I just came out of a very unhealthy relationship. I suspected that he was abusive, and I left. While it never got physical, I got suspicious. Since I am a woman, I will be writing from a female perspective. I figured I would share some of my insights and lessons learned. I am lucky that I listened to my gut (although I probably stayed too long) and left, without getting too harmed. It only lasted barely two months, but even then it was hurtful to realize the truth. However, I am recovering quite fast, in less than a week I feel much better and relieved that I got out.
BIGGEST POINT: If you learn nothing else from what I write, I want you take away this ONE point-LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS/GUT/INTUITION/whatever you want to call it. WE ALL HAVE INTUITION. Many times in an abusive situation, people will ignore their gut instinct. WHEN YOU JUST GET THAT FEELING IN YOUR GUT, OR MIND, OR WHATEVER, THAT SOMETHING IS JUST WRONG, LISTEN!! When you have that "knowing" feeling that something about this person isn't safe or scary, or wrong, or off, your entire soul is telling you that you aren't safe run away. Unfortunately people have learned to ignore their instincts, and there are many deep rooted psychological explanations for this, but I am not a psychologist and that is a discussion for a different day.
SO WHEN SOMETHING JUST FEELS WRONG OR UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT THE PERSON OR YOU GET A GENERAL FEELING OF WARINESS, DON'T IGNORE IT.
I am not saying that you should run away at the first imperfection. But sometimes you know right away that someone has violated you, or stepped over your line. At these times, your gut will probably be SCREAMING to get away. This happened to me!
Whenever I ignored my gut feeling, I realized later on that this person was wrong, and I just would be existing sadly, in an anxious relationship where I was feeling uncomfortable and worried. Not worth it!!
I will now address some specific signs that indicate you are being controlled, and are on the path to being abused. These are based on things I have experienced myself.
Warning Signs of Abuse and Control
If you do something he doesn't like, he will either go silent on you, turn very cruel and angry, or say mean things. He will have this way about him that makes you feel like an incompetent child when you do something he doesn't agree or approve with. A healthy person will communicate when you have done something to offend him. Sometimes he may get offended over stupid things, but he will communicate and resolve. An abuser will withdraw from you cold, give you guilt trips, turn very mean over things that don't go his way. Generally he is punishing you when he does this over small things. BE EXTRA WORRIED IF HE WITHDRAWS OR GIVES YOU THE COLD SHOULDER WHEN YOU SAY NO TO HIM, OR DON'T LISTEN.
2-Walking on Shells-Something about him worries you. You feel constantly on edge, you have a fear that if you do or say something he doesn't like or approve of, he will get mad at you, or turn nasty. If you are constantly worried of causing an angry or nasty reaction from him, or that you may anger him, watch out. I was always worried that my ex would get mad at things. It was because I saw how easily he got mad at everything, and something about him just scared me.
3-Rude to Staff and Employees-If he is one of those people who is rude to waiters, waitresses, other service people, be VERY wary. Waiters were intimidated by my ex, I could see it in their eyes and actions. He would always complain, return things, and criticize them. He would constantly call customer service and complain about things. He may complain about the servers to you. But watch out, because when you are his girlfriend or wife, he will view you as a service person who he can criticize and be mean to as well. Nasty one way, nasty all ways. If he is in charge of others or an employer, and his workers hate him, watch out. ESPECIALLY IF THEY SAY HE IS NASTY AND CONTROLLING.
4-Critical-He is always criticizing people, things, and the world. It's one thing to analyze in your mind, but if he is always criticizing things and people to you, and to others, he will soon be criticizing YOU as well.
5-Puts You Down-It will probably start off subtle and get worse. First he told me subtly that he doesn't like things about my appearance. Then he started criticizing my character. The worst part is that when we met he told me he liked certain things about myself and then later he pointed out how flawed those things about me are.
6-Makes You Feel Crazy- He played awful mind games with me. He took me into a jewelry store to look at rings and then told me he can't buy me one now and then told me he was "just trying to make me happy." He would do weird things that made me feel uneasy, and then tell me that he was just being good and I misunderstood him. You will get this confused feeling, because he will do things that upset you and then act like you are crazy for being upset. Or he will tell you something and later change the truth when you KNOW he said a certain thing, and then look at you like you are crazy when you spot the inconsistency.
7-Controls Your Life-Need a job? In the middle of something? He will make sure to jump in. He may play it off as caring about you. But if he involves himself in things like finding you a job, or an apartment without you asking for help, or without him asking you first, he is really viewing you as a project that needs fixing. My ex, without telling me, asked someone to give me an interview. He also asked the guy what my salary would be, and came back to me and told me he had asked for a job interview for me. At first I was appreciative, but I felt like he was "guiding" me too much. If a man tries to make big changes in your life without asking or consulting you first, and only comes to you after he has "found help" for you, he may be trying to control you. Unless he knew it was something you REALLY wanted, I would be careful.
