Warning signs in relationships
It’s normal to want to engage in another relationship, but to feel unsure about how to spot red flags of possible future abuse. No two relationships are the same; however a pattern of behaviour has been identified when it comes to abusers and the way they shape their relationships. A red flag on its own may not be a sign of an abuser, however it is important to pay attention to these warning signs so that you can establish for yourself whether an unhealthy level of control is being introduced into your life:
- Fast commitment. Abusers will generally encourage you to commit to them as soon as possible, and at a faster pace than usual. Commitment can be different for everyone – some will simply want to ‘go official’ as being in a relationship, others will be keen to cohabit, get engaged or have a baby. The key is that the relationship moves at an accelerated pace in the beginning.
- A history of abuse. Abusers will often describe their previous relationships as having elements of abuse – towards them. Some people have bad luck in relationships, but if someone says they have had nothing but bad or abusive relationships, it’s worth looking into it further. Pay attention also to information from others; does the individual have a reputation for abusive or stalking behaviours?
- Once an abuser has secured your commitment to them, the relationship may go from being highly romantic to being focussed on what they feel you owe them in the relationship. You may suddenly find you have rules about what you can and can’t do. These can be quite subtle, but if you find that you’re living your life in a certain way so that you don’t upset your partner, this is a red flag.
- It can be useful to think about what happens when you make your partner angry. All relationships have conflict, but your partners response is important. Do they respond by walking away, taking time out, expressing thoughts and feelings without resorting to intimidation or insults? Or do they become abusive, shouting in your face, pushing you, calling you names. Do they give you the silent treatment? Someone else’s anger may be unpleasant, but it is not an excuse for abuse.
- Blame: Abusers find it difficult to accept accountability for anything that goes wrong in the relationship. The mental gymnastics that they engage in to make everything their partner’s fault can be confusing and upsetting. Your self esteem may suffer as you absorb these messages.
- An inability to apologise: if they apologise at all, abusers always add caveats. Usually you will hear “I’m sorry, but…”, as in “I’m sorry I did that, but I only did it because you…”. You will never hear an apology that has no added excuses. In addition, there will be no change in their behaviour following the abuse. An apology without change is nothing more than manipulation.
- A general sense of inequality in the relationship. If you have rules you have to follow or expectations you have to meet, that the other person does not have to live by themselves, then there is inequality in the relationship. This is a red flag for abuse.
- Are you living the life you want to live, and socialising with the people you want to spend time with? Do you have access to your own money? Do you have privacy when it comes to your devices? A relationship shouldn’t put restrictions on your life.
Ultimately if you feel unsafe or alter your life to avoid a negative response from your partner, you could, at the very least, slow the relationship down until you have more information and can make a conscious decision about whether or not you want to continue in it. And of course you can always contact us to talk it through further.