Most people experience change in their lives once a significant other enters the picture.
Before a relationship becomes “Facebook official” (if they’re into that sort of thing), there are often clues something’s up in someone's love life.
A budding relationship can also become apparent to acquaintances on social media.
On Instagram, a casual observer may notice someone is featuring fewer pictures of his or her barhopping adventures and replacing them with pictures of “this cutie,” “him [insert blushing emoji],” “the guy who puts a smile on my face” or — God forbid — “bae.”
Do you have a friend, family member or acquaintance who has negatively “changed” or “fallen off the face of the Earth” after acquiring a significant other?
Maybe you haven’t witnessed your friend being lambasted in public or dragged by her hair by her boyfriend, but maybe you’ve noticed she’s been more timid in social settings.
Her laughs seem forced. She’s preoccupied with something. She suddenly has a scarf collection. "She has always hated scarves. What is she hiding?"
Several relationships begin “picture perfect,” but they end up disastrous.
Unfortunately, the signs someone slid (or is sliding) into a psychologically abusive or physically abusive relationship are often too subtle for an unsuspecting person to notice.
You usually won’t catch a tweet describing what’s happening behind the scenes in an abusive relationship.
I’ve provided 20 signs someone is in an abusive relationship, many from firsthand experiences. Some are glaringly obvious, while others are not as evident to an unobservant eye.
Domestic abuse victims and perpetrators have no demographic or sexual orientation.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll speak in terms of man-on-woman abuse or manipulation: “She” is the victim, and “he” is the manipulator or aggressor:
1. She neglects her beauty habits relative to her pre-relationship routine.
She may stop tanning, no longer get manicures or stop wearing makeup. She may gain or lose weight.
Her partner is lowering her self-esteem, which now hinges upon his judgment.
He likely instigates these changes in order to prevent other guys from “wanting” her or to make her feel unworthy of being wanted.
2. She may have physical wounds.
Bruises, scratches, lacerations, jammed fingers or worse (black eyes or a broken nose) are giveaways of physical abuse.
Abusers are often strategic enough to inflict these wounds in inconspicuous areas.
3. Her clothing could change to disguise evidence of physical abuse.
Women who previously sported denim shorts and tank tops might transition to long-sleeved shirts, scarves and pants to hide her wounds.
This clothing shift could also be another tactic her boyfriend uses to fend off potential suitors.
4. On the flipside of appearance changes, a victim’s looks may “improve.”
She is molded into his trophy; she is his Barbie, his prop.
If she’s not immaculate, she’s embarrassingly unacceptable to him. He has boiled down her self-worth to how good she looks on his arm. He snidely comments on what she eats and wears.
5. The abused woman is significantly less social.
She doesn’t make lighthearted small talk in the hallways or break room anymore.
She no longer eats lunch with her friends in the cafeteria. Where does she go? She avoids guys and conversations by retreating elsewhere.
She doesn’t have girls’ nights anymore. You will rarely catch her at a party or social function without him.
6. She is noticeably less confident.
She’s no longer the life of the party or a major contributor to discussions. She is less talkative.
She lost the electric air about her. Where'd her personality go? If he’s around, she constantly checks for his approval of every move she makes. She “blends in” much more now.
7. Her body language changes.
She doesn’t walk into a room with her shoulders back and her head high anymore. That would open her up to others. She’d rather beeline for a seat in the corner of the room.
She likely walks around with downcast eyes because eye contact opens her up to people she’s becoming increasingly distant from. She avoids conversation; she doesn’t want people to get close.
What if they ask questions? He doesn’t want her to talk to anyone.
8. She is always distracted or preoccupied.
Now that she has an abusive significant other, she is constantly walking on eggshells. She’s distant even when “engaged” in conversation.
You may have to repeat yourself as she glances over her shoulder, at the clock or at her cellphone.
When she is speaking, you can almost hear her choosing the “right” words in her head.
9. She is attached to her phone when she is not near him.
Her phone is always in her hand. If she misses a call — or, heaven forbid, two calls — from him, she’s screwed. If she fails to reply to a text in a “timely manner,” who knows what words (or fists) will be thrown her way when they reunite.
