An abusive relationship doesn’t start out that way, it slowly happens and behind closed doors because it’s something that people hide. You may not realize that your friend is in an unhealthy relationship and are experiencing emotional abuse from their partner because they’re too scared or ashamed to tell you and the signs of it happening to them can be missed. If you have a small but persistent bad feeling in the back of your mind about who your friend is dating then you need to look for the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship and decide if you need to offer them your support.
1) They feel guilty about being away from their partner
Everyone needs some time by themselves and to do things that they enjoy because it’s part of self-care. If your friend feels guilty about looking after their own needs because their partner says they feel neglected or unloved then they might be in an abusive relationship. Your friend doesn’t want to make their partner feel this way so they’re going to slow down how often they partake in hobbies, doing activities alone or spending time with friends. You won’t see them as often and when you ask them why that is they’re going to mention feeling bad about not including their partner in things and that they really shouldn’t be neglecting them. Instead of seeing being apart a good thing, they see it as a bad thing and they can’t enjoy being away from their partner.
2) They worry about what their partner will think
If your friend is dealing with an unhealthy relationship they’re going to worry about what their partner will think and put their needs first. Your friend won’t make decisions by themselves and will do whatever their partner wants to do and will dress or act the way their partner prefers them to. Before doing anything your friend will think about how their partner will react and will tell you that they hope they’re making the right decision. Even small decisions will stress them out and all they care about is how it will affect their partner instead of thinking about how it will affect them as an individual or as a couple.
3) They develop anxiety, depression or insomnia
People who are in an abusive relationship will develop mental health issues from the constant stress of dealing with emotional abuse from the person who is supposed to love them unconditionally. Some of the issues your friend may struggle with include anxiety, depression or insomnia and you’re going to notice a change in their behavior. They’re not going to be as alert or as happy as you’re used to seeing them and when you ask what’s wrong they’re going to give you vague answers like they’re busy with work or going to bed later than usual.
4) Their partner jokingly puts them down in front of others
It’s normal for couples to joke around with each other but when you’re in an abusive relationship the jokes aren’t funny, they’re hurtful and are meant to cause emotional abuse. If you’re in a social setting with your friend and their partner you need to pay attention to how the partner treats them. If they’re constantly putting them down and making fun of them but pretending it’s just a joke then it’s clearly an unhealthy relationship. You know your friend well so you’ll be able to tell that their feelings have been hurt and you need to talk to them about it because if this is a regular occurrence then they’re in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship.
5) They slowly lose their independence
In an abusive relationship one person has all of the power and the other person has no where to go because they’ve gradually given away their independence. When your friend first starts dating their partner they’re going to be spending a lot of time together because it’s exciting and they can’t get enough of each other but that should gradually die down. If it doesn’t and your friend becomes more dependent on them then they may be easing into an abusive relationship. Your friend is going to do things like spend most of their time with their partner, choosing them over friends and family, stop making decision by themselves and giving their partner access to their financial information.
6) They’re more critical of themselves
An abusive relationship chips away at your self-esteem until you don’t see all the good things about yourself and your flaws seem overwhelming. Your friend is going to slowly become more critical of themselves when they’re in an unhealthy relationship because their partner is putting them down, taking away their independence and manipulating them. When you spend time with your friend you’re going to notice that they’re more negative and spend a lot of time talking about what’s wrong with them and not knowing how to change for the better. When you try to boost their confidence by being supportive and telling them they’re wrong by pointing out their good qualities it won’t end well. Your friend is going to disagree with you because their partner has filled their mind with negativity from constant emotional abuse. You’re going to find it difficult to get through to them and feel like they’re not listening to you or they don’t believe what you’re telling them.
7) They feel grateful to be in a relationship
After being in an abusive relationship for a while, your friend’s views on dating are going to change. At the start of the relationship they’re going to be excited and think they’ve found someone who loves and understands them. They feel like an equal in the relationship and talk about being a couple. Over time their self-esteem is going to diminish to the point where they’re grateful to be in a relationship and don’t know why their partner puts up with them. You’re going to hear them say things like they’re lucky to have someone as kind as their partner and that if they were to break up that no one else would want them.