1 Most, if not all, of your family and friends do not like or trust your partner. This can be a tricky one to recognize for several reasons. Parents, especially, may not state their lack of trust directly because they know that in our state of love & infatuation we romanticize the “you and me against the world” mentality — they also know that this is something which the toxic partner will exploit, driving you faster away from them and into the toxic person’s grasp. Some relatives and friends may know something is ‘wrong’ but won’t know just how to prove it… But if you have people you trust warning you — even if they can offer little proof — you should continue to trust those closest to you and question this new relationship.
2 There are clearly two sets of rules, one for you & one for him, and both are set by him. Most of these things will be seen first in the form of jealousy. And in the beginning, such things will be written off as misunderstandings in the ‘getting to know you’ phase, and the drama can be seen as terribly romantic and passionate. He may even tell you that he reacts this way because of what some former girlfriend (that bitch!) did to him. Eventually, though, he will be so jealous that every last detail about how you look is a fine line between being attractive enough to please him and being a whore; he, on the other hand, may come and go as he pleases and affairs are just something you’ll have to forgive and forget, either because you were fighting at the time, or he was drunk, or he’s just a man who needs your help. You’ll become so anxious to understand his rules and avoid his reactions, that you don’t know what is worse, leaving the house alone or going out with him — so you settle for staying home and letting him go out alone because it’s less likely to upset him.
3 He will want to move in or get married quickly. He may say he’s never been so in love, or he may suggest it for economical reasons — after all, you spend all your time together — but what he wants is more access to you.
4 Once you are together, the toxic partner will disrespect and dismiss all things ‘you.’ All things you will be stupid, dumb, worthless, and on & on. He will belittle you, your body, your gender, your jokes, your hobbies, your family & friends. He will belittle you when alone, he will belittle you in front of his family, his friends, in public in front of strangers — but not so fiercely, or directly, in front of your family & associates because he is smart enough to if not charm them, then at least to remove any suggestion that he is anything other than a gem. That way, should you complain, you will not be believed. He will dismiss your upset over breaking or loss of your things. He will disrespect your privacy, right down to the most intimate bodily functions. He will ignore & dismiss your complaints with a wave of the hand — if you are lucky. (See #6, #8, #10)
5 Your partner monitors your spending, phone calls, mail, computer access, etc., and gives you time allotments for finishing errants and other tasks, especially those performed outside the home or out of his sight. My ex went to far as to call what few friends I did have along with all of his friends to find out where I was if I was not back from an errand within 20 minutes — round trip. I also had to account for all money spent to the nearest 25 cents.
6 You find yourself no longer participating in activities you once enjoyed. At first you don’t see that you’ve quietly acquiesced bits of your life; you just think you two are spending all your time together — how romantic. Ugh. I gave up browsing in bookstores & the library — those time limits vanished too quickly to really browse. I gave up classes & groups, such as pottery class and book clubs, because he thought that stuff was stupid. I also gave up shooting pool with friends — even when out with him — because other men might notice me.
7 Even though your finances are supposed to be shared, he will control the spending, the accounts, access to the money. He will play daddy with the money, holding your Barnes & Noble gift cards in his wallet for you, “Because you know how absent minded you are, dear.” (This way he not only scores the gift cards, but discredits you along the way.) He will use those gift cards when he wants to, without apology. I remember one Christmas he sent me out with my credit card (one I had in my name before we were married) to buy all the Christmas presents — and then he refused to pay one cent of that bill. I had to beg to earn the money from him to pay it off.
8 You find yourself isolated, alienated &/or cut-off from family and friends. If stopping all your usual activities and socializing habits hasn’t already alienated you from your family and friends, he will start misunderstandings and fights between you and your relatives and friends. When my friends called, my ex used to pretended to be talking to me while passing me the phone saying horrid things such as, “I’m not going to tell her you don’t want to talk to her,” or, “That Cathy you call ‘The Cow’ is on the phone for you,” etc. I didn’t know any of this until after the divorce, of course. Some of us never know why or how… We just find ourselves isolated, without a support system, in a world dominated & controlled by him.
9 You find yourself flinching, cringing or otherwise fearful even if your partner has never struck you. A part of you recognizes what’s to come, even if you don’t cognitively think it — or refuse to see it.
10 When he hurts &/or disappoints you, the conversation’s focus becomes all about him. Not just an angry lecture about what he wants and demands and how you have disappointed him (that usually is part of the abuse activities); but he becomes contrite, even cries, asking you to forgive and even to save him. It’s so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I remember once, holding my ex while he cried, soothing him telling him everything would be alright — this after he beat me with balled fists for the first time. He will make many promises to be good, to get counseling, to make it up to you — none of which will ever be carried out past a smile and some trinket. But by this time, you’ll be so relieved to have him happy — or at least not agitated and angry — that you’ll accept it just to keep the peace.
11 You find yourself changing shifts at work (if allowed to work outside the home), denying yourself regular sleep habits, to accommodate his schedule and wishes. If you have children, you will also find yourself, however unconsciously, trying to be a protective shield between them and the abuser. It is also another reason why you do not leave the house to attend activities with friends — because you do not want to leave the children home alone with him.
12 He threatens you, your children &/or your pets with violence. My ex used to threaten my then-grade-school-aged daughter that her cat would be dead by the time she came home from school; neither she nor I can remember why. Violent threats are not just statements the abuser is willing to make, he’s willing to carry them out too. When he does, you might not remember why either.
13 You, your children, &/or pets are hit, shoved, raped, or otherwise assaulted.
If you recognize any of these signs in your relationship, get out of the relationship. If you are living with a controller, abuser or toxic partner, seek assistance. Feel free to contact me — and visit Women Against Domestic Violence. And if you are on a computer that he has access to, clear your broswer cache!
If you see these signs in a family member or friend’s relationship, take great care in what you do. Here’s a great tip sheet for you.