More than one-third of women in America experience some form of relationship abuse during their lives. You might reject the idea that you’re in an abusive relationship because your partner never hits you. That’s far from the truth. According to Stanford University, most physically abusive relationships start out with no violence at all. Abusive partners work to gain power and control, which may or may not involve physical violence. What’s more, all types of unhealthy relationships can turn violent with little to no warning. Knowing what to look for in the beginning may help you get out in time to save your own life.
1. Control: Like all forms of abuse, control can start out small and build over time so that you hardly notice it. Control can mean determining who you can see, where you can go, what you can wear and even how you think. Control isn’t just about permission. It can also be about fear. If you find yourself doing things to avoid fights or hiding parts of your life that might set off your partner, you’re in a controlling relationship. Control is dangerous and effects you mentally and emotionally.
2. Jealousy: Jealousy is one of the most confusing unhealthy relationship warning signs to interpret. Because you’re human, seeing your partner get jealous can be flattering and make you feel wanted. The occasional twinge of jealousy even happens in healthy relationships. When your partner gets jealous on a regular basis or his jealousy leads to anger or controlling behaviors, it’s a warning sign that you may be headed for danger. No matter how it might make you feel, jealousy does not equal love. It stems from insecurity and a desire to control you.
3. Isolation: Your abusive partner wants to control you, and he might do that by trying to keep you to himself. Often this process happens slowly so that you don’t realize you’ve lost contact with most of your friends and family members. If your partner has rules about who you are allowed to see or asks you to stop hanging out with your friends and family, it’s likely an isolation technique. In extreme cases, abusers prefer women to stay home at all times instead of going to work or school. Ask yourself how your partner feels about the other relationships in your life.
4. Anger: Anger is one of the most dangerous unhealthy relationship warning signs. There’s a fine line between losing his temper and punching the wall and losing his temper and punching you. Anger often accompanies violence, but it can also serve as a springboard for name calling, jealously, control, intimidation and other abusive behaviors. If you’re nervous or afraid of setting off your partner’s anger, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.
5. Unhappiness: If you’re not sure if your partner manipulates you, tries to control you or has inappropriate anger, you can gauge the health of your relationship by determining if you’re happy. Are you free to lead you own life, independent of the relationship? Do you have your own identity, friends, hobbies and interests? Do you feel loved and supported more often that mistreated or belittled? If you answer “no” to these questions or feel unhappy for any reason, trust your gut and move on.
If you need help leaving an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).