Abusive relationships aren't always obvious — to outsiders or to the people within them. Abusive behavior can take many shapes and forms, from physical to mental and emotional. In some cases, the victim, the partner who's enduring the abuse, confuses these things for love, thinking that their partner is so controlling or jealous because they simply love them too much to be any other way. But abuse isn't love, no matter how much you think the behaviors might look alike and, unfortunately, there are many abusive behaviors that are often disguised as love, so it's important to be able to distinguish the real thing from a toxic, unhealthy relationship.
Jealousy, manipulation, gaslighting, put-downs, all of these are signs that your relationship probably is a toxic one. That being said, sometimes these things can manifest in more subtle ways, which can make you second-guess what's going on. Oftentimes, though, regardless of how much you think they look OK, these situations are truly bad for you and likely shouldn't be ignored.
Sometimes, abuse is obvious, but even in those cases, it can be difficult to just cut it off and extricate yourself from the situation, even if you wish that you could do so easily. Relationships are never simple, abusive or not. If you suspect that your relationship might be abusive and you're not sure how to get out, reaching out to a domestic abuse hotline or a qualified professional or organization can help you do so safely.
1. Asking Or Worrying About Where You've Been
When your partner asks or worries about where you've been, you might think that it's sweet that they're concerned about you or just simply curious as to what you were up to, but, unfortunately, that's not always the case. According to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, isolation and control are signs of abuse. In this situation, while it might seem loving that they want to know where you were or were worried about you, it could actually be more about wanting to know exactly where you are and who you're with at all times. They want to control who you're interacting with, where, and for how long. It's not true concern for you, it's about them.
2. Always Making Jokes At Your Expense
A little gentle teasing is one thing, but regularly humiliating you is quite another. Dr. Berit Brogaard, a professor of philosophy and author of On Romantic Love wrote a post for Psychology Today in which she explained that verbal abuse and humiliation can sometimes be hidden in a "joke." "Abuse is not OK in any form; jokes that hurt are abusive," she wrote. If your partner makes fun of you or embarrasses you, it's not OK.
3. Saying, "You're The Only Person I Need"
For all the talk of "better halves" and "you're all I need," it's worth noting that you probably actually do need more than one person in your life — and that's normal and OK. As noted in the previously-mentioned post from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, isolation is often a tool abusers use. If you're reliant on them and no longer have a support system outside of just them, then it's harder for you to leave them.
4. They Want To Move Quickly
So you've only been together a few months and now they suggest that you move in together. That's romantic, right, when they tell you that it's because they just knew right away that they loved you? According to Hidden Hurt, "quick involvement" can also be a sign of abuse or, at least, characteristic of abusive relationships.
"[A] toothbrush in your bathroom is one thing, but if they quickly want to take up residence, this can imply control and attempting to encroach within your space too quickly," Dr. Ramani Durvasula, clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist tells Romper via email. If they suggest marriage or moving in really fast, it does not, in and of itself, mean that the relationship is unhealthy, of course, but it often happens in abusive relationships.
5. They "Only Want The Best For You"
Again, this seems like a lovely sentiment, on the surface. But really, this kind of statement can also point to control issues. According to Lifehacker Australia, not planning a shared future and always feeling like your opinions aren't valid or you're not allowed to make decisions are signs that the relationship is an abusive one. If your partner wants the best for you and thinks that they know what that is, then your opinions on the matter probably won't mean as much to them.
6. Buying You Clothes And Other Gifts
Part of the control issue, a staple in abusive relationships, extends to what kind of clothes that you wear, according to the previously-mentioned post from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. If your partner is buying your clothes for you, they can more effectively dictate the kinds of things you wear.
Additionally, it can be easy to get caught up in too many fancy gifts, but this can also be a sign that things aren't quite right. "The Pretty Woman fantasy has destroyed too many women - and the idiotic fantasy that a man should take care of a woman financially," Durvasula says. "This can set up a precedent where you do get eased into a financial haze with them taking care of everything — and before you know it, you may really find yourself being financially controlled. Don't quit your day job or get too dazzled by expensive trips, cars, and gifts — as it can often be a charm-infused set up for darker days to come."
7. Saying, "I Just Want To Take Care Of You"
Again, this goes back to control and isolation, as Hidden Hurt noted in the aforementioned post. If you don't have a job or aren't going to school because your partner claims they want to take care of you, that's a sign of abuse. They're making sure that they have power that you don't: if you don't have a support system and don't have any financial means, it's harder for you to leave them and strike out on your own and they know that.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.