An Abusive Relationship: Signs You’re in One

An Abusive Relationship: Signs You’re in One

The Oxford dictionary defines abuse as when you “treat [someone] with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. Because we often associate abuse with only physical aggression, many people remain in emotionally and verbally abusive relationships. Sometimes people even stay until that relationship actually becomes physically abusive. So it is important to educate yourself on the signs of abuse in a relationship.

Charming and Affectionate 

This part of the relationship is usually very prevalent at the beginning. Sometimes it is referred to as “love-bombing”. Your partner is the sweetest, kindest and most supportive person you know. They do anything for you, go anywhere for you and with you. They look like the person you’ve been searching for your whole life. If they do something you feel hurt by and you tell them, they are quick to make amends. Sometimes at this stage, they will excuse their behavior by pointing out something you did to “make them” behave that way. But this is usually done in such a kind manner that you don’t feel offended. You may actually end up apologizing to them. However, as time goes on, affection in the relationship dwindles. It eventually becomes something you have to earn, a reward for “good behavior”. At other times your partner uses kindness as a way to appease you after an episode of verbal, emotional and/or physical abuse.

Isolation and Jealousy

One of the reasons why many victims of abusive partners suffer in silence for so long is because they have become isolated from caring friends and family. The abuser usually gradually and systematically bad-mouths anyone in your life who seems to actually care about you. They “point” out certain things that you “couldn’t” see in your friends or family. The show you how other people are “jealous of your relationship”, how they are a “bad influence” and how they “don’t want what’s best for you”. This person also has an unhealthy amount of jealousy. They feel threatened by anyone who seems to take your attention or be interested in you. You end up being accused of wrongdoing or infidelity. And because you love this person, you feel the pressure to withdraw from the “bad” people in your life. An abusive relationship thrives on victims not having much of a safe space to go to.


This term came from a movie, Gas Light, made all way back in 1944. A man tries to convince his partner that she in insane so that she can be committed to an asylum. He does this in order to try to steal her inheritance. Since then, the term has been used in situations where a person intentionally creates and manipulates situations that they use to gain some advantage over another person. There are multiple ways gaslighting occurs. These include, denial of inconsistent behavior, denial of conversations and lies. The repeated denial often causes you to start to question whether or not you are your mind is playing tricks on you. Another thing that happens when some is gaslighting you is that they blame you for their behavior. “You made me do it” or “You make me treat you this way when you…” So it often gets to a point where you may raise an issue and before you realize, you’re the one apologizing. 


The purpose of aggression in an abusive relationship is to subdue the other person. It is used to instill fear and give the abuser control and often justified as “punishment” for some wrongdoing. Examples of such aggression are beatings, strangling/suffocating, relational rape, insults, insensitive comments and character assassination. In our part of the world, when we say a person is in an abusive relationship, we often associate it with physical abuse. By doing that, we end up downplaying emotional and verbal abuse. But they are abuse as well. The wounds and scars of these types of abuse are not visible, but they are just as severe. It is important to note that, not all verbal and emotional abuse becomes physical abuse. However, all physical abuse begins with verbal and emotional abuse.


A number of factors influence why you find convince yourself to stay in an abusive relationship. These include, your partner is actually a really nice person when they’re not angry. Your partner really loves you and doesn’t know how to contain all that love. Your partner has issues and needs you in their lives. They always apologize after some form of aggression. They experienced similar as a child so they don’t know better. Where will you go if you leave? You love her/him. Who will believe you? You don’t have money to survive on your own. You stay for the kids, and many other justifications. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please reach out to someone who you know cares genuinely about you. Understand that it is okay to love the person abusing you, but you don’t have to stay in an abusive situation. Your love for your abusive partner should not exceed the love you have for yourself. If you have children, exposing them to such only ensures a cycle where they will also end up in an abusive relationship — either as the abuser or as the victim. Look out for resources like therapy/counseling in your country, that offer support to people who are victims of abuse. You deserve love, compassion and kindness. You deserve and can have a relationship that gives you exactly that!

Author: Petrina S. Adusei

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