When it comes to abusive relationships everyone has their own experience. While some of the things we go through are similar, we cannot compare two to one another. Today I want to share some warning signs or red flags that I, or others I know, have experienced in their abusive relationship so that you know what to look for. Abusive relationships come in many forms – parents & children, siblings, friends, and significant others. These warning signs will hopefully let you know when things are not looking good in your relationship because a lot of the time we do not see them until it is too late. Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back I now know that my ex showed red flags from the very beginning of our relationship.
There are many types of abuse, as well. Mental, emotional, verbal, economic, sexual, and physical. You do not have to be experiencing physical abuse to be part of an abusive relationship. Please check out Abuse Hotline to find out more information and all the different ways that you can get help.
The very first red flag that I experienced was the over-showering of love and sweetness. Now, this is not always an indication of an abusive relationship, obviously being shown love and being treated nice and given sweet gestures is a good thing, until it stops and they turn into the complete opposite. When we first got together he was sweet. He opened all doors for me, pulled my chair out at the restaurant, walked me to the door when he dropped me off, etc. A couple months into our relationship all of these sweet things stopped and the real him came out. He showed his more gentleman side to woo me in and get me to be with him. The only time this side of him showed was when we were around family so that no one knew what was going on.
Another thing that should catch your attention is if you are withholding telling your family or friends how he treats you or making excuses for him. I never told anyone about the way that I was being treated or the things that were being said to me. I was scared that they wouldn’t believe me since he never showed that side of him around them. I was also afraid of what he might do if I were to tell anyone and he found out.
It seemed like everyday there was another new “rule” about what I could or could not do/wear, or where I could or could not go and who I could and could not hang out with. It started with what I could and couldn’t wear.. then very quickly progressed into who I was allowed to hang out with and eventually I was only allowed to hang out with him and his friends. This leads into the next red flag I want to talk about, isolation.
Isolation is keeping you from your family or friends or dictating which of them you are allowed to hang out with. As I spoke about with the rules, he dictated the people that I could hang out with or interact with. If he didn’t like them, I couldn’t like them. I lost a lot of friends due to this and still, to this day, do not talk to them.
Gaslighting is a HUGE red flag. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. I remember when I would bring up things that he had done or said and he would act like he didn’t know what I was talking about and said that it never happened or that he never said it. This was a regular thing with him and it led me to wonder what was real and what I “made up” by “playing the victim” as he liked to call it.
When you go out with a friend and your phone is blown up with texts and calls about “who are you with?” “where did you go?” “how long are you going to be?” and them getting mad when you did not answer their calls or texts. I did not have a cell phone when I was in this relationship but one day while he was at work I went over to my cousin’s house and didn’t tell him. He was FURIOUS that I was somewhere he had not told me was okay, that I should have called him before I left to make sure that he was okay with it. Mind you I was a 13 year old just trying to have fun and spend time with family.
Everything that happens is your fault. Plans change, your fault. Weather changes, your fault. You are blamed for everything – getting screamed at for whatever happened when you literally had nothing to do with whatever happened. We went out to dinner and movie one time and leaving the parking lot he tried to be “funny” and put the car in neutral to “rev” it up and ended up rolling back into the truck behind us. That was somehow my fault and I was screamed at the whole way back to my house.
“I was forced into a lifestyle of having sex multiple times a day because I was terrified to say no.”
“I wasn’t allowed to have friends of the opposite sex.”
“I was always expected to take his side, even when I knew he was wrong or being unreasonable.”
“When we would argue he would always throw things at me if I didn’t agree with him, or give up because he was right.”
“I was only allowed to spend money when he gave me the right to do so, even if it meant that I had to beg.”
“She would tell me that I had to call into work because she needed me to stay home with her. This started happening right after we hired a new female at work and I was forbidden to talk to her, even though she was my partner on a huge project at work.”
“He always told me that if I left him, or tried to leave him, he would kill himself or make it to where I was never able to try leaving again.”
“makes you feel bad about spending time with others with out them around, wants to know all your passwords to social media but won’t give theirs, controlling of what you wear out, controls money, and pressures you into sex/sexual acts”
“He told me that he was entitled to sex because I was his partner, that even though I said no or that I wasn’t feeling it, he could force me because he was entitled.”
“She would get physical every time we had a disagreement.”
“Everything was always my fault. Even when it wasn’t or I wasn’t even around. If I talked to another guy he would threaten to kill himself. He would always gaslight me. He tore me down mentally but then acted like he knew he was wrong just to make me cave and forgive him. He always made promises he couldn’t keep or didn’t intend to keep. I felt like in order to keep him or make him love me I needed to try to fit in with his crowd which ultimately led to a drug addiction and stealing from everyone I loved in order to feed my addiction.”
“Sex was conditional on my behavior. If I was “bad” we wouldn’t have sex. But, if he wanted it, even if I was being “bad” he would make me have sex with him.”
“When we were with his friends he would always put me down and call me horrible names.”
“He insisted every bill/account be in my name and was in charge of our finances. He paid late or not at all and when I left him my credit was fucked. I was, once again, stuck to pick up his mistakes.”
“I am a very religious person and the whole time we were dating I knew that he was not very religious. This never seemed to be a problem until we were married and he would not allow me to go to church or practice certain religious beliefs.”
Now that I have shared some red flags and different experiences with y’all I want you to know that if you are going through this it is going to be hard to leave but you can do it. I have faith in every single one of you. You will go through so many emotions, you will have bad days, you will have okay days, and you will have amazing days. None of that defines you, or the outcome of your post-abuse journey. You will have days where what was said to you will overwhelm you. You will have days where you believe, all over again, that you are not worth it or that you will never find love. Those are not true. Fight back. You got this. I know you got this.
Keep in mind that being told these heartbreaking things over and over again make us start believing them and then what happens? We repeat them to ourselves and since we are our worst critic.. we continue to believe them. We continue to tell ourselves that we are not worthy, we are not good enough, we are not capable of love, we are not going to find true love, etc. Those statements do not define you. They are incorrect, a way to let someone have control over your entire being.
And then when you find a significant other who treats you right, who loves you, shows you how a healthy relationship is supposed to be you don’t know how to act. You have been told over and over again that you are not worthy, that you are not beautiful, that no one will love you and now you believe it.. so you begin pushing this new person away because you do not deserve it. Then when they start distancing themselves or leave, you think “wow, even THEY know that I don’t deserve this.” even though they are just reacting to your distancing and you pushing them away. They don’t believe a word of that.. they are distancing themselves or leaving because it is what they think you want.
It is so hard being in a relationship after going through an abusive one. You are so used to being treated negatively and hearing negative things about you that you don’t think you deserve a healthy relationship. I am here to tell you, you do! When you are comfortable enough with your new significant other let them know a little about why you are so distant or guarded. Telling my husband about my past relationship and working through it together was one of the best things for my personal growth.
As I sit here with my kids playing in the background I’m overwhelmed with how thankful I am to have gotten the strength to leave the abusive relationship I was in so that I could find my true happiness.
It was hard to relive the part of my life that I have tried so hard to forget but I know that if I can help one person with this post then this was worth it.
Thank you all for reading!
Until next time..