8-Judges You-No one should ever punish or judge you for your past. My ex put me in the spot early in our relationship, interrogating me about how fast I had moved with my other ex boyfriend, saying he "heard things." He also told me "I heard you like X guy, is that true,"
The fact that he repeats things he "heard" about you, whether true or not, show a complete lack of respect for your feelings. Besides the fact that I had not even gone far with my ex at all, it is just quite frankly not his business so early in the relationship what I did with my exes. It is NEVER, in my opinion, someone's business how FAR you moved sexually with your ex. It's private and not respectful. If someone puts you on the spot about these things, it is really a manipulation tactic, to do the same to you. He made me feel guilty and on edge, and he "knew" my pace, so if I didn't go with it he would just tell me "Well, you were fine doing X with your old boyfriend." It was awful.
9-Talks to You in a Condescending Way-The tone and things he said to me were very condescending. He spoke to me like I am a child. DOUBLE PROBLEMS if he talks in a condescending way to you in front of other people.
10-Bossy-He would order me to do things, like I am a slave.
11-No Respect For The Relationship, Public Disrespect-At the end of our relationship he was blatantly flirting with my FRIEND on facebook, on a post he knew I had seen myself. It was like him taking a piss on our relationship. I knew he had planned it. And in his last relationship, he had gone to events for singles and found a new girl before leaving his old one.
12-Made Me Feel Like A Whore-He would say degrading things about me and my body, and give me this ugly look like I am a whore.
13-Blame Game-He would say nasty things disguised as jokes. Like "look what you've done" or "you were asking for it" or "I saw you looking at that guy." First they start off as jokes, but then the turn into serious allegations.
14-Selfish and Never Goes Out to Help Others-I noticed that he would always have an agenda. He would manipulate me into coming to see him when and where he wanted it. But he would make his own plans without me. Or when I was busy he would tell me it's too bad I am busy, we could have done something.
15-Lays on the Sweet Future Talk At First-At first he showers you with compliments, talks of the future, telling you how wonderful you are, discussing your future together. How would you like to take a trip with me? You are so wonderful because X. Then it started to change.
16-Hot and Cold-He could turn his affection on and off like a switch. If he wanted something from me, he would be touching me, hugging me, and kissing me. If he said something mean he would suddenly be hugging and kissing me and saying sweet things. Then he would be cold again. Sometimes I felt ignored. It was all an agenda.
17-Comparing You to Others-He would compare me to a girl we both knew that he dated in the past. He always told me how she is pretty. He never told me I am pretty. He made me feel like he liked her more than he liked me, like I am second best. He did it on purpose, constantly talking about her.
18-Calls Himself "Protective"-A guy who describes himself as this is generally controlling...not "protective."
19-Hates Women-He said a lot of negative things about women. Constantly comparing them to men and saying they are inferior. Talks about how women play victim. Seemed to have a lot of hatred towards women.
20-Everyone Is Out To Get Him-He is always being wronged, facing injustice. His employees don't respect him, or they take advantage by asking for too much. His friends don't treat him well. His family isn't good to him. It's constant complaints about many people.
21-Anger and Aggression-He seems very angry and aggressive. He won't take it out on you at first. First he will yell about something else. He will get way too angry for the situation. This is probably the first test of anger. If he succeeds he may start throwing things, pushing you against the wall, or breaking things. Even if he doesn't yell at YOU or something YOU did, if he shows extreme displays of anger it is ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE IT GETS DIRECTED AT YOU!
You are NOT an angel exempt. YOU ARE JUST HIS NEXT TARGET!
REMEMBER: Abusers GROOM YOU SLOWLY. They are very manipulative, conniving, and sadly often very intelligent, but this intelligence gets abused for a cruel purpose. They act VERY interested in first, they suck you in, they study you like a subject. You are their victim. They get to know you, what makes you tick, what you respond to, what you are looking for. They model themselves into that mate. Then they slowly reveal themselves as they start to hurt and control you. THEY ARE SICK DEMENTED PEOPLE WHO CANNOT CHANGE. They may be damaged themselves, but DO NOT BE THE SUCKER WHO STAYS OUT OF PITY. All the compassion and sympathy in the world will NOT change an abuser. Get out and protect yourself. Once the abuse starts IT WILL NOT CHANGE.
Just because a guy doesn't have ALL the traits on this list doesn't mean he is abusive. And an abuser may only do some of these things. But the GENERAL KEYS with abuse are-you just deep down have this feeling that something is wrong, that you are being mistreated. You feel manipulated. You get a sense that your feelings and wishes aren't respected. Something feels wrong. You feel like a less-than, not an equal. You don't feel loved and cherished for who you are, but put down. GENERALLY WHEN YOU ARE BEING MISTREATED, SOMETHING FEELS WRONG AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHY.
It goes without saying that physical violence towards you is a sign of abuse and run immediately. He may apologize but it's not right.
Don't let yourself be hurt.