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One of my more recent exes was abusive to me; I just didn't know it when we were dating. With his unique form of narcissism, he actually had me convinced that it was my insecurity, and my weakness that made me undesirable. When he left me, I was in shambles—and then he dated the girl who'd later become my best friend.
When he dated my best friend, I got an outsider's look at what he was doing to me when we dated. It was awful, and if I were being honest, my new bestie actually had worse treatment than what I experienced. By the end of the relationship, people actually had to have an intervention to get him to leave him.
She didn't believe she was being abused, either. That's the funny thing about being abused; you don't always see the signs by your partner when you're in the relationship. It often takes the help of someone else to let you see the forest for the trees.
If you're reading this, let me be that other person to open your eyes. Here are some of the most subtle signs you're being abused by your partner—and that it's time to leave.
You find yourself questioning yourself more and more.
One of the biggest signs you're being abused by your partner is your confidence level. In a healthy relationship, your confidence will be boosted and you'll feel confident in the decisions you make.
Abusers, especially those who are subtle in emotional and mental abuse, will often have the effect of making you feel insecure. Do you find yourself questioning if you're "being unreasonable" way more often? Do you find yourself wondering if you really aren't attractive enough for this partner, particularly due to the way your partner's behaving?
If so, you're being abused by your partner at worst—or you're being strung along at best. Either way, it's a signal that you're in a toxic relationship and it's time to let go.
You find yourself constantly feeling like you need to jump through hoops to get their attention.
Believe it or not, the feeling that you're constantly dealing with a "dangling carrot" that you have to catch could be a sign you're being abused by your partner. It's psychological abuse.
Many abusers knowingly dangle rewards they have no intention of ever giving, precisely because it offers them control over their victims. They do this because they know it hurts you, and because they get off on the power.
Do you feel like it's a constant fight to get their attention or commitment? If so, you've crossed the line from a healthy dynamic to a toxic one—and it's time to split up.
The longer you've been together, the more pressured you are to drop friends.
Abusers will do what they can to isolate victims, either overtly or subtly. This mean that they will do what they can to get you to drop your friends and family, to focus on them all the time.
There are tons of ways that abusers do this. They may do things like act like jerks to your friends, pretend to be sick every time you go out so you'll cancel plans, try to personally sever ties for you, or "sour" a party through their actions—all to get you alone.
If you feel like people are avoiding you ever since you started dating this guy, it's a sign that you need to bail. The same can be said if you feel like you have to choose between friends and your partner.
This is one of the most dangerous signs you're being abused by your partner; because it's often the key indicator that things are being escalated to the point that getting out will be more difficult.
Their behavior fails the Would-You-Ever Test.
There are a lot of signs you're being abused by your partner that probably won't come up in regular articles, primarily because it's a rare thing to see. For these things, I have a rule of thumb I call the Would-You-Ever Test.
With the Would-You-Ever Test, you need to take a look at their behavior and ask if you would ever behave that way with someone you cared about. For example, you wouldn't ever call someone you loved "ugly," would you? Probably not, but your partner makes a habit of it—as an abuser would.
A better example is the "just kidding" issue a lot of abusers have. You wouldn't make cruel jokes that clearly hurt your partner, especially after you were told they're hurtful, right?
Well, the fact that they are continuing that behavior show they failed the Would-You-Ever Test. This is one test that, if failed, should mean the end of the relationship.
They hold the past against you.
This is one of those weird signs you're being abused by your partner that's obvious—but at the same time, hard to actually admit to. When someone holds past actions against us, particularly those we did when we weren't with them, that makes most of us feel like we're the wrongdoers.
The thing is that we cannot change the past. If they regularly hold something against you that you cannot change, they are doing so to control you—and to weaponize something you can't change against you.
There's no point in trying to make things better for someone who can't handle the fact that you have a past. There's also no point in trying to stay in a relationship where you're constantly the bad guy, due to one thing you've done in the distant past.
If you are honest with yourself, you're afraid of your partner.
Fear is never something that should be present in a healthy relationship. In abusive relationships, the victims often end up fearing their partner because they don't know what to expect—or worse, that their partner will suddenly decide to hurt them.
In many cases, abusers will actually use a person's fear or insecurities to maintain control. If you feel like your partner is knowingly trying to intimidate you, you need to leave immediately. Domestic violence experts claim this is a key indicator that an abuser will kill their victim.
Every day involves you walking on eggshells.
You know how when you're worried about someone potentially exploding on you, you tiptoe around them? You know how tense that is, and how much you feel you have to hide not to anger that person? That level of stress is absolutely a sign of a toxic relationship.
This need to "tiptoe" around your partner also ranks highly among signs you're being abused by your partner, even if what you fear isn't physical retaliation. Emotional, financial, and mental abuse are all legitimate, you know.
No matter what your partner did, they find a way to blame it on you, invalidate your issues with it, or excuse it away.
There are many signs you're being abused by your partner which involve invalidation, projection, or downright gaslighting. In the eyes of an abuser, they can do nothing wrong—and they will make sure that you know that you're the guilty party.
In the eyes of an abuser, if they cheated on you, it was because you did something wrong. Similarly, they may just try to make you feel "unreasonable" with boundaries you set up, or come up with an excuse as to why they were justified in hurting you.
A good indicator that your partner is abusive deals with how they react when they're called out on bad behavior. Do they refuse to acknowledge it? Do they pin it on you? Do they lash out in anger, or excuse it away? If any of these are true, it's time to leave.
This behavior is textbook abuse, and unfortunately, only gets worse the longer you stay.
They guilt you when you establish a boundary, say no to any request, or tell them they're being unfair.
This is never a good sign, and is often a sign that the person you're near is toxic. A healthy relationship is one that requires boundaries to function. If you're being guilt-tripped over your boundaries, that's emotional blackmail—and yes, that's a form of abuse.
You should never feel guilty about enforcing boundaries or putting yourself first. You also should never feel guilty about putting your foot down if you feel disrespected.
Once emotional blackmail and guilt-tripping starts, it's not going to get better. Ergo, it'd be a good time to break up.
You get the feeling that the relationship is all about you giving, and all about them taking.
A relationship should be 50-50. You should be getting back as much as you're giving. If you feel used or feel like you're putting in way more effort than he is, when it comes to keeping everything happy, it could be a sign that you're being abused.
Lastly, you regularly have to explain away your partner's behavior to others.
This is one of the most classic signs you're being abused by your partner, and also a very good indicator of how bad things have gotten. It's also a sign that others know and are very worried about you.
If you regularly feel like you have to explain why your partner treats you so badly, or justify it by saying it's good he doesn't hit you, then you are being abused—and it's time to ask for help. Being in a toxic relationship isn't the worst thing you can do; staying in one, though, is.