Are you slipping into an abusive relationship? Dr Pam Spurr reveals seven signs to watch out for.
Women – and men – can find themselves slipping into an abusive relationship without realising. Sex and relationships expert Dr Pam Spurr talks through the warning signs to watch out for to stop abuse happening to you.
What is an abusive relationship?
Many people wrongly believe that abusive relationships are always about physical violence, which isn’t always the case. People can live through harrowing cases of emotional abuse without realising they are actually being abused. There may not be physical scars but there are certainly mental scars from such relationships.
Any relationship where you’re undermined, constantly disrespected, taunted, bullied and/or criticised constitutes emotional abuse. On the physical side, abuse can take the form of anything from being pushed to punched, slapped, kicked, and other such violent behaviours.
It’s now recognised that even once someone escapes from an abusive relationship, the repercussions go on. Many of those who emerge from abusive relationships suffer PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] symptoms that must be dealt with.
How does someone end up in such a relationship?
Those who’ve never experienced abuse in a relationship find it hard to understand how someone can put up with being abused. And that’s the crux of the problem.
Abusers are often cunning and manipulative at the beginning. They make their target victim feel loved and appreciated. It then becomes a slippery slope as the abuse starts taking place – and suddenly the person is being abused in one form or another.
Here are the seven important signs to watch out for in a potential abuser (please note these are not the only signs and please always listen to your intuition about any suspect, bad or abusive behaviour).
Serious Sign No.1
Abusers have a way of making their victim feel special. They make you feel you’re the only person that matters. And this can be especially powerful for someone who has low self-esteem. Suddenly they’re getting lots of attention and being made to feel that they count and are loved.
Serious Sign No. 2
They’re incredibly persuasive and will start asking you to do things slightly outside your comfort zone. For instance, if you have flatmates and always let them know if you’re not coming home after a night out, they’ll tell you it doesn’t matter, that you don’t have to contact your flatmates. This is how they start exercising control.Serious Sign No. 3
This sense of control begins to increase. At first the abuser may comment on the clothes you wear, making slightly critical remarks. Next they start suggesting what they think you’d look good in. After that you get a feeling that you need to dress to please them. And finally you’ll find yourself on the end of their temper if you wear something they disapprove of.
Serious Sign No. 4
At some point an abuser’s mood-changes and they begin to dictate things. You might be startled by their sudden change of temper in various circumstances – but they always make excuses for their bad behaviour. The abuser will say they ‘had a bad day’, that they ‘didn’t mean to get angry’, and that ‘they’re very sorry’.
Serious Sign No. 5
An abusive type will work on slowly isolating you from friends and family. At first they might say things like they don’t think your best friend likes them. Then they’ll turn the tables and say that they don’t really like your friends. Or they might say your family makes them feel unwelcome. As time goes on you find you see less of your family and friends to keep your partner happy.
Serious Sign No. 6
Where once the abusive person apologised for their bad behaviour, as things worsen they start to blame their bad behaviour on you. They’ll say it’s your fault when something goes wrong. Or they’ll say you’ve put them in a bad mood. If it’s physical abuse they’ll even say you made them lash out because you upset them so much.
Serious Sign No. 7
Be very aware when you start to doubt yourself. When your gut instinct tells you they’re behaving abusively but then you question your instincts, it means they’ve got under your skin. You must continue to believe your instincts about how you should be treated.
Always bear in mind that abusers may have their own unique pattern of undermining you and gaining control of your life. The rule of thumb though is if the way they treat you makes you feel uncomfortable and you feel it’s wrong, and you know you’d never treat them that way, you can bet you’re being abused.