When entering a relationship, most people know the obvious signs of abuse – that is, when your partner is verbally berating or physically attacking you on a regular basis. However, the more subtle signs can easily be just as important. Not only are they directly responsible for your personal happiness, but they also have the potential to turn into bigger problems if allowed to continue.
But, how do you know that you’re being abused if the signs are not so obvious? The fact that you’re reading this article tells me you are already aware of certain abusive patterns. If your partner is exhibiting any of the following signs, we urge you to discuss it with them before the problem becomes worse. In some cases, they may be unintentional and talking about them may help. If your partner becomes defensive when the issues are brought up, this is a good sign that it may be time to move on.
Your partner expects you to be faithful to him/her, but cannot offer you the same loyalty.
Some people are simply not cut out for monogamy, and this is fine – if you agree on it. If your partner expects you to commit to them while they can’t, it might be time to pack up your things.
Your partner tries to control who you can spend time with.
Initially, this isn’t likely to be a problem; you will actually agree with her if it’s better that you don’t spend time with that guy down the street who doesn’t “believe” that you’re gay. However, in some cases this can progress to the point where your partner tells you Your best friend doesn’t really care about you, you shouldn’t spend time with her anymore. This can eventually progress to I don’t think your family has your best interests at heart; you should stop talking to them. It’s important to examine all the clues in this scenario: Sometimes, your partner is right! Re-evaluating all of your relationships, whether romantic or familial or even just friendly is an important process. However, if you find that your partner is making these comments without grounds in facts, you may be being controlled.
Your partner expects you to do all the work.
I don’t care if this means that you are the sole wage earner and your partner chooses instead to play video games, or if it means that your partner refuses to do any work around the house, but expects it to be well maintained. An effective relationship is a partnership, and unless you can split the work in a way that satisfies both of you, one of you will become worn out and resentful over time.
Your partner has nothing positive to say about you.
This doesn’t pertain to a simple lack of compliments, which – while potentially hurtful – is not usually an indication of an abusive situation. Rather, I’m talking about their need to point out your flaws, without regard to your feelings. If they are unable to frame their criticism in the form of helpful feedback, it’s likely that they are inclined towards abusive behaviors – keep an eye out, and don’t allow more than you can handle.
Your partner has high demands for your physical appearance.
It’s one thing to want your partner to be attractive – we all do! It’s another thing entirely if your partner demands that you dress a certain way or alter your appearance (hair style, color, weight, etc.) in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. This is a grey area, because only you can determine what you are comfortable with, but a good partner should love you for who you are, not who they want you to be.
Your partner demands sexual activities that you aren’t comfortable with.
This is another grey area, as often we aren’t aware of our “kinks” until we have explored them fully. However, if you have explored something and have found that you truly are not willing to do it, and your partner insists – this is a problem. (Note: This pertains to unwanted sexual advances as well. Just because you and your partner are committed does not mean that they have control over your consent.)
Your partner threatens suicide or violence if you leave her.
This can be an exceptionally tough situation, in my personal experience. There will be part of you that wants to try harder to make the relationship work because, obviously, you truly care about this person, and you don’t want them dead or in jail. However, the only strategy I’ve personally found to overcome this is a willingness to step back, leave the situation, and let someone else handle it. I was lucky enough to have roommates when I was in a less-than-great relationship, and I was able to reach out to that roommate and say, “Hey, she’s locked herself in the bathroom with a knife. Can you please check on her in awhile to make sure she’s okay? It’s not safe for me to be there right now.” That should have been a hint for me to get out, but (like many people in abusive situations) I wasn’t willing to let go yet.
This is in no way to be considered an all-inclusive list, and the decision to continue or stop a relationship is entirely up to the parties involved. Relationships are a very personal matter and no one can evaluate them but you. This is also true if you notice that someone you know has exhibited signs of being abused – no amount of coaxing will get them to leave their partner if they’re not ready. It can be frustrating for those who are only trying to help, but keep in mind that your efforts to help will sound a lot like the claims being made by their partner, and you run the risk of alienating your loved one by pointing this out.
You should also keep in mind that none of these issues, on their own, is automatically a sign of an abusive partner, so tread lightly and ensure that you are properly analyzing the details (preferably on your own at first). This will allow you to make an informed decision, and will help you to understand if these things can be helped (and the relationship saved). However, if your partner is displaying multiple signs from this list, it may be time to let go.