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Overlooking Red Flags: Stuck in a Psychologically Abusive Relationship

Updated on July 7, 2016


There is a good chance that there are red flags involved in an abusive relationship. However, sometimes they are ignored or down played and you may be stuck in a psychologically abusive relationship whether you are aware of it or not.

I am writing about this topic today both from a research I have done on the subject, as well from personal experiences with being in a psychologically, as well as physically abusive relationship for ten years.

It was not until I was out of this relationship for about a year that I really began to notice just how bad it actually was. And just how many red flags I had ignored and brushed off thinking "oh, it is not so bad" or "it is is/was my fault".

Are you or someone you know in a similar situation?

Red Flags of a Psychologically Abusive Relationship

  • Blame. He/she puts the blame on everyone but themselves. It is their exes fault their last relationships failed, their bosses fault they got fired, and they were not speeding the cop was crazy, ect.
  • Unbalanced Expectations. When one partner is expecting more than the other. In healthy relationship the relationship expectations are equal. And both partners strive to please the other. In an unhealthy relationship one partner may be constantly trying to reach the others unrealistic expectations while not receiving anything back.
  • Threats. Making any kind of threats. Whether it be of physical harm, or threats to leave the relationship, or even threats to cheat. Anything that will cause the victim fear or anxiety about the situation.Quite often even when the abuser's expectations are met he/she still will follow through with the threat just to display their "power" over the victim.
  • Humiliation/Put You Down. This can be done in private, public (in front of others) or both. Any jokes made at the abusers expense are completely frowned upon. But a joke made at their partner's expense, they are the first to do so and usually will not stick up for their partner if other's have put them down.
  • Verbal Aggression. They may or may not be verbally aggressive.Verbal aggression includes things such as yelling at you, name calling, blaming, anything they say to you that is threatening or upsetting. This is often done to make their partner fear them so that they can feel as if they are "on top". Or the dominate one in the relationship when a relationship should really consist of two equal parts.
  • Cross Your Boundaries. They continue to cross any boundaries you have set up. Even though your have reminded them countless times.
  • Sense of Entitlement. They feel that they are entitled to special treatment. Or that rules do not apply to them. They believe that they are for one reason or another "better" than anyone else. Including you, their partner.
  • Jealousy. They are obviously or even subtly jealous when you speak to or even look at another member of the opposite (same sex for same sex relationships). It does not have to be in a flirtatious manner.
  • You Feel Trapped. If you are feeling trapped in your relationship, or have any thoughts of "I'd be happier single/with someone else. But it is easier to just stay in this relationship". That is a bad sign and you should probably leave this relationship. You are not happy and you should be.
  • Point Out Flaws. They continue to point out your flaws/short-comings. They tell you how you can be "better". You are not forgiven for your mistakes but rather reminded of them or "punished" for them.
  • Trust Issues. They may have trust issues and think that you are "out to get them", or acting the way you are to "harm them/make them upset/look a certain way to others". And they may be suspicious of you when you go out without them.
  • Sensitive. They accuse you of "being too sensitive". They do not care if they have crossed your boundaries or upset you. They believe that you are just being "too sensitive" and that you need to "toughen up" or not "take things so seriously". The truth is you are not being too sensitive and that their behavior is truly hurtful. Your partner needs to be respectful of you and your feelings.
  • Distant. You feel that they keep themselves at a distance. You are unable to approach them with problems or concerns. Or any important topics, for that matter. Whether you feel afraid to discuss these things or your partner distances themselves from you when you try to discuss them, this is a red flag.

Why Are Red Flags Ignored or Down Played?

There are a few reason's people ignore, down-play, or do not recognize the red flags in a psychologically abusive relationship.

