Seven Signs of Abuse in a Relationship (and How You Can Help)

Few of us get to really see how our friends and loved ones get along with their partners behind closed doors. There are, however, a number of signs to look for if you begin to suspect that someone close to you might be trapped in an abusive relationship and does not know what to do.

Domestic violence comes in many different forms. These include physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and emotional abuse. Barring the more obvious signs of abuse (long sleeves to cover up bruises, “accidents” resulting in frequent hospital visits, etc.), below are some vital warning signs of an abusive relationship that are more subtle, but are usually not very hard to spot:

#1) A Loved One Seems Afraid and/or Anxious to Please Their Partner in Public.

By itself, this may be nothing, but nervous energy does nothing if not draw attention. After a number of social occasions and the same subservient tensions can be felt between your friend toward their partner, then pay closer attention since this may be a sign of a much more serious issue.

People can only go so far in hiding their private lives. Sooner or later, the problems will spill over into their social lives, which is why your alertness may prove to be a godsend for the person you are looking out for.

#2) A Loved One Refuses to Ever Express Dissent with Anything Their Partner Says or Does.

Similar to the last point, when someone never expresses disagreement with their significant other, this can be a sign of trouble. No couple is going to always be in agreement, no matter how deeply “in love” one partner says they are with the other. This is true of all people in all types of relationships.

Do not assume that maybe the abuser isn’t an abuser, but perhaps just “wears the pants” and is the dominant figure in the family and that your friend tends to fall in place to get along. When you find a blank personality amidst serious issues and never any dissent, then there is trouble.

#3) A Loved One Must Check in Often With Their Partner to Report What is Going On.

It is very common to text one another throughout the day. Our modern age of technology has made things like this very common, but a disruptive pattern of breaking away from normal activities to make reports to someone is not only abnormal, but a sign of serious mental abuse (and possibly worse).

This sort of behavior warrants a serious conversation: “Can you explain to me why you just took three breaks to let ___ know that ___ happened?” etc. Listen for what responses you get. Evasive or dodgy answers and a desire to abruptly end the conversation is yet another sign of trouble.

#4) A Loved One Gets Frequent and Harassing Calls From Their Partner in the Course of the Day.

We all argue, but high-anger quarreling that keeps up regularly is a sure sign that something worse is going on. It’s time for a conversation with your friend. “Listen, ___, I don’t like how ___ is always mad at you and disapproving of this or that. Why do you let ___ talk to you like that?” Ask, and then just listen–it may be your best way to help!

#5) A Loved One Frequently Misses Work, School, or Social Events With No Explanation Following.

When it doesn’t happen often, then this sign (all by itself) is no big deal. But coupled with everything else in this list, it is a huge red flag flapping in the air! It should not be ignored!

#6) A Loved One is Restricted From Seeing Family and Friends.

An abuser might often take time away from their victim from seeing family in general, but this tends not to be a problem until certain friends or family members are pronounced off-limits. When this happens, it is time to start asking questions.

#7) A Loved One is Given Limited or No Access to a Car, Credit Cards, or Money.

As with most possessive and controlling people, their fear of losing the oppressive level of control is an ever-present one, making them take away anything they can to tighten the leash. This starts out small, and as the submissive party lets their abuser take more control, that proverbial leash becomes shorter and tighter.

If you observe any of these warning signs in the lives of those you love, then you need to find a way to start a conversation about it. As with almost all forms of abuse, you cannot step in and stop it. It requires the person involved to say when they have had enough and to end it. Your role can be that of the helpful and supportive friend. If you believe your friend is in grave danger or you want more resources to take to your loved one, help is always available 24-hours a day from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or thehotline.org.