TW: This article contains content related to mental, emotional, and physical abuse.
It’s not always easy to recognize red flags in relationships. It’s important to know the signs of abuse and resources available if you or someone you know are to ever find themselves in an abusive situation. Abusive relationships are more common than one may think and can be difficult to see, especially if it’s not physical. Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner and nearly one in three college women (29%) say they’ve been in an abusive dating relationship.
I was 15. A couple of months into my freshman year, I met a boy. He was a junior. He was funny, charming, and confident. He said all the right things, made grand gestures, gave me attention, and I loved it. It felt good to hear someone whom I had just met call me beautiful and say that he loved me. For the first couple of months, everything was amazing. It was almost too good to be true. However, a few months later things quickly changed. We would constantly fight and break up, only to get back together again shortly after. It felt like a rollercoaster. When things were good between us, it was amazing. But, when things were bad, it was the worst feeling ever. He would blame me for every fight we had. Nothing was ever his fault. It was mine. I don’t even remember how many times we broke up and got back together. As time went on, I started to feel like I was walking on eggshells around him. After every fight, he would apologize and tell me he loved me and I always forgave him. He promised it wouldn’t happen again. It did. He got even more aggressive with his words. He made me feel small. Often, he would get so mad he would grab my wrists, just to make sure I was paying attention to his words. He never hit me. Although, sometimes he told me he wanted to. He would constantly remind me that no one would ever love me the way he did, making me think that this was the best it was ever going to get, making me think that no one else would love me. Even worse, that this was what love felt like. I knew there was a problem, but I didn’t know how to get help. I was too embarrassed. I was scared, isolated from my friends and family, and scared to admit what was actually happening. I chose to ignore the bad and focus on the good. I ignored the red flags. I thought that if I ignored them, they would go away.
Over half of all college students (57%) say it’s difficult to identify dating abuse and 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they experience dating abuse as a victim. Abusive relationships, whether that be physical, mental, or emotional, often start with love bombing. Love bombing is exactly as it sounds. Abusers will bomb you with proclamations of love, place you on a pedestal, and tell you everything you would want to hear. These types of relationships tend to move fast and it’s very easy to get swept up in it. This is the first red flag. It will never stay this way. Following this love bombing, there is almost always some sort of controlling behavior. This may be telling you who you can and cannot hang out with, what you can and cannot wear, ignoring your boundaries, and more. Isolation is another very common red flag. If you find yourself not hanging out with your friends or family as much, feeling like you can’t leave your partner, or recognizing that your partner is constantly putting down your friends and family, do not ignore this. If your significant other makes you responsible for their feelings or blames you for their problems, run! Language like, “you made me do this,” “I can’t help being angry,” or “you’re hurting me by not doing what I ask.”
If you find yourself afraid to leave your partner, doing things that don’t feel right, worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy, feeling tied down (like you have to constantly check-in), or second-guessing your own thoughts, feelings, and ideas you are experiencing cues that indicate an abusive relationship.
We want to believe that a person can change. We want to believe that if we stay, they will stop hurting us. As a survivor, I am here to tell you that they won’t change. It doesn’t matter how badly you want them to stop insulting you, hitting you, or isolating you because for a person to change it must come from them. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any type of physical, emotional, or mental abuse, I urge you to tell someone and seek help. You should never feel bad about defending yourself. It is not your fault. It is never your fault.
Healthy relationships are based on respect and equality. Your partner should make you feel safe, supported, and happy. You should not feel as though you’re on a rollercoaster of emotions. As a couple, you should be able to have separate lives from each other but can come back together as a unit. Privacy is extremely important. Love is respect. Please, do not settle for anything less.
National Domestic Violence Hotline– 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)