Now that I’m out of my abusive marriage, I never want to enter another abusive relationship again. I think about how I came to believe my ex-husband was my knight in shining armor and how I fell under his spell. Although he alone is responsible for the abuse, the abusive cycle was partly my fault; in effect, I gave him permission to abuse me. I don’t want to give anyone permission to do that again! Here are four signs I ignored that warned me of future abuse in the relationship with my ex-husband.
Four Warning Signs That Abuse in Your Relationship Could Appear
Some warning signs that you’re involved with a potential abuser are:
You quickly feel swept away and think that early-commitment to the relationship is a really great idea.
- Within days you believe you are her most trusted employee or friend.
- You feel that she are too good to be true, and that hesitation will cause you to lose her.
- Within days or weeks you feel pressured to justify your relationships with your friends and family.
You trust the person almost right away.
- Her story aligns itself with yours (if you were, oh, say a scarecrow in a past life…guess what?! So was she!).
- You don’t want to look into whether or not her stories are true because you think you may have found the one and don’t want the illusion to end.
- After a date, you realize you exposed a lot about yourself but she revealed very little substantive information about herself. She could also repeat the same stories over and over again (she’s merely eliciting your response to her traumas to learn what makes you tick. This is so she can gain the upper hand later).
- She tells you that your talents are so great that you could be a movie star, famous artist, etc., but she isn’t qualified to be the judge of your skill (a.k.a. flattery).
You spend a lot of time doing what she likes to do, and you suspect that she sulks when you both attend an event revolving around your interests.
- You sense an element of forceful suggestion behind her requests. She may get angry when you don’t order wine with dinner after she suggested it. She wants you to do things out of your comfort zone and then rely on her to protect you from any ill effect.
- You feel responsible for her bored or frustrated feelings when on an outing you normally enjoy. You think she dislikes what you did so much that you don’t plan similar events for future dates (don’t abandon you’re interests for anyone!).
- You find that she criticizes business plans that you develop that are well-received by others in your department. Some people would say, “Oh, she’s just jealous” in response to the potential abuser’s sulking.
Her anger worries you Or gets in the way of communication.
- His or her anger reveals itself early but is not directed at you (after all, if someone is mean to you at the beginning, you probably wouldn’t stay). A female abuser may act out physically, but typically she will not. You may not recognize her anger but feel compelled to comfort her (think of women who coerce someone to kill for her – your empathy is horrifically abused). If the abuser is male, his anger may come out in a bar fight, maybe a hole in his wall. He’s aggressive (mistaken for assertive) in conversation, team sports, etc. Male and female abusers share emotionally manipulative tactics such as ridicule and sarcasm, possibly cruel wishes or plots (jokes) on others. Don’t be blinded by stereotypes.
- She expresses anger to you about various situations and blames everyone else for doing the wrong thing (‘teaching’ you what is acceptable to do and what is not). Men (more often than women) might physically or verbally threaten others to “protect your honor” even though you don’t need or want that kind of protection.
- You feel hurt by the anger, regardless of where the abuser directed it. For example, my ex often insulted other women, which felt like a direct insult because what she had done was eerily similar to something I had done or might do.
- If his or her anger turns toward you, he or she will apologize profusely afterward to save face and keep you in the relationship (first hints of a honeymoon period). Perhaps the abuser turns the whole thing around on you, justifying his or her anger and acting like you hurt him or her.
- You feel punished by her anger, even if it is directed at others. You feel uncomfortable around her when she’s angry.
- Her anger doesn’t seem to dissipate; she holds on to it and hold grudges.
- Sometimes it seems that self-pride and anger are the only two emotions she feels (but you are different – they love you!).
Patience Is Key to See Warning Signs of Abuse
If I had known and paid attention to those early warning signs early on in my relationship with my ex-husband, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.
If you’re just coming out of an abusive relationship, you especially must be careful to pay attention to the red flags going off in your mind. Abusers and former victims fit well together; you each feel rather comforted by the familiar dynamics involved in the relationship. Don’t mistake the comfort of familiarity for love.
The best way to avoid an abusive relationship is to allow time to pass and the truth to reveal itself before falling head over heels in love with someone who is too good to be true.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims. My pronoun choice for this article is not meant to imply that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.