Am I in an abusive relationship?

Many people ask me this question: ‘Am I in an abusive relationship?’ 

You’ve got to remember that abuse doesn’t always mean physical violence.   It can be emotional abuse as well – known as coercive control.  Where someone coerces or manipulates you, to gain control.

The tactics they use are designed to confuse you.  It’s no wonder so many of aren’t even aware we’re in an abusive relationship.  I didn’t at first.

I wondered too:

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So, I’m going to ask you a series of questions that I hope will clarify whether or not you’re in an abusive relationship.   Try to be really honest with yourself when answering them.

14 Emotional abuse warning signs

  1. Does this relationship feel right to you?  What is your gut telling you? 

Our gut instincts are there for a reason. They’re our warning system sounding out danger.

When I first met my ex, all the red flags were there.  All the warning signs were there.  But I ignored them and I ignored my gut, which was screaming at me the relationship was no good for me.

I excused any behaviour that I thought was a little off.   So, really ask yourself: does the relationship feel right to you?

Your gut instincts can be the best indicator.  You’ve just got to listen to them.

      2. Are you feeling confused?

Are you getting mixed signals from your partner or the narcissist in your life?

They may be telling you:  ‘I love you’ or ‘You’re the only one for me’, but their behaviour is showing you the opposite.

You’re feeling like you’re walking on eggshells all the time.  Never know when you’re going to get the nice side of them or their nasty side.

You’re really confused because you think: ‘What did I do?

Did I do something wrong to make them so angry?’ 

‘Do they really love me when they treat me like that’?

Are you feeling confused?  A sense of always being on edge

      3. Does your relationship feel like psychological warfare? 

Do you always have to be on guard for the next accusation, eruption of anger.  Or whatever they throw at you from out of the blue?

A healthy relationship isn’t like that.   It’s not a psychological battle.

But, an unhealthy relationship thrives on chaos and drama.

      4. Do you feel sorry for them?

When you first met them, did they start to tell you about their unhappy past?

They’ve been hard done by?  Unlucky in life or previous relationships?

Perhaps they’ve told you their ex had affairs?

So, you start to feel sorry for them.

They’ve had a difficult upbringing, they’ve lost their job, they’re hard done by right now.  Have they told you anything like that?

Do you feel sorry for them?

Do you feel this need to rescue them? That they’re really the most wonderful person, except for this bad luck they’ve had.

Do they or even you use this to excuse away any bad behaviour on their part?

Do you feel that if only you can prove to them you’re the most loving person in the world.  You’re not like their exes before.  Then, they’re going to be okay, you can save them and the relationship will work?

      5.  Do you feel supported and encouraged?

Do you share good news and your successes – a promotion at work, for example?

Or do you hide things like that because they’ll only tear you down?   They like to rain on your parade?

If you have a healthy relationship, your partner is happy to share in your successes.

Do you feel supported and encouraged in your relationship that way.

      6.  Do you trust them?

Really trust them to be your true self with them?

Are you able to reveal the most vulnerable parts of yourself to them?

Or do you fear if by doing so they’ll use it as a weapon against you later?

A healthy relationship is one in which you can be vulnerable with each other.  There is sufficient trust to do so and know you’ll come to no harm.

This is what allows you to forge the deeper connection needed for a relationship to grow and sustain long-term.

      7.  Have there been any warning signs?

Have there been any of those warning signs that I first saw and ignored?

The ones perhaps you’ve seen and have been ignoring too?

Love-bombing is a classic one.  When you first met them were you love-bombed with an intensity?

Where they come on full on and strong.  Things move very quickly.   Perhaps they wanted you to move in together, within weeks of meeting?

Did they make lots of promises?  A long, happy life?  Marriage and babies?

Was there this feeling of fireworks?  Or that you were pulled into this intoxicating world of theirs?

Did they put you on a pedestal?  They’d never met anyone like you before in their life?

      8.  Did they start to question your behaviour?

After putting you up on that pedestal, did they start to question your behaviour?

For example, they might start to ask you about past relationships.  How many people you’ve slept with?

As a way to imply, perhaps you aren’t the Madonna they thought your were, but a bit of the whore.

You start having to prove I’m not like that!  I’m nice. I’m good.

You start having to live up to their very high expectations.  Ones they put there in the first place.

Are you seeing any of this behaviour?

      9.  Are they isolating you from family and friends?

Have they been isolating you from family and friends?

It might be subtle at first.  It might feel flattering when they say: ‘Do you really need to go out with your friends on Friday night?

Don’t you love me enough to want stay home with me and watch TV?’ 

Or they might start to question your family, saying things like: ‘Your parents don’t have your best interests at heart’. 

Or that ‘one of your friends is a bad influence on you’.

      10. Are they checking up on you?

Again, it might feel flattering at first.   Getting 20 texts per day and phone calls asking ‘Where are you? Who are you with’?

But are you feeling that the intensity of this checking up on you has got to the point where you’re feeling suffocated?

You’re feeling like your life is now your own?

This is a form of control and it’s not a healthy one.

      11. Are they micromanaging you?

Another way of questioning whether this is an abusive relationship is to look at whether they’re micromanaging you.

At first, it might come across as a show of love: ‘You’re so beautiful, you don’t need to wear make up’.  But, their implying: ‘don’t ever wear it again’. 

They don’t want you to look attractive to other men.

Or they might say: ‘I don’t like you wearing short skirts. I don’t like it when you do X or Y’ 

So, you start to change what you do, what you wear, what you say.

They may give you small amounts of money, if you’re not working.  Then expect a receipt for every minor thing and question you about them all.

      12.  Are they jealous and possessive?

Jealous of any other male or female in your life?  Jealous of your family and friends?

It might go to the extreme of imagining you’re having affairs with your colleagues at work.

It can become suffocating.  You’ve got to justify every moment when you’re with other people.  What did you talk about?  How long did you spend with (someone) at work?

Does it feel like they want you all to themselves.

      13.  Do they justify their anger?

Saying things like: ‘Well if you hadn’t of said that as soon as I walked in the door, I wouldn’t have got so angry’

‘I was angry at you because you embarrassed me in front of your friends’. 

‘I felt unwell that day and you didn’t care’

Excuses, excuses – to justify their anger or bad behaviour as everybody’s else’s fault.

Probably your fault, most of all.  Never theirs.

      14.  Are you seeing the first signs of physical abuse?

A little push or a shove?  Something they later say wasn’t really as bad as you made out?

It wasn’t really violence because their hand was open not closed when they slapped you?

Something they dismiss as not that bad.  You are exaggerating it.   It’s all your fault, anyway, because you provoked them.

Are you seeing any of those first signs or hints of violence?  If so, then I would urge you to seek help and support.  I’ve listed Domestic Violence resources here. 

Are you still wondering: ‘Am I in an abusive relationship?

If your answer to many of these questions is yes, then I would question whether you are indeed in one.

I would ask yourself:  ‘What is my gut telling me?’

‘Does this relationship feel right to me?’

And the most honest question you can ask yourself now is: ‘Am I in denial?’

If the answer to that is yes,  I will tell you: ‘You deserve better’!

PS – You are not to blame for any abuse, no matter what they tell you.

If you want me to take you step-by-step and show you how you can turn you life around like I did.  From a victim of domestic violence to finding success in life, career and long-term healthy love.   Try my online video courses here.

Does this help you to know if you’re in an abusive relationship?  Are you still confused if you are or not? Let me know in the comments below. 

Are your relationships – past or present – good enough for you?  Do you deserve better?  Try my FREE QUIZ to find out!

Written by Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence.  Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon.  She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too.  Find out more about Vivian Here.

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