Abusive Relationships: Spotting One Then Moving On

assertionIf only some relationships came with a preview button. Most of us aspire to be in blissful and fulfilling relationships but sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way. The fantasy starts to go sour and elements of doubt start to creep in.

Is this normal? Is my relationship very different to others? Those few telltale signs of unpleasantness from our partner can be brushed aside. At first there’s the thought it’s just teething issues, that somehow with a little time and effort we’re are capable of changing them. But how do we spot the signs of a relationship that’s mildly out of kilter with one that bears the hallmarks of abuse? Well there are signs:


Jealousy or envy is a part of the human condition and anyone who has an investment in a relationship is likely to want to guard and protect it. However, when jealousy reaches a point where it starts to dictate the thoughts and actions of your partner then the relationship is on shaky ground.

A jealous partner will often mask their behaviour as caring whereas it’s actually possessive and controlling. A major component of any successful relationship is trust. When your partner has to always watch you, track or question you on a daily basis, it shows they cannot now, and maybe never will, fully trust you.

Power Struggles

Does your partner seem focused on winning those little arguments you keep having rather than conjuring up a solution? The end product of an argument in a relationship should be to reach consensus. If either of you sets out to win arguments then the relationship loses in the long run.

Healthy relationships are not about the individual. They are about striking a balance that works for both people. If one partner is always trying to be in control then the relationship is based on selfishness and a lack of empathy.

Passive Aggression

Many people think an abusive relationship is defined by physical aggression, but this isn’t the case. Mental abuse can be metered out in various ways. It erodes and undermines self-confidence. An example of this is passive aggression which relates to all those actions that show or reveal displeasure but somehow seem to skirt around the central issues. Passive aggression can be shown through a pattern of indifference, apathy, forgetfulness, lateness, withdrawing from contact and a generally negative approach towards a relationship. When your partner holds back from stating how they stand on issues affecting the relationships, then they are being part of the problem. If the person you are in a relationship with does not feel the need to tell you what they want then it is unfair to you.

A lack of proper communication is a major sign of a toxic relationship because issues are never properly resolved and the relationship cannot go forward. If your partner is passive aggressive you will develop resentment and unhappiness in the relationship. It means they are giving up without really making any effort.


If you are always mentally exhausted whenever you are around your partner then that relationship is toxic. In a healthy relationship, everyday challenges should be enjoyable because your partner is not in control of your happiness. Constant negative criticism and put-downs result in an inability to be comfortable with yourself and around your partner. It causes a simmering resentment. In a relationship partners should be able to change and grow without fear of judgment.


You too have feelings, of course you do, but your partner won’t hear them or finds ways of sidelining them. You find you are not able to have a conversation that is two sided, where your opinion can also be heard, respected and considered. Instead of considering your feelings, he/she battles with you until they can have the last word and chalk up a hollow victory. Alternatively, they agree with everything you say and make promises that are rarely or grudgingly kept.

You Aren’t You Anymore

Whenever you try to grow or at least improve yourself your partner responds with disbelief or mockery. You find you don’t receive any support or encouragement for your efforts. Instead, they question why you are bothering and keep on judging you by insisting that you will never grow or become any different than you are now.

What to Do?

Every situation is different so there are no absolutes. There are however some general principles or guidelines that might help guide your actions:

  1. If you are in a relationship that exhibits some or most of these warning signs then time apart may be necessary for a thorough self-evaluation. Space can provide a breathing space and a way to reflect on whether your relationship is predominately harmful or not.
  2. If you decide it is time to break off the relationship try to stay positive about other aspects of life and give yourself time to heal. Avoid rushing into another relationship to fill the void that is left.
  3. Clear some physical space. Letting go is very important so once you’ve made your decision it’s time to live and work with it. Cut them out of your life by removing texts, contacts, and social media contacts. This can be a tough time because you may find you share friends. Be ruthless with those ‘friends’ who gossip and are probably working between you and your ex.
  4. Beginning filling the void of your old relationship with new activities and making new connections.
  5. Know your value. Remind yourself why you’ve made those decisions, as tough as they may have been. You are a unique individual with the right to happiness and growth.
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