Do you believe in love at first sight? A serendipitous meeting that changes everything? If you’re like most Americans, you do, and may have experienced it firsthand. Like a fairy-tale cast under the spell of Cupid’s arrow, two people gazing into each others eyes, seeing only the positive traits of the other. They fall in love from the moment they meet and live happily ever after. Sounds amazing, right?
For the lucky ones, this mystical experience is the “Honeymoon Phase” of a lifelong love affair. For others, it’s a wonderful beginning of a relationship that doesn’t work out. But for those who end up in an abusive relationship, the “honeymoon period” is the illusory calm before the storm.
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People don’t dive into abusive relationships. They relinquish their lives an inch at a time as they become more entrenched in the relationship. Their abusers hold themselves back until they gain their partner’s trust and love.
Abusive relationships often begin as incredibly intense and passionate love affairs. Abusers can be charismatic, attentive, committed, a real life Prince Charming. Let’s face it, as a society, we’re tired of people with commitment issues. Someone who says “I love you” and talks marriage and children is a rare creature to be cherished. And when they test your limits and boundaries, it’s easy to find yourself feeling unsure and searching for an excuse or justification.
Indeed, warning signs exist, but they aren’t easy to recognize or accept. Here are six of the most common.
1. Moving fast
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The most difficult warning sign to accept is how fast things progress. She wants to see him every night. He wants to move in after a month. The abusive partner may claim you’re perfect for each other, that it was love at first sight, that you’re soul mates, and other romantic-sounding things. Unfortunately, the desirability of this behavior gives controlling partners the best opportunity to gain total control over the other partner’s schedule and life.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
As things progress and get more serious, we see new signs developing. One is finding your partner has unrealistic expectations. They want the Disney relationship with very stereotypical gender roles. He should provide, and if his job isn’t going well, there’s a problem. She should keep the house, and if dinner isn’t on the table when he gets home, there’s a problem. Their happiness depends on their partner. If you’re not living up to expectations, the world is ending. After all, you are their world!
3. Hypersensitivity and Jealousy
Another sign is hypersensitivity. This refers to the jealous partner overreacting to little things: comments, jokes, or small issues. Abusers often have low self-esteem and take everything personally. They may be easily insulted or claim that the world is against them if they meet a slight setback. If you disagree about anything, no matter how trivial, you’re insulting them to their core and calling them a terrible person who can’t do anything right. This often shows itself in a set of rules that have a clear double standard. If she glances at another man, she doesn’t find her partner attractive anymore and is cheating on him. But if she comments on him blatantly staring at other women, she is calling him a pervert and accusing him of terrible things he would never do.
4. Excessive Gifts
Other big warning signs include lavishing a new partner with gifts, especially when that partner is uncomfortable with all the showiness. This creates a foundation where any complaint by the new partner brings accusations of ungratefulness and greediness: “After all I’ve done for you, I get this?”
5. Imposed Isolation
Imposed isolation begins with your partner criticizing, questioning, and making unwelcome your closest friends and social network. Abusers will try to make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with friends and family. For example, a woman might avoid an evening out with her friends because she knows her partner is jealous and is afraid of his reaction afterward. To mask his jealousy, he’ll flip the conversation towards questioning her motives for wanting a night out.
6. Mean or Abusive Towards Others
And it’s not just about how they treat their new partner. Warning signs are often obvious in how the abuser treats everyone else. The waiter brings the wrong wine and it turns into a scene where the manager is called. Someone bumps into him on the street and he yells obscenities even though he’s not hurt in the slightest. She makes critical comments about every other woman in the room, not caring who hears her. Abusers have short tempers and work hard to hide it from their partner. Pay attention to the way they treat strangers. You’ll be surprised at what you might observe.
Observing any of these signs once doesn’t mean you should run for the hills. But if you’re seeing multiple warning signs or a progressive pattern develop, you should be concerned. Be wise, trust your instincts, and protect yourself. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, do what’s best for you and keep yourself safe.