It's a sad fact of the world that not all relationships are loving and healthy. While every relationship has its ups and downs, an abusive relationship's problems run much deeper than arguing over who's turn it is to take out the trash or do the dishes.
Abusive relationships aren't always as easy to spot as you might think, especially from the inside. Abusers are masters of disengaging your defense mechanism and employ nasty tricks to obfuscate the real issues and replace them with their own twisted agendas- agendas that have nothing to do with your happiness and well being and everything to do with their own twisted gratification.
If your relationship is in the shitter and you aren't sure if it's abuse or just a rough patch, this list of red flags should help you get your bearings so you can begin the work of fixing your problems or in the case of an abusive relationship, getting the fuck out before things go too far.
9. The Good Times Never Come Back
A lot of abusive relationships start off like any others. There is tenderness, compassion, and mutual benefit to both parties involved. As time goes on, the abuser lulls their victim into a false sense of security and once their claws are dug in deep, they begin to show their true face.
This often manifests as persistent and constant insecurity and general unhappiness in the relationship. While this alone isn't enough to call it abuse- you could just be in a shitty relationship with an incompatible partner- it is definitely a sign that something is terribly wrong between you. If this feeling of generalized malaise in your relationship manifests alongside any of the other signs on this list, you're probably being abused.
8. You're Dating Your Own Rapist
Sound harsh? Well, it is. When you are in a relationship with a partner who pressures you into performing sexual acts you aren't comfortable with or just pressures you into sex when you aren't down for it, that's exactly what you are doing.
There is no room in a loving relationship for coercion, full stop. Sex should always be consensual and mutually gratifying, no matter what your kinks. Even if you are into playing with power in your relationships, the terms and boundaries need to be discussed and agreed upon. Don't let your partner use their position as the "Dom" of the relationship to strong-arm you into shit you would never do and haven't agreed to.
If there is a huge discrepancy between your sex drives, you might want to consider exploring other ways of achieving mutual satisfaction, like opening up your relationship. Under no circumstances, however, are you obligated to provide sex on demand to your partner. If they act otherwise, they're being a rapey creep and you should seriously examine why the hell you put up with that.
7. Schrödinger's Douchebag
This is someone who says something one moment and decides whether to claim they meant it or not based on your reaction. This usually manifests as a partner saying some absolutely horrible shit to wear you down and if it doesn't stick, they claim that they " didn't really mean it" to bring you back into their good graces.
There are subcategories of this effect, too. If your partner goes out drinking and comes home and verbally or physically abuses you and later blames it on the booze claiming, " you know I'm not really like that" or some other bullshit, it comes out to about the same effect on you. You end up walking on eggshells and questioning your own sanity until you just give up and your abuser has you in their clutches completely.
Speaking of questioning your own sanity...
This is one of the most insidious and withering forms of abuse I can think of. Gaslighting is when a person employs tactics to convince another person that they aren't as sane as they think and that they have a twisted perspective of events that doesn't match "reality". When in real reality, the reality they are convincing you of is an abusive construct of their own devising.
"You're remembering that all wrong!", "That's not how that happened!", "What the fuck are you smoking that you think I did that?!", and other similar phrases are probably pretty familiar if you're in a relationship with a gaslighter.
This is one of the most psychologically dangerous forms of abuse out there because it erodes your ability to trust in your own sense of self and reality. If your partner is constantly telling you that your version of events is completely skewed and only they remember what happened accurately, dump that chump ta-now! They're the crazy one, not you.
5. Disproportionate Emotion
Another common tactic abusers employ is to react to being called out on their bullshit by going absolutely nuclear before any meaningful conversation about the problem can occur. This often ends with the abuser being comforted by the victim in an effort to calm them down and restore "order" to the home.
This is great for the abuser because it shifts the focus away from their bullshit and flips the script so that the victim feels like they are the one who's done wrong. This tactic is usually paired with a hefty dose of gaslighting. In the end, you end up playing nursemaid to your own abuser while your problems only multiply and remain unaddressed.
If they aren't mature enough to discuss an issue without going completely bonkers, they aren't mature enough to be in a relationship.
4. Feelings Aren't A Thing You Can Just Argue Away
Denial of your autonomy is an abusers major goal. They often will argue with you about your feelings or even outright deny them. If you say that you are feeling unappreciated, for example, and your partner tries to argue that this isn't true or that you're overreacting, you probably have some idea of what I am getting at here.
Your feelings are your feelings and nothing can change that. The only way to change your feelings is to change the situation that is causing them to arise. They can't be dismissed or argued away because they are a fact. You know how you feel, don't be convinced otherwise. Again, feelings cannot be argued away! They can be talked out, the issues that cause them can be addressed, but just denying that they exist will never change the way you feel.
3. Lying And Denying
Abusers lie like motherfuckers. Worse still, they will never admit their lies, even when confronted with indisputable evidence of those lies.
If you find that your partner lies about things, big or small, and refuses to admit that they are full of shit when confronted, you have a Grade-A, USDA approved douchebag on your hands and you need to GTFO ASAP. There's no fixing a person who can't face the truth.
2. The Isolation Game
The worst thing for an abuser is to have a partner with a support network. If your partner is badmouthing your friends and family or doing everything in their power to keep you isolated from your loved ones, chances are they are grooming you for further abuse.
You should be free to move about as you please and speak with anyone you like without some jackass trying to come between you. You are your own person and you should always be free to decide who you socialize with.
A controlling partner who demands you spend all of your time with them is an abuser and a shit-heel that isn't worthy of your tie or attention. Dump that fucker and go talk shit about him with your friends over drinks.
1. The Elephant In The Room
All of the points covered so far are more subtle, less obvious forms of abuse that aren't always easy to see from the inside of an abusive bubble. Violence, the aforementioned elephant in the corner, is a whole other animal completely.
This is an obvious form of abuse that we often fail to recognize even though the evidence is literally painted on our faces when we look in the mirror. Insidious gaslighting and forced isolation are terrible enough, but this final symptom of abuse can actually be deadly.
There is never any excuse for physical violence from a partner. There is no love in the heart of a physical abuser and no clearer way of showing contempt for a partner than to literally endanger their life. Escape is the only sane option in these cases.
Leaving an abuser isn't always cut and dry, though. Often victims of abuse have been painted into a corner by their abusers. Cut off from emotional support networks, unable to trust their own mind from years of psychological abuse and gaslighting, and financial dependence are often factors that keep people in abusive relationships long after the victim has realized their plight.
If you feel trapped in an abusive relationship, remember there are still ways to escape, no matter how hopeless things may seem. Reach out to your estranged loved ones, if able, and lay it all on them. You have nothing to be ashamed of, you aren't the monster here, you're the victim of one.
If you find that your avenues of escape have been thoroughly cut off by your abuser, you can always seek help from an outside organization such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline. They have professional counselors who are well-versed in the ins and outs of escaping abuse and can offer you a lifeline when your drowning in the darkness of abuse.
The most important thing to do is to regain enough of your power and autonomy to take the first steps toward escaping your abuser. Sometimes a simple call to a sympathetic ear with an outside perspective is enough to lift the fog and get the ball rolling. You deserve better, even if that's hard to see right now.