It’s not always obvious upon meeting someone new that they may end up being abusive. Often by the time you figure it out, you’re already caught in the cycle of abuse and it can feel impossible to get out. However, there are some early warning signs you can look for early on. If he does any of these things, proceed with caution.
He checks up on you constantly and gets upset if you don’t reply quickly enough. Even if you’re already in an exclusive relationship, you have the right to privacy. You don’t owe him an explanation for every place you go and every second of your time there. He’s your boyfriend, not your parent—and you’re an adult so you don’t need anyone parenting you.
He tries to isolate you from your family and friends. Abusers do this because they know you’re stronger with a support system and they prefer weakened victims. He may try to manipulate you into thinking your family members and friends are problematic and you’re better off without them because you have him now. This is a serious red flag that shouldn’t be ignored; you need your support system and if they were actually problematic, you’d already know.
He accuses you of flirting with other guys and/or cheating constantly. If he gets mad at you for making polite conversation with the male cashier at the grocery store, that’s a red flag. If he starts accusing you of cheating all the time (and you’re not), it should be a sign that the relationship isn’t right. Also, accusations of cheating are often made by cheaters to cover for themselves, so beware!
He rushes you to live together or get married and tells you to quit your job so he can “take care of you.” While it may sound nice to tell your boss where to shove their TPS reports, don’t fall for it. Abusers do this in order to gain more control over their victims; if you don’t have your own money, it’s much harder to leave him when it gets bad. Just for clarification, if you’ve had enough time in the relationship to determine that he’s definitely not abusive and you decide together to become a single income household so that one person can be a stay-at-home parent, that’s different. However, if your boyfriend of a couple months asks you to move in and quit your job, it’s probably a bad idea.
He wants to get you pregnant as soon as possible. If he begs you to stop taking your birth control early in the relationship or refuses to use protection, that’s a bad sign. Having kids together is a big deal and it should be a well thought out decision that you make together. Abusers often want to get their victims pregnant in order to trap her and make it harder for her to leave. Beware of the guy who desperately wants to get you knocked up as soon as possible; he may have ulterior motives.
He’s Prince Charming to you at first but you see his temper rage with others. If you can tell already that he has a short fuse and a bad temper but he only unleashes it on others early in the relationship, don’t get too comfortable. When he thinks he’s locked you down, you’ll be a victim of his temper too, and he may not limit himself to abusive words.
He tells you that household chores like cooking and laundry are “women’s work.” If he’s laying out the cards of misogyny for you early on in the relationship, he’s probably just looking for a woman he can use to fulfill his antiquated notion of gender roles. Unless you’re cool with a future of being treated like a modern day servant and a second-class citizen in your own home, don’t ignore that red flag!
When he picks you up for a date, he tells you to change your outfit because he thinks it’s too revealing. Trying to control your appearance is just part of an abuser’s MO. If he does this, it’s a test to see if you’ll submit to his control. Well, he’s not your parent and you’re not in high school, so the correct response is to affirm that you’ll wear whatever you damn well please. Honestly though, it’s probably a bad idea to even go on that date.
The first time you have a minor fight, he blames everything on you. Abusers don’t like to take responsibility for anything they do because it’s easier for them to control you if they can gaslight you into thinking everything is your fault. Gaslighting is a severe form of emotional abuse and it can destroy your self-esteem over time, so beware if he acts like he’s Mr. Perfect and there wouldn’t have been a fight if you had been as perfect as him.
He gets angry and starts a fight if you turn him down for sex. Even if you’ve had sex with him before, he’s still required to gain your consent, and you have every right to turn him down if you’re not in the mood. Abusers think of their victims essentially as possessions rather than people, so beware of the guy who thinks that you owe him sex whenever he demands it just because you’re in a relationship. He’s trying to use you as a possession rather than respecting you as a person.
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