What Are the Subtle Traits of an Abusive Partner?

It can be hard to notice the first warning signs of an abusive partner; either you’re long-term and used to their pattern of behaviour, or the relationship has just begun. So, how can you recognise abuse when it rears its head?

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It’s often not blatantly obvious when your partner starts demonstrating abusive traits. So, it’s important to make yourself aware of not only the most common behaviours, but also the more subtle ones.

When you start recognising peculiar patterns of behaviour, start by writing down the reasons you’re scared and concerned. Otherwise, your partner may want to challenge a non-molestation order made against them later down the line. It’s important to be cautious.

So, how can you recognise this abusive behaviour? From suggesting what you should wear that day, to gradually isolating you from your friends – there are several things that should ring alarm bells if they start becoming a common occurrence in your relationship. Read on to find out more…

9 Subtle Traits of an Abusive Partner

1. Impatient

Is your other half super impatient? It’s normal for everyone to become a little impatient from time to time, but it can eventually lead to aggression if left to manifest. 

Even the smallest of problems, such as waiting in line in a queue, could trigger an individuals’ impatience and result in them acting abusively. 

2. Oversensitive

Being oversensitive can be seen as a weakness, and it can compel people to feel sorry for you. However, abusive partners will often use this as a tool to manipulate their over half. 

If you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells around your partner, something needs to change. You should be able to have open and honest discussions in your relationship without having to worry about censoring yourself out of fear that you’ll upset someone.

3. Perfectionist

Your loved one should be appreciative of everything you can, and vice-versa, if you’re in a happy and healthy relationship. Love is a two-way street, so don’t let any partner dictate everything you do.

If you’re finding that nothing you do is good enough, and your other half is impossible to please, then they’re probably the problem, not you!

4. Secretive

Feel like your boyfriend or girlfriend knows everything about you, but there’s quite a lot you don’t know about them? We’re not talking telling little white lies in order to surprise you – the most common reasons for deceit include concealing illicit sexual activity, problems at work, or being in debt. 

Secrecy is usually one of the first tell-tales signs of cheating on a partner, but it can also be used as a form of power and control. 

5. Vain

There’s being confident, which is a quality to admire, then there’s being vain, arrogant or self-righteous, qualities often displayed in those with a narcissistic personality disorder

This disorder can be hard to recognise at first, because the common characteristics aren’t unusual to find in a people. But, the link between narcissistic people and those who are abusive is something to be aware of. 

6. Low Self-Esteem

On the other end of the spectrum, low self-esteem can also be a subtle trait of an abusive partner. Sometimes, when individuals are deeply unhappy with their lives, they can deflect their problems onto others, and this can be the start of mental and physical abuse. 

If your partner is open about struggling with low self-esteem, suggest seeing a therapist together to work through your problems.

7. Jealous

Jealously is an incredibly common trait found in abusers. You hear some men and women downplaying it by insisting ‘it just means they care’, but be careful not to overlook something that can potentially turn dangerous. 

Each relationship sets different boundaries, so it’s difficult to say what’s an overreaction or not. Some red flags include not permitting your partner to have friends of the opposite sex, reading through your partners phone, and keeping a schedule of where they are. 

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8. Lack of Empathy

Dealing with someone who has a lack of empathy can leave you feeling frustrated and upset, and cause anger to brew in the relationship. Try to avoid talking to them emotionally, and approach the situation from a factual perspective. 

A lack of empathy can be concerning in individuals because they tend to focus the blame on others rather than themselves. This can develop into an unhealthy relationship, and one in which a person can feel attacked and belittled.

9. Unpredictable

Abusers can go from lashing out in anger, to telling you they love you in a matter of minutes. Their abusive actions are often counteracted by gestures of love followed by cries for forgiveness.  

Many individuals in abusive relationships claim to claim to simply ‘snap’. This loss of emotional control can be frightening and dangerous, as well as making it hard to trust your other half. 

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Don’t Let Them Gaslight You

According to Vox, the term ‘gaslighting’ refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings. Gaslighting is one of the most common forms of manipulation, and encompasses many of the subtle traits previously discussed in this article.

To help identify if you’re being gaslighted by your partner, ask yourself questions like ‘does my partner confuse me?’ and ‘do I think they’re lying to me?’. Often victims of abuse know something is wrong but just don’t what the problem is.

Try to distinguish truth from distortion and give yourself time to privately come to terms with the problem. Understanding you’re in a power struggle is the first step, and only after that can you begin to talk to your friends and family about the next steps.  

If You’re Worried About Your Partner’s Behaviour, Seek Help

Finally, don’t let the feelings of embarrassment or regret hold you back from seeking help. Thousands of people experience domestic abuse daily, so you’re not alone, and silence is not the answer.

For help and advice, check out domestic abuse charities such as Refuge, Women’s Aid and The Salvation Army.

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