  • It Is Too Late To Leave Now. Some people may seem like the ultimate partner in the beginning. Treating you better than anyone may have treated you before, and you are very happy. Later on in the relationship is when your partner's abusive side comes out. Some people choose to ignore this because they feel as is it is "too late" to leave the relationship. They may feel as if they have invested their whole life into this one person and can not give up on that now. Any red flags may be ignored or down-played at this point. And it is not too late to leave the abusive relationship. You deserve to be happy and treated well.
  • Believing The Lies. If your partner is a psychological abuser he/she is probably good at it. So do not be hard on yourself for believing their lies. They make them appear to be the truth and it is easy to believe these "truths". Listen to what other's are saying. Perhaps they are seeing something that you are missing. And if something seems questionable, it probably is.
  • Desperation. Sometimes we fall in love with the idea of a relationship rather than the relationship or person itself. We may be desperate to feel loved and have the security of a relationship. The fear of dying alone may come into play here. And therefore we may push the red flags off to the side and ignore them. There is someone better out there for you that will treat you right.
  • Blaming Yourself. Sometimes we do recognize the red flags but we begin to blame ourselves for our partners downfalls. "It is my fault he/she is treating me badly. I should not have upset him/her", ect. This too is not true. It is not your fault. It is there fault and it will always be their fault. They are in charge of their actions, not you.
  • The Red Flags Seem Minor. We may actually notice the red flags in our relationship but we choose to ignore them because they seem so minor. Or something that we can easily ignore/live with. The problem with this is, sometimes these "minor red flags" add up. And in the end we can not ignore them all. Let the small red flags serve as a warning and listen to what they are telling you.

How To Safely Leave a Psychologically Abusive Relationship

Leaving an abusive relationship is not only a very difficult and scary thing to do but it can also be dangerous. The more prepared you are to leave the easier and safer it will be for you to do so. This does not mean it is best to just "tough it out" and stay in the relationship. This just means that you have to prepare and protect yourself and any children involved.

  • Do not be afraid to ask for help. Whether that is asking for help from a doctor, a counselor, a family member, a friend, a police officer, ect. The more people you have to support you the easier and safer it is to leave the relationship.
  • Keep a journal. Keep track of everything that is going on. Incidents of abuse, the time, the date, what happened, how it happened, ect. This will not only help as proof, but it will help you remember all of the details if you need to recall them later.
  • Take pictures. Take pictures of any marks/bruises that your partner has given you. Ensure to have the date and time along with these pictures. If possible/needed seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medical attention is both good for your well-being as well as having a witness and documentation of the abuse.
  • Pack all important papers and documents so that you are not leaving anything important behind.
  • Always let someone you trust know where you are and what you are doing. This will help to ensure your safety. Especially if that person has not heard from you in awhile they know to go looking for you.
  • Leave when your partner is not home in order to avoid conflict. Watching you pack up and walk out the door will likely agitate your partner and put you and any children at risk.
  • Ask for a police escort if you are concerned for your safety.
  • Take all of your belongings. Anything you leave at the home may be difficult to get back and you may find yourself fighting for your belongings to be returned to you. Even if it was a birthday present from your 100 year old grandma.
  • Take care of yourself. Involve yourself in activities you enjoy doing.
  • Do everything you can as soon as you can. If you require a protection order, get one asap. If you want primary custody, fight for it asap. The longer you wait to do these things the more you will be questioned on "why didn't you do it sooner?"

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Putting You First: Life After You Have Left An Abusive Relationship

One of the most important things to do after you have left your abusive relationship, if not the most important thing to do, is to take care of and protect yourself and your children.

  • Cut all or as many ties with your ex as possible. If you two do not have any children together it is best to cut all contact with your ex. If there are children involved, it is best to only contact your ex/allow them to contact you about child related things. If he/she wants to talk about something else, ignore them.
  • Be patient with yourself. This is a major change in your life and it will take time to adjust to your new life. A break up is a break up, even if the relationship was a bad one or you no longer loved/cared for them.
  • Be proud of yourself. You did it! You left! And you are starting a new and better life. Do not feel guilty for leaving and do not feel guilty for not leaving sooner. What matters is where you are now.
  • Take care of yourself. Try not to be hard on yourself. Do the things you enjoy doing. Take yourself on a mini holiday. Let yourself be happy.
  • Ignore bad advice. No one knows your situation better than you do. Your friends and family may not understand what your life was like and may suggest your making a mistake. Believe me, you are not. You left for a good reason and they do not need to completely understand. Staying in an abusive relationship is not what is best for you or the kids.
  • Find the right support. Speak to someone or a support group who has or is going through the same or something similar as you are. If that does not interest you or there are none in your area, try speaking to a counselor. Sometimes just telling your story helps you heal.
  • Do not obsess over the abuse. Do not keep repeating your abusers words and/or actions over and over to yourself. Do not try to figure out why they may have happened. Or how you could have avoided it. You do not deserve to keep torturing yourself. Let it all go!
  • Set New goals. Give yourself some new long-term and short-term goals to work towards.

Never forget that you are worth. And you did the right thing by leaving an abusive relationship. Even if someone tells you otherwise.Take care of yourself and do not go back. Even if that does seem like the easier thing to do. It does get easier and life does get better. Just give your new life a chance.


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