Nearly half of women and half of men have been in a psychologically abusive relationship, and many don't realize they're in one at first. Abusers often come off like good partners initially, and abuse isn't always obvious. Many people stay with their abusers for years before seeing the relationship for what it is. But knowing what signs to look our for could help you spot the issue sooner.
"Things rarely start out abusive in a relationship," Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Esther Boykin tells Bustle. "Rather, there are minor red flags along the way that, if ignored, can snowball into a harmful cycle of abuse." These red flags can be precursors to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, which often go together.
Victims of intimate partner violence also may not recognize the abuse because the abuser brainwashes them to think there's nothing wrong — or that the issue is really with the victim. Making someone doubt their perceptions is known as gaslighting, and this tactic leads many to stay in abusive relationships and even defend their abusers despite their friends' and families' warnings. "You feel like you can't trust your judgement about what's happening," Boykin says. "And then you start to doubt your worthiness of a healthy relationship."
Here are some signs to look out for to avoid getting trapped in an abusive relationship.