Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

If I had known earlier what I know now about the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, I would have been spared a lot of pain, humiliation and heartache. I am going to talk about some of the warning signs that I hopefully would have noticed, if this was a topic that was more widely discussed. If you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, think about these warning signs and if they sound familiar. This is not a complete list, but these signs are good to pay attention to.

Warning #1 – Isolation.

Are you giving up things that used to be important to you? Have you lost some of your friendships or interests you used to enjoy? Are you more isolated than you were before this relationship existed?

  • When I was in the abusive relationship I gave up more than I realized. I was a member of the local youth symphony, which had practice after school. He told me he wanted to spend more time with me, and with his football and my symphony practice there was added strain in our relationship. He never told me I had to quit, but I knew there would be a fight, and I would do anything to avoid the fights.
  • I also became an unreliable member of my crew team during our relationship. Crew practice began at 4:45 a.m. and he always wanted to be the first person to talk to me every day. He would call me at 4 knowing I would be up, and would always try and convince me to come over to his house and skip practice. Most of the time I would just talk to him and then go to practice, but when there had been a recent rough patch between us and I felt a fight could break out if I said no, I would often go over to his house and skip practice.

Warning #2 – Jealousy.

If your partner is jealous of you talking to people, it could be a red flag. A little jealousy can be healthy, but if you are being told who you can and cannot hang out with, it is a bad sign.

  • I have grown up as a tomboy and naturally have many guy friends; I am just more comfortable with guys. He did not like this very much, especially the fact that I was still close with my ex boyfriend in a platonic way. Early on in my relationship with him, he got very angry with me whenever I hung out with my ex.
  • I am Jewish and have my “Jew crew.” I grew up with a group of kids at my temple that did just about everything together. In our high school years we would hang out, playing poker or going out to dinner. He did not like that I had a group of friends that he was not a part of, and would always need to include himself in whatever we were doing. He wouldn’t be a part of the group; he just needed to be there, acting like he didn’t trusted me.

Warning #3 – Making Excuses.
Are you apologizing for your partner’s behavior? Are you defending him/her and making excuses? Are you getting more gifts than normal, and hiding the real reason you are getting them?

  • Right off the bat, my mother didn’t like him. She is very traditional and didn’t like the way he showed no respect for my parents. He would come over for dinner and after the meal all of us would get up to clear our dishes, and he would sit at the table and wait for someone to do them for him. He felt that he was a guest and didn’t need to help with the dishes. Little things like this bothered her, and I would always find a reason to calm her down and try to make her like him.
  • I know now that the excessive flowers were a problem. After every fight, he would buy me a bouquet of roses and apologize. The fights were about many different things, but always ended with flowers. I loved flowers, and receiving them made me feel so special. I felt that it was more than just saying “I’m sorry,” but that he really meant it this time that he would change. My parents would constantly ask why I got another bouquet, and I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth and said he just surprised me with them or they were from someone else. They assumed something happened, but didn’t want to push it.

Warning #4 – Dramatic changes.
Has your weight, appearance or academic performance changed a lot? You might not notice it at first, but think about any significant changes. These changes could be a sign of depression.

  • When you are in a physically abusive relationship, sometimes marks remain behind and extra clothing is used to cover it up. This is one of the ways your appearance can change. If you have a bruise on your arm or leg and are changing the way you dress to hide something, you are in an unhealthy relationship. You deserve better, and should not allow yourself to be hurt and feel the need to cover anything up.
  • Sometimes he wanted me to cut class with him. There was no important reason; he just wanted to go hang out or do something besides school, especially on a day where we wouldn’t have time to see each other after school. Looking back, I see that my grades suffered, and I never should have skipped school.

Warning #5 Unexplained Injuries.
Do you have injuries you can’t explain to people? Are you giving excuses for the injuries that don’t make sense?

  • There were only two physical incidents in our relationship and both were public. I never had any physical injuries I couldn’t explain. I knew others that did, and I knew the stories made no sense. I knew they were embarrassed to tell the truth but didn’t know what to say. It is important to be there for the victim and not push the subject. Let the victim know you are there when he or she is ready to talk.

Warning #6 – Constant Communication.
Are you always on the phone with your partner? Are you always answering calls, emails or text messages? Does it seem like your partner always has to know where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with?

  • When we were together he always had to know what I was doing. He would always know where I was, and who I was with. When I was at Temple for the Wednesday night teen program, he always had to talk to me during break, to assure himself I wasn’t talking to anyone else. If I left home, I needed to tell him so he would know where I was going. At first it didn’t seem as ridiculous as it does now. It seemed cute that he always wanted to know where I was, but it was a control mechanism and not okay, and I know that now.

