Relationships can be difficult to navigate, full of ups and downs. Sometimes you want to spend lots of time with your partner, and sometimes you just need some time alone. These are all normal aspects of a relationship.
But what happens when the relationship changes? When the behavior of your partner starts to enter dangerous territory? Sure, people change, but there are limits as to what is a normal disagreement or healthy behavior. When those limits are crossed, the relationship can become unhealthy. Here are a few ways to tell if your relationship has become unhealthy, or even abusive.
1. Your partner controls your time. Sure, when we were kids, our parents were pretty stingy about where we could go out, who we could go out with and how long we could stay out. But once you hit adulthood, it’s not your parents’ job to control your time, and it isn’t your partner’s either. It’s natural to want to spend time with your partner, but if they are trying to take up all of it, that’s a bad sign. They should not be able to dictate who you hang out with and for how long – your time is your own, and they should be respectful of that.
2. Your partner is unreasonably jealous. A little jealousy is perfectly natural in any relationship. However, it’s easy for a little jealousy to turn into a lot. This makes it easy for your partner to make anything a big deal, even if it’s as simple as spending a few hours with one of your friends, or posting a picture on Instagram with someone besides your partner. Don’t let your partner’s jealousy guilt you into not hanging out with other people.
3. Your partner controls your social media. Social media are prevalent forms of self-expression. Everyone uses it in different ways, whether it’s to communicate thoughts, display art or keep in touch with friends. An abusive partner might seek to control what you post, getting upset if certain people like your photos or if you don’t post enough about them.
4. Your partner misinterprets everything you say. You said, “I’d like to have alone time tonight to get some homework done” and they turned it into “You don’t love me anymore and never want to spend time with me or see me ever again.” You said, “I’m going to hang out with a friend tonight” and they heard “I’m going to go cheat on you.” This is not a normal or healthy aspect of a relationship. If they can’t trust you to mean what you say and twist everything around, they are being emotionally abusive.
5. Your partner doesn’t communicate with you. When you were a kid, giving the silent treatment might have been your favorite way to show somebody you were mad. But we all know that’s not a good way to resolve a problem. If your partner drops off the face of the planet whenever you get into an argument, every situation can be blown out of proportion. Worse still is if you don’t know that your partner is upset with you. The best way to maintain a healthy relationship is through open and honest communication.
6. Your partner gaslights you. Gaslighting is unfortunately a fairly prevalent form of emotional abuse, in which the victim is tricked into questioning their own perceptions and memories of a situation. It is a common tool of an emotional abuser, used to manipulate you into thinking that their perception is the “right” one and you’re just remembering the situation wrong.
7. Your partner blames you for anything that goes wrong. Tied to gaslighting, an emotionally abusive partner might blame you for anything that isn’t perfect in the relationship, even if it has nothing to do with you. Your partner might make you feel guilty in order to control your actions more easily, and use gaslighting as a tool to do so.
8. “If you leave me, I’ll hurt/kill myself.” This is one of the most manipulative tricks in the book. Maybe you’ve realized your relationship is unhealthy or abusive and you are getting ready to break it off. Nothing will stop you in your tracks like hearing your partner say something like this. It makes it so that if you leave, and something happens, it seems like your fault. But it’s not. This is probably the biggest red flag I can think of, and a heavy indicator that your partner is emotionally abusive.
These are just some of the many ways that your partner can abuse or manipulate you. If you recognize any of these things happening in your relationship, I would encourage you to get some advice and think seriously about whether or not the relationship is worth it.