If you were to ask a survivor to describe the early stages of their abusive relationship, you may learn that they initially believed it to be everything they’d ever dreamed of. Chances are they’ll also tell you it wasn’t until later that they saw another side of their partner or spouse. In a perfect world, we’d be able to spot a potentially abusive partner before we sat down for our first dinner date. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple and red flags are often missed (or dismissed) as the relationship progresses. Below are a few warning signs of abusive relationships. If one or more sounds familiar to you, it may be time to take a good look at your relationship to determine if it is indeed unhealthy.
Early Warning Signs
Love Bombing is an attempt to influence another person with over-the-top displays of attention and affection. These displays can include extravagant gifts, excessive compliments, and grandiose romantic gestures. Early in the relationship, premature assertions like “love at first sight” and “soulmates” may be made. The relationship may also move quickly and intensely—eventually consuming all the survivor’s free time. Love bombing is insidious in that it allows the abuser to consistently cross boundaries and gain control, oftentimes without detection.
Isolation is another tactic used by abusers to gain power over their partner. By controlling their partner’s daily activities (e.g., who they talk to and where they go), they can create distance between them and their support system, forcing the survivor to become dependent on the abuser. Isolation can be difficult to identify, thus making it harder for the survivor to recognize or escape the abuse.
Gaslighting is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a person to question their own feelings, instinct, and sanity. Also falling under the umbrella of psychological abuse, gaslighting relies on manipulation to trap the survivor in a web of uncertainty and confusion. “You’re crazy”, “that never happened”, and “stop being so sensitive” are just a few of the common phrases used in gaslighting. Once the survivor begins to doubt their own perception of reality, they are more likely to dismiss their partner’s abusive behavior and stay in the relationship.