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5 Signs Your Romantic Relationship Might Be Abusive

Updated on March 10, 2017
Farawaytree profile image

Michelle's experience with domestic abuse and adultery drive her to learn about human relationships and the psychology behind them.

When people think of abusive relationships or domestic violence, they often imagine a lot of physical abuse and chaos. In fact, abusive relationships come in all forms, many of them quite subtle.

Abuse can actually start out slowly and quietly, beginning with verbal or emotional assaults that may escalate over time.

When a partner attempts to control your emotions, thoughts, life or appearance by any method of harassment, this could be a sign of more dangerous things to come. Here are some more subtle signs of abuse to watch out for whether you are in the dating phase of a relationship or a more long-term, serious relationship:

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1. Anxiety

If you are experiencing high levels of anxiety in your romantic relationship, most likely something is amiss. In every relationship, there are arguments, challenges, and rough times, but to feel constant anxiety and stress is not normal.

If fighting is continuous and crying is a regular staple of your day-to-day life within your relationship, it may be time to re-evaluate.

If your partner does anything to cause you anxiety, such as repeatedly yelling at you over seemingly small problems, insulting you, or putting you in situations where you feel anxious for any reason, this is not healthy behavior.

Suffering from anxiety on your own is a whole other story, but if the feelings of anxiety are specifically brought on by your partner, please seek help. Tell family or friends and remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.

Anxiety is always a sign that something is not right. Stress, crying, clenching of fists, grinding teeth and insomnia are just of the symptoms that can occur when anxiety is infiltrating your life.

Bottom line: Your relationship should be a place you can seek comfort from anxiety not something that creates it on a regular basis.

There is a big difference between sharing lives and your life being dominated or controlled by your partner's need to know everything about your movements or thoughts.

2. Control Issues

When you are dating someone or even living with them, your lives may become intertwined on a very intense level.

You may end up doing almost everything together, have the same circle of friends, or even work together in instances where people meet within the workplace.

There is a big difference between sharing a life and your life being dominated or controlled by your partner's need to know everything about your movements or thoughts. For instance, personal items such as a cell phone or personal journal should never be looked at by your partner without express permission from you.

Even in a very serious romantic relationship, certain things are off limits. You still have the right to privacy and personal space. Of course, in this day and age, this also includes personal social media pages.

If your partner demands to look at your phone due to a lack of trust or wants to control who you text or talk to on social media - then there's a problem. Whenever a partner tries to control your body, your appearance, your methods of communication, your friends, or family, remove yourself from the situation and re-evaluate.

Bottom line: A healthy relationship is not about control, it's about trust and communication. Your partner should never be in charge of who you talk to, what you wear, or your personal choices.

3. Sexual Possessiveness/Jealousy

Sexual love or infatuation is one of the most intense aspects of romantic relationships out there - especially for younger people with raging hormones. But this sexual flurry can affect older adults as well and many of us have had an experience where we literally feel "addicted" to a romantic partner.

This is where things may get complicated. Once you are wrapped up in lust or infatuation, it becomes very difficult to see the boundaries between what's appropriate and what's verging on abusive.

It's okay for your partner to want exclusivity in your sexual relationship, but there are times when sexual jealousy and territorial behavior should not be tolerated. If your partner tries to dominate your sexual choices in any way beyond what you've already communicated or that goes against your level of comfort or safety, this is not okay.

If your partner becomes consistently jealous of other people they may consider threats to the romantic relationship they have with you and act out on those feelings on a regular basis in aggressive, verbal behavior, this may be a warning sign that things could get worse.

Bottom line: The sex may be great - but this is not something that justifies being treated as sexual property, controlled, or humiliated in any way shape or form.

Once you are wrapped up in lust or infatuation it becomes very difficult to see the boundaries between what's appropriate and what's verging on abusive.

The first flush of love can disguise disturbing signs of potential abuse
The first flush of love can disguise disturbing signs of potential abuse | Source

4. Lack Of Empathy

Having a partner that cares for you and has a genuine interest in your feelings is what everyone would like to have.

In general, some people are naturally more empathetic than others with a better ability to relate or be sensitive.

If your partner seems unable to relate to your feelings on a regular basis or is consistently insensitive to your sense of well-being, this may be a signal to look a closer at your partner's overall behavior.

A loving, healthy relationship includes give and take from both sides on an intellectual and emotional level. No one is perfect but some forms of abuse, such as laughing at someone when they are in pain or disregarding a clear request for help or consideration, can mean your partner may not be capable of providing a healthy partnership.

Generally speaking, if your partner has a significant lack of empathy towards you, their friends, or family it can be a sign of a more serious problem. If your partner verbally insults or criticizes you in a demeaning tone, ever physically or sexually hurts you but doesn't seem to feel remorse or regret - leave the situation.

Bottom line: If your partner is incapable of considering or relating to your feelings or physical safety you may need to re-evaluate the relationship.

If your partner seems unable to relate to your feelings on a regular basis or is consistently insensitive to your sense of well being, this may be a signal to look a closer at your partner's overall behavior.

5. Controlling Communication

In this modern time with a multitude of devices used to communicate and share, many couples have both a reliable and immediate way of communicating with each other all the time. In fact, it's hard to find a way in which not to communicate these days.

When you add social media into the mix, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram, it really adds to the idea that you can know where someone is or what they're doing at any given time.

As far as romantic relationships go, communication is vital. When you're not together - especially in that first flush phase of a relationship - you'll probably be calling and texting all the time. This can be normal at the beginning of a relationship but, over time, to be constantly demanding that a partner check in at every possible moment even when they are at work, with family, or busy with something else - is pushing the boundaries of personal space.

Many people often mistake this controlling behavior in the beginning as cute or take it to mean their romantic partner just really loves them, but the truth is that everyone deserves their own personal space and is not required to immediately "check-in" with their partner in order to avoid an argument or being scolded.

Bottom line: Communication is great and essential but a partner demanding your constant location or even using social media to track you is not acceptable and may be a sign of something more serious to come.

...to be constantly demanding that a partner check in at every possible moment even when they are at work, with family, or busy with something else - is pushing the boundaries of personal space.

Have You Ever Been in a Relationship You Felt Was Abusive?

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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 8 months ago

      There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships: We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them (as is) or move on. The choice is up to us!

      Bottom line if you're unhappy in a relationship it's not always a case of one being "abused". You may simply not be "right" for one another.

      If you don't feel free to "be yourself" you're with the wrong mate.

      The goal is to be with someone who shares your same values, wants the same things for the relationship that you do, naturally agrees with you on how to obtain those things, and last but not least have a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

      Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      If someone is having one bad dating experience after another it's probably time they reexamine their "mate selection criteria".

      The only thing all of your bad relationships have in common is (you).

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you are ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

      If your mate doesn't care about what makes you happy they clearly don't think (you) are all that "special". One man's opinion!:)

    • Farawaytree profile image
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      Michelle Zunter 8 months ago from California

      Love your comments, as always! :)

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      Barasa 8 months ago

      Relationships are built on understanding, respect and everyone knowing the boundaries on where to keep external forces. Its about being open to each other, sharing with each other and being your partner keeper. Secrecy even even on social media is the beginning of mistrust in any relationship. Open up, share, admit, advise reconcile and move on.

    • Martine Andersen profile image

      Martine Andersen 3 weeks ago from Norway

      This is a great article and so very true. Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical violence. Good work.

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