Warning #7 – Partner’s Background.
Is your partner possibly being abused by his or her parents? Are your partner’s parents in an abusive relationship? If your partner comes from an abusive home, it could be a very bad warning sign.

  • I never saw or heard anything to lead me to know any details about my boyfriend’s parents’ relationship, but I know of cases where this was evident.

These are some of the warning signs I wish I would have known about before getting into my relationship. If any of these warning signs are true to your relationship get help.

The Teen Dating Violence Helpline 1 (866) 331-9474

Relationship Violence. Break the Silence. Be Part of the Solution.
You Can Make a Difference, You Can Save Lives.

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9 Responses to Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

  1. Your posts are truly captivating. Once I read this post, I read the previous letter to Dr. Phil and all of your other content on the page; about me, poem, etc. Your story is something I agree should be shared, and you are very brave for sharing. You addressed your change, change agent and personal connection to the cause all in the first post which is great as well. I also like your powerful sign off!

    -Courtney (http://girlincharge.wordpress.com/)

  2. I really like how personalized your blog is. I really enjoyed how you added an anecdote after each warning sign and how it related to your situation.
    Have you heard of Liz Claiborne’s campaign called “Love is Not Abuse?” They did a whole campaign around raising awareness for teen dating abuse and reached 50 million Americans! They set up a 24-hour national teen dating abuse helpline and partnered up with schools to offers classes on prevention.
    I am curious about what you think of the whole Rihanna/Chris Brown situation. Did you think that it raised awareness for teenage violence? What do you think about Rihanna singing “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem, a song about a violent relationship.

  3. renishi61 says:

    I don’t think anyone I know is in an abusive relationship at the moment, but I now feel more confident in identifying one if I suspect so. So-called little things– like excess flower bouquets, constant text messages, and a bit of jealousy– are often ignored and hardly ever recognized as signs of an abusive relationship. Thanks for exposing these early symptoms! I really like how you define an abusive relationship as more than physical abuse. I wish you the best of luck in getting Dr. Phil’s attention so you can tell everyone that abusive relationships include mental and psychological destruction as well.

  4. AimeeSwenson says:

    I am super impressed by your blog! Your blog is organized and very detailed, and I can’t wait to see what the outcome of this blog is. I am also excited to learn about and see everything that your blog has to offer young people. What you are doing with this blog is really inspirational.

  5. caitlin929 says:

    Sarah, you and your blog are inspirational. I’ve heard your story first-hand and your communication through your blog shows how passionate you are about the subject matter.

    Your message is strengthened by experience and knowledge of the topic, as well as your desire to change the understanding of teen violence. It is a very well organized, thoroughly researched topic and your anecdotes provide insight to the topic that would otherwise be lost. I’m confident that Dr. Phil will take your challenge and let you on his show.

  6. Paulette says:

    Great blog Sarah. Keep speaking up!

  7. I think this is one of the most important posts you could of had. I had always suspected one of my friends was in a relationship that was emotionally abusive, and looking at these signs I can safely say she was. She ruined her relationships with her parents and friends, and he showed many signs of being overly protective and possessive. It was like she was brainwashed! Thankfully, she recently removed herself from the situation, but she continues to show that she still has some kind of connection with him. It seems like an abusive relationship would be obvious to people, but I think it’s important that you have fully described the signs. Great topic, I think it is something that every person needs to be aware of. It is admirable of you to share your personal story in order to help others!

  8. This topic is extremely important to many teenage girls (and even adult women) who are dealing with this in their lives. I am very appreciative of the fact that you are willing to share your story to so many people because I know it will help make a lot of other woman feel more comfortable telling their story as well, instead of hiding bruises and lying about flowers to their friends.

    The key indicators of an abusive relationship that you have posted are very informative. I hope Dr. Phil will take the time to notice your efforts in helping abused teen girls out there. You have a precise and valid argument so I don’t see why Dr. Phil and other women, and even men, would not support you.

  9. catlady says:

    This sounds so much like my Ex, trying to crush me spiritually and destroy my Catholic faith. Maybe because people at the church would find out sooner or later and try to help, every abuser’s worst nightmare.
    It is also worth noting that these relationships are often rushed into, for example we were exclusive after first meeting, not even going on a date. The guy basically forced a kiss on me, pursued me through my friends because I didn’t give him my number, within 3 months we were living together and within 6 months engaged. Another way to tell is that often these men are full of self-pity, making their exes sound evil or like scarlet women and how hard done to they are. Nothing is ever their fault, see?

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