Thought Catalog
March 17, 2017

RUN AWAY: 30 Huge Red Flags That You’re In An Abusive Relationship

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What is the issue?
Illustration by Daniella Urdinlaiz
Found on AskReddit.

1. When you find yourself not telling friends or family about things your SO has done/the way you’re being treated.

“When you find yourself not telling friends or family about things your SO has done/the way you’re being treated because ‘they wouldn’t understand’ and you don’t want to make your SO look bad.”


2. When there are all these ‘rules’ you don’t know about until you break them.

“There were all of these unspoken ‘rules’ I didn’t know about until I would incur his wrath for breaking them.”


3. When you’re crying and they tell you to shut up.

“I was crying in front of him and he just told me to shut up :/.”


4. When they take pleasure in your pain.

“When she genuinely chuckled at the sight of me crying and being upset, and then vigorously tried to hide it.

Her genuine reaction showed me she was excited at my pain. Then I realized throughout the relationship, she would cause pain, then make me feel like an asshole for feeling emotions because it made her feel guilt and she didn’t like that so fuck me for not being a cyborg.

I’m not kidding, after that moment I noped the fuck out of that relationship.”


5. When they say mean things and then brush it off as teasing.

“He would say mean things and then brush it off as teasing. Yet he was extremely sensitive to being teased, even in a gentle way. He did not see this in himself at all.
The complete inability to manage emotional conflict and lack of self-awareness are the damning things about this. A normal person either quits teasing people or lightens up.”


6. When they love-bomb you at first.

“Love-bombing is often a precursor to an emotionally abusive relationship. It seems like your partner is really into you because they go overboard on the gifts and sweet nothings, and often times that’s how they win you over and get you hooked.

When this happened to me, of course I enjoyed the attention at first, but as soon as I agreed to be in a serious relationship with him, he stopped the cute texts, started withholding physical affection, and manipulated me into thinking I was crazy and the one ruining our relationship. Please be careful.”


7. When all of your friends and family dislike them.

“When all of my friends and family disliked him.

When he would build me up as being perfect, treating me like a ‘princess’ (his words) etc. so that yanking me off that pedestal when I did something wrong (like talk to a friend) was worse and I would be all the more keen to get back in to his good books.

When I heard rumors he had been abusive to others.

When he threatened me with a knife.

I’m sure others here will know that sadly it takes more than one red flag, and sometimes you don’t even know they are red flags until you are out of it!”


8. When they start to separate you from your friends.

“They start to separate you from your friends and family. First they don’t like your mom much. Then they don’t like her a lot. Then they don’t like when you talk to her. Rinse and repeat for everyone who can ‘help’ you in any way so you are basically alone, no help, no way to escape them.

Same thing with gas lighting. They make you feel like everything you do is irrational, and that others don’t like you and won’t help you, that everyone is out to get you and that you’re not worth helping.

It’s a pretty solid plan if you want to abuse someone and make them your property. If you see this happening to you, it’s a good that the person you’re with isn’t good for you.”


9. When they check up so much on you, it becomes harassment.

“Went with a friend to dinner that lasted longer than usual because we were catching up. Left the restaurant to tons of text and calls. When I called back he was fuming. We had only been seeing each other about a month at that point.”


10. When they start trying to isolate you from your family.

“When he started trying to isolate me from my family. I had already moved out of the house to live with him, but my family lived just a couple exits up the highway so I still saw them frequently. He would make snide comments about my little sister and always try to find ways to put my father down (my dad is a colonel in the army, my ex was an enlisted soldier and he always had a bit of an insecurity complex about officers vs enlisted.) If he had plans to go out, I would make plans to see my family and then he would cancel his plans and urge me to cancel mine. He never wanted me to go to their house anymore or see them at all. And when I met him, I had just moved to the area and was a recent 17-year-old graduate who was taking a year off before starting college so I didn’t know anyone but my family, wasn’t in any position to meet anyone, and had no other connections. But he never wanted me to find other connections or continue the ones I had. That was when I first started to think ‘Yick, what is with this guy?’ but I made excuses for him. As young fools in abusive relationships often do.”


11. When they keep accusing you of cheating and you aren’t.

“I didn’t see the red flags until 15 years later. So, going back in time, the first BIG red flag was after he grilled me about some phantom affair he thought I was having, it turned out he was cheating on me. I didn’t find out the truth until after we already married, though.”


