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Relationship Red Flags

5 signs of an abusive relationship


The Media image for this post really strikes at my heart. It brings back childhood memories of my parents' relationship which was almost always "me and my mom" with a distance both emotional and physical between us and my dad. I repeated similar patterns in my own marriage. My daughter and I spent most of our time doing things together while my ex-husband was floating in the background or not involved unless it made him "look good" either in public or to other family members. I was so conditioned to "emotionally absent fathers" from my childhood, it took me years recognize that this behavior was not normal and it was not helpful to the family unit.


While every relationship has its ups and downs and we strive for "progress not perfection," many relationships can be physically and emotionally "unsafe." It is also possible that you might not even see the "red flag" behaviors until you are out of the situation. So, what does an abusive relationship look like?


Safehorizon.com notes that emotional abuse is displayed through non physical behavior that can include insults, manipulation, verbal threats and put downs that are designed to make someone feel insecure, inferior and ashamed. Abusive behavior is motivated by a need for power and control and it is designed to be emotionally degrading for the recipient. According to Safehorizon.org There are five characteristics of an emotionally abusive relationships that should not be ignored. Red flag behaviors include:

1.Your partner is hypercritical or judgmental: This can be displayed as demeaning comments about your job, your weight, family members, ability to parent your children, or your physical appearance. It may involve degrading comments to family members or friends masked as jokes. These comments are designed to humiliate you and make you question your own worth. Abusive Partners may also mask these comments through teasing or sarcasm and then laugh at you because you "have a hard time taking a joke."

2. Your partner may display possessive or controlling behavior. He or she may be constantly questioning who you spend time with or want to know why "you want to spend time by yourself?" My ex-husband would frequently become upset with me for going to a different supermarket than the one where I routinely shopped. Any change in my normal routine would result in an interrogation worthy of the prosecutors on Law and Order. It is common for someone who is possessive or controlling to do random "phone checks." They may look at your text messages, emails, and social media posts, they may ask for passwords or even go so far as to control your TV and computer habits. Controlling partners may attempt to isolate you from friends or family members, call your work to make sure you are where you are supposed to be and constantly call or text you when you are not around. Many controlling partners will do or say things to your friends or family members that may make it uncomfortable for you to spend time with them.

3. Ignoring your boundaries: Healthy personal boundaries include spending time with your own friends and family members and pursuing your own hobbies and interests. Healthy relationships thrive when both partners are fulfilled emotionally and spiritually. If your partner shows no respect for your boundaries and displays behaviors such as attempting to fast track your relationship by pushing exclusivity, saying "I love you" before you are ready, making physical demands that you are not comfortable with, making "family decisions" without consulting you, questioning any of your requests "for alone time" or becoming angry when you tell them "no" they are ignoring your need for healthy personal boundaries.

4. Manipulation: Manipulation can take many forms in an abusive relationship and include lying, and "gaslighting" which is an attempt to make you believe that "something didn't happen the way you remembered it." Other examples are giving you the silent treatment, withdrawing physical affection, controlling your spending habits, guilt trips, and threatening physical harm to themselves, you, your children or your pets. Manipulation can also take the form of "dramatic scenes" to avoid going out or participating in a family activities or get togethers.

5. Dismissing your feelings: Abusive partners frequently minimize or dismiss your feelings. This behavior is displayed by minimizing your thoughts and opinions, refusing to apologize when they hurt your feelings, or blaming you or someone else for their behavior. For example, an abusive partner may often turn the table on you during an argument by justifying their behavior through blaming their actions on you. Someone who is caught cheating might justify his or her behavior by blaming their actions on "your inattentiveness" in the bedroom or "simple curiosity, that got out of hand." Most abusers are too focused on their own wants and needs to show empathy for your feelings. Abusers will almost never display "true empathy" which is the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes emotionally.

If you believe yourself to be in an abusive relationship. Seek help, talk with a professional, a trusted friend or a family member. Abusers don't have to physically harm you to put you in a life threatening situation. Isolation, lying, manipulation, and degradation can create serious emotional trauma in your life and could also be a pre-cursor to physical abuse. For Emergency Help please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-723


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