Violence is the most obvious sign of abuse. Moreover, threats of violence can be just as bad as physical violence and should be seen as a warning of future abuse. If your partner ever becomes physically violent, you should consider ending the relationship immediately. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for intimidation. No matter how much you love your partner, if you're afraid of them, you have a problem.
The inability to predict your partner’s behavior, or uncertainty about where you stand in relation to them, is a sign of abuse. If your partner undergoes severe mood swings – being gentle and caring one moment and threatening and angry the next – there’s a problem. They might try to make you believe these mood swings are your fault, and if you just did something differently they would be a more gentle and caring person. You might end up staying with them, hoping to see the side you love while spending most of your time being hurt.
Coercion often begins as early as your relationship does. Your partner might pressure you to become more involved with them faster than you are comfortable with or ready for. Granted, sometimes your partner may feel more for you sooner than you do, but if they are disrespectful towards your feelings, trying to force you into something you're not ready for, this should set off alarm bells. Later, such coercion may lead to demands that you change things about yourself that they don’t like. Or they might force you to do things you don’t want to do – anything from how you spend your time together to what clothes you wear. Such coercion is a sign of emotional manipulation and abuse.
A little jealousy is cute at times, but it can easily turn into something ugly. A possessive partner may make you feel guilty for spending time with friends or family, will call or text you an excessive amount of times throughout the day and may often accuse you of flirting or cheating without reason. All of these are signs that they feel an abusive sense of possession over you. Soon, you may be asking for approval for every decision you make, and control over your own life will slip away as their power over you grows.
A relationship should open your soul, not bring about an intense feeling of isolation. If you avoiding bringing your partner around friends or family because you're afraid they will humiliate you, or if your partner has tried to cut you off from loved ones in an attempt to control your life, this isolation is a sign of abuse.
Verbal abuse is abuse and should not be tolerated. If your partner constantly criticises you or says cruel things to you, insults you, curses, calls you ugly names, or uses your vulnerabilities to hurt you – it’s abuse.
Be wary of partners who begin taking over your responsibilities in order to make you more dependent on them. Dependence means control, and a partner who attempts to control you – either physically or psychologically – is an abusive person. Does your partner often disappear at times without explanation, wreaking havoc on your mind and throwing your life into disarray? This is a sign that you have become overly dependent and that your partner is using that dependence in an abusive way.
Does your partner make you feel bad about yourself, often putting you down or making you feel stupid? Have you begun to see yourself as worthless, or even crazy because of them, as though you're the one with a problem? If you try to fight back, does your partner blame you for their behavior, claiming you’re the reason they’re acting the way they’re acting? This abusive behavior may extend to all aspects of your partner’s conception of themselves – blaming you, for example, for work problems or for their unhappy or unfulfilled lives, making you feel responsible for their failures. Don’t put up with it. Take action!