12. When everything is your fault.

“Looking back, there were so many red flags earlier, but the one I first realized at the time was when we had gone shopping and it had started pouring down rain out of nowhere. Everything is your fault if you’re in an abusive relationship, according to your abuser.

Neither of us had an umbrella or anything because the weather had changed so rapidly, he then started screaming at me in the train station so badly one of the security guards had to intervene. I realized I was 18 years old, in the prime of my life and was stood here, crying and apologizing to a man for the weather while strangers attempted to diffuse his anger at me fearing the consequences. That same night a woman sat next to me on the busy train held my hand quietly as he screamed at me across the aisle.”


13. When somebody makes you afraid of bringing up a problem you may have with them.

“The first red flag isn’t an obvious one. But essentially, if somebody makes you afraid of bringing up a problem you may have with them or responds automatically mean as shit/defensive as fuck, GET AWAY.

Within a relationship, you have the right to bring up a conversation on something that may bother you in a calm manner and that person should respond to you accordingly. Fights will happen, yes, but you should be able to talk to each other without it being a fight at the first few mentions of something that may potentially challenge them.

In my last relationship though, I came to see everything he was doing to manipulate me came to a head when I caught him in a massive lie. When I told him ‘You lied to me, by the way’ and listed the reasons why he lied to me….he simply repeated over and over ‘I didn’t lie.’ But…he did lol.”


14. When they need your undivided attention every day in your every waking hour.

“The need for my undivided attention every day in my every waking hour. Seriously people, clingers are bad news.”


15. When they disregard your feelings and act as if they know what’s best for you.

“Let’s break the notion that you’ll be able to notice the ‘first’ flag, because abuse doesn’t work like that. There are many, many flags that are considered abusive, but anyone can have a one-off. Your SO was jealous one time? That’s not a flag.

The first thing I notice that almost always leads to abuse is a disregard for your feelings and the notion that they know what’s best for you.

For example, my ex told me in the beginning that if I ever cheated on him, he’d kill me. It may not be entirely normal but enough people say it jokingly that you might not look twice. But he kept saying it. And eventually I told him how much it bothered me, that it wasn’t funny. And he’d apologize and quit for a day or two, but he’d always continue. That was the first time I noticed how he’d disregard my feelings.

My little sister is in a new relationship. He’s doing the same thing. She is skinny and she has some health issues that the doctors are trying to figure out, but sometimes eating physically hurts her. Her boyfriend vacillates between making her eat when she’s not hungry, and yelling at her when she eats something he doesn’t approve of. For example, she wanted a Monster. He told her it was unhealthy and bitched at her to the point that she put it back. He told her she should drink flavored water instead. She said no, but he bought one for her anyway and made her drink it. It doesn’t sound bad right now, but when someone takes your autonomy and makes your choices for you, it’s not a good sign.”


16. When they gas light you.

“Any form of gas lighting no matter how small.

Also pre-blaming you for things they know will happen because of them. He’d tell me on vacation ‘that drink is too strong you’re just going to pass out later and we won’t be able to go out and do anything,’ but in reality it was him passing out from drinking at 9pm forcing us to stay in. Or saying ‘yeah I want to see the sunrise but you’re never going to get out of bed that early,’ yet I went and saw it and he slept until 2 hours later when I finally got him up.

When I realized it, I saw he was basically trying to make me give up on doing things so he could blame me for us not doing it, even though if I held up my end he wouldn’t hold up his. Between that and making me think my emotions were invalid when he’d upset me just made for a super manipulative relationship.”


17. When they hide their finances from you.

“For me, the very first red flag was not communicating finances [we were married]. He would ‘give me’ a certain amount to spend, but never wanted me on his bank account. I had my own, but we had agreed on joining accounts—which is why I transferred my money to his since it had better interest rates/bank/etc. I had no access to my own money. It took him 6 months and a threaten of divorce to be put on the account. And then I saw it—he had lost ALL of our money by spending it on him damn self. I couldn’t do anything—I could even put food on the table or put gas in our cars.