At times, he forces her to be connected on a call with him even though the phone is in her lap or on her desk. He’s eavesdropping on her every waking moment.
10. She only talks about her relationship on a very superficial level.
“How are y'all doing?” “Great. Just fine, as long as you stop prying.” “
Prying” into (i.e., caring about) a female you suspect to be in an abusive relationship could go one of three ways: First, if he catches wind of the questioning, he could punish her or psychologically manipulate her into thinking the person is bad.
Secondly, she could internalize the questioning along with the rest of her toxic relationship.
God willing, a third thing occurs: She comes to realize how seriously she needs to get the agency of her life back, starting by ridding herself of him.
11. Her social media presence changes.
She is no longer on social media or she is significantly less active.
In reality, he’s acting as her social media manager by screening her from receiving help or being exposed to people he deems inappropriate (i.e., people he feels threaten the balance of power he has constructed). They may now have a joint Facebook account.
12. Her communication habits change.
She’s ignoring your texts, calls and emails because she’s only allowed to talk to certain people and do certain things. She might even get a new phone number.
If you’re lucky, perhaps she replies every once in a while, but she’s probably keeping the conversation short and superficial. As a result:
13. Her relationships break down.
Her close friendships dwindle. Relationships with her family members are extremely limited, or they’re the only acceptable kind of relationship.
Those people know (or knew) her the best, so they’re a threat in his eyes. He is isolating her.
14. She avoids everything related to the past.
Life before him doesn’t exist. Experiences once reminisced about are now off limits. Don’t talk about anything or anyone that could trigger interrogation (or worse) from him.
That life is over, if he has his way. According to him, she should feel guilty about past relationships.
15. She’s disinterested.
She quit the swim team. Though previously her favorite activity, hikes are now few and far between. She stops going to the theater to watch new movies every weekend.
Of course, she stops going to places to do these things because attractive guys, acquaintances or someone with the same car as her ex could be there.
If her significant other is not interested in something or able to be right by her side during an activity, she’s no longer involved.
16. She’s always in a hurry.
If he’s not with her, she shouldn’t be there. If she must be somewhere, she’s in and out, no nonsense.
No more chitchat before and after class and no more conversations in the break room.
17. She often has puffy or red eyes.
She is sleep-deprived from fighting and worrying all night long. She has been crying. She tries to sneakily wipe tears away.
You heard her sniffling in the restroom; you’ve caught her in the act. Her eyes well up with tears when you try to reach out to be her friend or ask how she is doing.
18. She lies.
She skips class because he won’t let her out in public today, but she tells the professor she got in a fender bender.
She can’t make it into work. She tells coworkers she woke up with flu-like symptoms, but she’s really at home cleaning up a vase he smashed, replacing a painting he punched through and giving her swollen nose 24 more hours to heal.
She can’t go to dinner with her friends because she has to “clean the garage.” And the biggest lie of them all: She’s happy.
19. She’s strapped for cash.
He controls her finances, even if she’s the breadwinner.
“Where’d that $10 go? Did you give it to your good-for-nothing sister? Or did your skank ass buy condoms to sneak away with someone while I was at work?”
He’ll use the money as he wishes, or he'll manipulate her into using it only as he deems fit.
20. She fakes her emotions.
She forces smiles. She forces laughs, then glances in his direction to see if that was okay to laugh at.
He forces her to cry in order to destroy her self-esteem. “I know you had sex with that guy. You’re a slut.
You have nothing to be proud of. I can’t believe I have a hoe for a girlfriend. You’ll never find anyone else willing to love you.” Love? Yeah, if you want to call it that.
If you notice someone who displays a telling combination of these red flags, then whatever you do, don’t ignore it.
The longer she stays in the relationship, the more manipulated her mind becomes and the more likely a psychologically abusive relationship is to turn physically abusive.
The longer she stays in the relationship, the more “normal” the manipulation and abuse becomes to her, and the less likely she is to end the relationship.
If the suspected victim shuts you out, you could always slip a note with the phone number of the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
If you are the victim, know you are worthy of real love. Take back your life!