness or addiction, they may regard those stressful relationships to be normal ways of communicating and having a connection with their romantic partners.
When I first started reading about codependency, I noticed many women who find themselves in codependent relationships feel fulfilled knowing they are “helping” the broken, the individuals who came from rough backgrounds. I am not here to say people who come from these family dynamics are bad people, I am saying if they haven’t or refuse to take steps to further their personal growth in this area, it will come out in emotional, controlling ways in their relationships.
Early Abuse Warning Sign #6: Rushing the Relationship Flow
This sign can be incredibly detrimental for women looking for men to fill some sort of void in their life whether it be a need for love, financial stability, religion, wanting to have babies, not wanting to be alone etc.
In a world of social media and constant communication, it can be difficult to not be swept away by the things you think you “need” because everyone else has them. I’m at an age right now where every time I sign into Facebook, cute couple photos bombard me; people getting engaged, married or having babies. It’s all in front of me and it definitely triggers that “What the hell is wrong with me, why don’t I have these things in my life”, thought process.
The more you think you need a man to fill a hole in your life, the more men who rush relationships will show up in your life. Signs of someone who may be rushing a relationship with you: they try to set up the next date when you’re still on the first date. When you tell them you’re busy and you’ll let them know when you can get together they say “okay”, but then badger you for the rest of the week to get together. They tell you how much they care about you and how they would commit to you right away if you gave them the green light or the guy who tries to get physical with you even after you’ve told him you want to take it slow. These are all signs of a man who doesn’t respect your boundaries and will continue to feel he can disrespect your boundaries the more you let him into your life.
How to Protect yourself From an Abuser
The best advice I can give to any of you out there who are experiencing these signs in their partner or have been in emotionally abusive relationships in the past is to take the time to educate yourself not only on the signs of abuse in a relationship, but also what you may be doing to prolong the abuse. Here are a couple books and blogs you may be interested in reviewing around this topic that I’ve found all of these very helpful in my recovery.
Books on Abuse Recovery
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It
Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths and Other Toxic People
Blogs on Abuse Recovery
Breaking the Cycle
Love is Respect