The second red flag was when we adopted a puppy [this was after I began a finance boot camp with him]. The puppy would cry at night. Ex had a temper. I heard him storm into the living room, open the kennel, and shake the dog yelling ‘I will fucking SHOOT you if you don’t shut the FUCK up!’ I shot out of bed, grabbed the dog, told him he would do no such thing, and left to stay with a friend.

Another one was when we were play wrestling and he pinned me down so hard my arms started going numb. I told him to get off of me and then kneed him in the back. He punched my face. I was stunned and told him ‘didn’t your mother ever teach you not to hit a woman?’ “Nope, they’re fair game and you look like you can handle your own anyways.”

The immense guilt trip I received any time I did something for myself—driving over to a friend’s place for coffee, going on a weekend trip to the beach, going to my family’s…it was ridiculous.

There were other red flags as well, but these were the top three I could think of. It wasn’t until I told my Chain of Command some of these things that they sent me to victim advocacy. I had to be told that I was a victim of abuse. We, obviously, have since divorced and I am now happily re-married to someone who believes we are partners in life. Together, we balance each other out.”


18. When they have an opinion about every single thing you do and every single person you talk to.

“The first red flag is the person having an opinion about every single thing you do and every single person you talk to, like they need to be hands on in all your dealings and activities like they are your parent or some shit. Normal people don’t want to coach your life, only fucked up people do.”


19. When you tell someone else about what’s happening and they react with horror.

“When I told a coworker about things she reacted with horror. That’s the thing about abusive relationships, at least in my experience. They start off great and then slowly warp into something terrible and the abused person might not know.

I didn’t even notice what was happening to me until two years in. Looking back it blows my mind that I accepted the treatment but at the time it just seemed fine.

I was working at a coffee shop and while closing one day started chatting with a new co-worker—by this point I had been isolated from all my friends and I thought it was because I was a terrible person so was cautiously trying to make a new friend. We were drinking wine while we worked and started dishing about our men and her reaction to my ‘what happened on date night this past week’ story was horror.

It got me thinking and once I knew to look, all of the other red flags showed up.

This was also the same way I found out my parents were abusive. A friend in high school saw the bruises and cuts and when I told her I got in shit for losing a toy something she was like ‘ummmm…that is not a normal reaction to that.’”


20. When they keep casually dropping passive-aggressive comments during normal conversation.

“The casual passive-aggressive comments he would drop in normal conversation. Then the comments would become more direct, then mean, and finally just cruel. And once he saw that I would accept those, well, the floodgates of abuse just burst open.”


21. When they make you feel like shit about yourself.

“The need to question everything I did and every one I liked.

The constant need to make ME question them.

None of my pre-existing friends were ‘good to me’ in her eyes.

The need for my constant undivided attention every single waking hour.

Not being able to ‘trust me’ yet doing all of the things that made me ‘untrustworthy’ i.e., taking my phone to the toilet.

Making me feel SHIT about myself. Constantly. But also making me believe she was the only one who didn’t make me feel shit.”


22. When they always expect you to take their side, no matter how unreasonable they’re being.

“Like 3 weeks in, when he randomly started arguing with someone over some stupid shit, I sided with the other person who I thought was being reasonable. The PoS got furious at me, saying ‘I expect you to be on my side.’ Aghast and pissed, I walked away ignoring him. He suddenly started playing nice and sweet again. I should have never looked back at that point because he soon turned out to be a massively manipulative, immature, emotionally abusive piece of fucking scum. Ugh.”


23. When they keep breaking up with you.

“I don’t know about the first, because it was all so gradual over the course of a few years. Things were fantastic in the beginning but the shifts caught me off guard. Also I was a young adult and have moved out of home for the first time. It was my first ‘real’ relationship and I was stupid and blind.

