Abusive Relationships: Red Flags to Look for

No one starts a romantic relationship thinking their partner is abusive. In fact, abusive behavior can appear loving and affectionate at first, making it hard to tell whether or not a relationship will become abusive. Sadly, an abusive partner’s conduct usually comes from a need to assert dominance and control. What initially felt like love and affection quickly turns aggressive and dark. Abusers tend to be manipulative, so manipulative that they’re able to make you believe this dominant and controlling behavior comes from a good place.

If you suspect yourself or someone you know of being in an abusive relationship, you may wish to use the power of an attorney to address the situation with legal action and ensure physical safety. Let’s unpack abusive relationships, abuse types, red flags to look for, and questions to ask. If you feel that you are in immediate danger, please contact the Domestic Violence Hotline.   

What is an Abusive Relationship?

Domestic abuse (also known as domestic violence, dating abuse, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence) is defined as a pattern of behaviors a partner uses to assert power and control over the other partner in an intimate relationship. 

A person from any background has the potential to be a victim (or perpetrator) of domestic abuse. The patterns of behavior carried out by an abuser can include physical harm, intimidation, manipulation, physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, or any other action that forces a person into unwanted experiences. 

Unfortunately, abusers can be so controlling and manipulative that their partners can’t see what’s really going on, or they’re too afraid to. Abusive relationships are traumatic and can completely distort a victim’s concept of a healthy and loving relationship. 

Types of Abuse

The term abuse encapsulates so much more than physical harm. It comes in many different forms that are all terrifying in their own right. To understand what an abusive relationship might look like, you’ve got to understand the various forms of abuse. If you notice any of these behaviors in your or a loved one’s relationship, that is a red flag. 

  • Emotional Abuse: An abusive partner may reject calling their partner by their given name and instead choose to call them hurtful and demeaning words. Emotional abuse includes public humiliation, threats, manipulation, blaming, and other actions intended to confuse and trouble a victim.  
  • Physical Abuse: Any violent acts directed towards the victim. This includes hitting, slapping, punching, choking, burning, kicking, painful twisting or pulling, and other forms of physical violence. 
  • Economic Abuse: Abusers might withhold or command intense control over money to manipulate their partners into staying. This includes preventing their partner from purchasing things that bring them joy or may help them get out of the relationship and keeping their partner from seeking legal advice. Remember that many legal offices like CJB Law offer free consultations that can at least get you pointed in the right direction to get away from your abuser.  
  • Verbal Abuse: Some abusers constantly criticize their partner’s appearance or skills, call them names, yell, or scream. They might threaten their partner, the children, or the pets. 
  • Sexual Abuse: Unwanted sexual acts, including rape, forced viewing of pornography, forced posing for pornographic material, and forced non-consensual sex with others are just some ways that a victim can experience sexual abuse. 
  • Isolation: Abusers control their victims through forced isolation. They may prevent their partner from asking for advice, financial assistance, or other forms of help from friends and family. This forced isolation is also a means of curbing the victim’s access to domestic violence resources or legal advice. 
  • Stalking: If an abuser follows their victim to work, the store, the gym, appointments, visits with family or friends before, during, or after a relationship, this is called stalking, and it is a form of terrorism. Stalking prevents the victim from feeling safe anywhere. 

Red Flags to Look Out for

Besides keeping an eye out for different types of abuse, there are various other red flags to look for. If you notice any of the following signs, reach out for help right away.

Red Flags for Your Partner’s Behavior

  • Your partner makes you feel afraid to break up with them
  • Your partner doesn’t let you make decisions on your own or prevents you from talking about certain subjects
  • Your partner embarrasses you or puts you down
  • Your partner is often angry to the point of physical, verbal, or emotional violence towards you, your children, or your pets.
  • Your partner forces you to check-in and make them aware of your location at all times
  • Your partner controls who you see and what you do
  • Your partner keeps you away from your family and friends
  • Your partner takes your money to keep you from doing things
  • Your partner blames the abuse on you
  • Your partner pressures you into doing something you don’t want to (drugs, sex, etc.)

Red Flags for Your Behavior

  • You feel like you can’t trust your thoughts and instincts
  • You find yourself doing things you don’t want to or that don’t align with who you are
  • You often have to defend your partner to your friends and family
  • You cry a lot, feel depressed, or unhappy
  • You worry about how to keep your partner happy
  • You find that the abuse started small but has been getting worse over time
  • You think everything will be okay if you just try harder and love your partner more

Do You Need Help?

If any of these red flags resonate with you and make you question your relationship or a loved one’s relationship, take action now. Although it can be difficult to tell what constitutes a red flag and what doesn’t, listen to your intuition. If something feels wrong, it probably is. 
If you or a loved one needs help getting out of an abusive relationship, in addition to calling the Domestic Violence Hotline, you can call the police, file a restraining order, or contact an attorney at CJB Law for advice on legal action. We offer free consultations and, should you wish to take legal action, we promise to work tirelessly and tactfully to help you leave your current trauma behind and start a new, safe life.