How to know if you're in a bad, toxic or abusive relationship
Signs of a toxic relationship
Is your partner or spouse physically hurting you?Have you been wondering if what you're experiencing are the signs of an abusive relationship? Abusive men (and women) set out to make sure that their victims suffer in silence.
Are you married to an abusive spouse? Are you in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend? Are you the man who doesn't dare to talk about the abuse suffered at the hands of the woman who is supposed to love him? Although women are far more likely to suffer at the hands of abusive men, women too can be the perpetrators of domestic violence (yes, truly - see link below).
You might love as much as you can, and adjust your behaviour to whatever they demand (which changes all the time, so you'll never 'win') - but the truth is you're in an abusive relationship.
How come? I am hoping to help you with information on what the signs of a toxic relationship are.
Were you 'fooled' and are you 'stupid'?
It's no wonder you were fooled, whether you realise that now or not. And no, you're not stupid - it could have happened to anyone!
Often the abuser only reveals his true self only over time. (Over 85% of abusers are men, so read he or she depending on your situation.) He probably was your knight in shining armour - charming, caring, sensitive and loving - early on. And the two of you became serious really quickly.
Then slowly the 'innocent' questions and comments begin. Why would you want to go out or stay in touch with so-and-so? Why would you want to be engaged in this or that activity? You'll soon be questioning this yourself and/or starting to feel guilty about wanting anything at all.
Read on to discover all the signs that your man (or woman) is verbally, emotionally, sexually and/or mentally abusive - confirmation of whether or not you're in an unhealthy, toxic relationship.
I suspect you won't really be surprised to see your fears confirmed - finally. You probably didn't even realise you were in an abusive relationship during the first two stages of seduction and isolation. So, take a deep breath and read on...
Signs of an abusive relationship
Find out now if you're in an abusive relationship. If you answer YES to even one of three questions (depending on which one), you need to seek help as soon as possible.
The very fact that you're here, is a sign that you're already suspect you're in a bad relationship. Why would you otherwise be here (unless you have a professional interest of course)?
You may have been wondering whether you should get out of the relationship, but...
- you're too scared;
- you perhaps feel you need to be strong;
- you still think you can change him/her if only you knew how;
- you're the only one who really understands them;
- you're hoping that things will get better;
- they've apologetically promised you it won't happen again. Maybe they even cried at the awful realisation of what they've been doing to you, particularly after an incident;
- they've threatened to kill you, themselves or someone you love;
- you love him or her;
- you're just not sure of the signs of a bad relationship, let alone an abusive one (see also my article: Signs of emotional abuse);
- you think they're damaged and badly need your love and support;
So, are you being verbally, emotionally and physically abused by someone who's supposed to love you?
Whatever your thoughts or feelings - even after this test - I really want you to get help even if you suspect you're in abusive relationship.
Go through these lists of signs now. Remember that each question you answer with a 'yes' points to an aspect of your partner's behaviour that's likely to get worse over time.
This is my part in your journey to getting you to safety. I can only increase your awareness and point you in the right direction, but you need to shine a light on what is happening and ask for help.
I'm so pleased you are here!
Before we go on and just in case you thought you need to stick with this relationship, because you think your partner can't do without you - learn from, and remember, what Brene Brown has to say about boundaries...
I hope this helped you to see how important boundaries are.
The above list is not exhaustive, but you can see how difficult it can be, in some instances, to distinguish the signs of a 'bad' relationship from the signs of an abusive one.
(I'd also like you to read my response to a reader's question on the signs of a toxic relationship.)
Keep on reading - there's more to come...
Is your wife or female partner abusing you?
Men can also become the victim of domestic violence. See this BBC article.
What about your family, friends and other important people?
Intimate partner violence in general victimizes women in particular and the same can be said about homicides perpetrated by intimate partners. As mentioned earlier, in homicide cases when an intimate partner was implicated, 82 per cent of the victims were women, while 18 per cent were men."
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Study on Homicide*)
What to do if your spouse or partner slaps, hits, bullies or otherwise abuses you?
Can you change him? Is there hope?
I so want you to understand that your partner is never going to behave any differently! Most of the signs I have mentioned aren't just those of a bad relationship - no, they are signs of an abusive relationship.
Yes, they're likely to promise that it won't ever happen again, they really won't do it again, this was truly the last time, etc.
However, it is going to happen again! In any case - you shouldn't be waiting to see if it does.
No matter how hard you try to be the person he or she wants you to be, it's not going to get better. No matter how much you try to change them (if you even dare) or change yourself to prevent the next outburst, the situation is most likely to worsen over time.
If you can afford to pay for counselling, I really hope you'll talk it all through with an online counsellor (link my article explaining how it works). He or she will take the time to really understand your particular situation and help you to decide on your next step.
You're not alone!
I'd love you to read this novel about the wife who appeared to have a most wonderful husband. I'm convinced that as the story unfolds you'll recognise many of the hidden signs of abuse...
It's not your fault
I know it can be a huge shock when you're confronted with all this stuff.
I can almost feel you crumpling up in a ball, too tired, beaten down (perhaps even literally) and low to take any action at all. Perhaps you've already experienced all of this before, in previous close couple relationships and/or in your childhood, though this by no means needs to be the case.
It can feel like you're broken and that there's nothing left in you - your self-esteem and confidence may even be non-existent (see How to build self-esteem).
But, at the same time, perhaps it's a relief - you know you're not alone and you are not the only one this is happening to. Far from it!
I just want you to know that it is not your fault. You did not cause this man (or woman) to be abusive, aggressive or violent.
Sure, you played a role in it all, just like each one of us does in all of our relationships/lives, but you did not deserve this and at any time you made the best decisions you knew how with the knowledge, awareness and understanding you had at any particular time. Al that whilst you live(d) in fear of being found out - for even daring to breath it seems - even when the perpetrator is nowhere to be seen.
However, you know now the most important signs of an abusive relationship and how an abusive man (or woman) behaves. All of this is regardless of age (though young women are most at risk), religion, nationality, level of education and income - it happens everywhere!
If it's happening to you, it is time to get help to get out. See below this article for a list of organisations that offer help.
Again, I highly recommend you talk to an online professional therapist if you can afford to pay for counselling. Failing that, do contact one of the organisations below. If you need to build a bit of confidence before you ask for help, read my article about the where, when and how of getting good relationship advice.
Keeping track of the evidence
You can download the SmartSafe+ mobile app for free. The app helps you to safely and securely collect evidence for when you're ready to go to the police for help.
It can take a lot of courage and strength to extricate yourself from an abusive relationship. But the fact that you've coped with this situation so far proves to me that strength and resilience are just two of the qualities you have in bucket loads.
Remember: you don't have to do this alone. Ask for help, either from a professional counsellor (above) or a voluntary service (like those listed below). Perhaps you have a trusted friend or family member you can turn to for support too. If so, now is the time to call on them.
Just a note of warning, though, marriage counselling is not suitable when one of the partners is abusing the other!
And remember, too, that you don't deserve to be mistreated or abused. Just because you've found yourself in this situation, doesn't mean you have to stay here.
I know you can get through this, and I'm right here, cheering you on from the sidelines. You can do it.
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Where to get help
For men and women
US and Canada - Domestic Abuse Helpline
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