Some highlights:

• so clingy. Had to literally spend every minute together or else it would be a fight because ‘we are drifting apart’ (because I spent an afternoon reading a book)
• telling me I wasn’t raised correctly, nit picking every little behavior, telling me that I was something he needed to ‘fix’ because I was so messed up. Using my anxiety and depression against me.
• pressuring me to do drugs.
• constant cheating accusations
• not allowed to have friends. Could only be friends his friends.
• picking fights with me over tiny things, escalating them to the point of making me cry and then ‘look how crazy you’re acting you bitch’ Fights would only end if I apologize and promise to do better. Even if I was not in the wrong. He just liked to exert that control.
• he suddenly hated my family for no reason, me visiting them resulted in such huge fights and violence that I just avoided it. Despite the fact that my family lived five minutes away.
• he was unemployed and a drug addict, but he’d get so angry with me for ‘choosing my job over him’ because I refused to skip work.
• breaking up with me constantly, instantly retracting as soon as I’d agree. Lots of sobbing and begging to change on his end. this became an every other day occurrence toward the end.
• refused condoms, no birth control because it ‘fucks with your body’ (like seriously, your cocaine addiction doesn’t though?) So yeah, obviously I got pregnant. Had no say in anything, including my child’s name. He also pressured me to do drugs while I was pregnant, but I never gave into that.
• his addiction was my fault because I couldn’t stop him. Same with the drinking. He would get blackout drunk, pick fights with me and trash the house. Things escalated to physical abuse on almost a daily basis.
• threatening to kill himself if I ever left. Eventually that graduated to threats of killing me and my son too.

There’s so much more but it’s stressful to write about even though it’s been over 8 years. I’m grateful to my son because even though he didn’t come through the best of circumstances, he gave me the strength to finally leave when he was born.”


24. When they start smothering you, even a little.

“So I once worked as a prison warden in a prison for men who had abused their s.o. During lunch breaks I used to read their court trials, the legal reasoning interest me. During one lunch break I said to a more experienced colleague –Well, from working here and reading about all these trials I’ve learnt the importance of telling my *daughter (she was in her early teens back then) to walk out after the first strike.* –No, said my colleague, you tell her to walk out when he starts to always pick her up from work. You tell her to walk out when she wants to go out with her friends and he insists on her staying at home by saying ” but honey, I had planned to make you dinner and then we can cuddle in the sofa and watch a movie. That’s where it begins. When the first strike hits she has been controlled for a long, long time.


25. When they never have anything to say about any person of the opposite sex, but especially their exes.

“Two things made me uneasy and really stand out in retrospect.

He had nothing positive to say about any woman he had ever dated, or even met. All ex-girlfriends were ‘mentally ill’ and hateful. All his friend’s girlfriends/wives were mean and overbearing. He liked his mom, but no other women.

He isolated me from my friends. He kept saying how nice it was to stay in alone and kept asking me to break established plans with friends.”


26. When they constantly harass you about all your friends of the opposite sex.

“Would absolutely fall apart when the idea of me drinking around women came up.

Would call me when I went out to check if I was OK.

Constantly asking what I thought about my friends who were girls.

Obviously she ended up cheating on me.”


27. When they argue about every little thing.

“Expecting me to reply within a half hour and then subsequently giving me the silent treatment to ‘punish’ me for not replying. Then complain that I didn’t care enough to check in on her when she was ignoring me.

Also arguing at every little thing and then giving the silent treatment when I didn’t agree with her on something.

Expecting me to ‘accept her for who she is,’ the smoking, drinking mess of a person who was too lazy to work for her future and expected me to give her money for everything, then blaming everything that went wrong on her abusive father.

The best(?) of all, threatening suicide when I decided I had enough and was going to cut off the relationship. That was pretty traumatic too.

P.S. sorry if this isn’t completely relevant to the question.”


28. When they ‘neg’ you.

“Negging. First sign of this, run away.”


29. When there’s a voice in your head telling you something is wrong.

“Not really answering the question, but after a while there was always a ‘voice’ in the back of my head telling me that what was going on was wrong. I’d just ignore it, or convince myself that it was normal almost automatically. People would tell me that she was being abusive and everything would ring vaguely true somehow but I’d just ignore it for a million reasons. Low self-esteem being one of them, feeling somehow responsible for what they did, being the another. It wasn’t until I one day realized that I was subconsciously making excuses for them in my head that I decided to get the fuck out of there, and even though I knew at that point that the relationship was not good for me, it was still the hardest decision ever.”


30. When their actions make you feel anything less than equal and loved.

“There are so many red flags and scenarios that could point to an abusive relationship, but it comes down to this: If your partner’s actions make you feel guilty, worthless, defensive or making excuses, or ANYTHING less than EQUAL and LOVED—you need to get out….especially if you find yourself making excuses again for why you can’t get out.”

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