5 Subtle Signs Someone You Know is in an Abusive Relationship

The signs of relationship abuse aren’t always obvious. But in the United States, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. You likely know someone who has experienced some level of domestic violence, but you may have been unaware of what to look for to help. And physical abuse, such as bruising, isn’t the only type of abuse. It can be verbal, emotional, and mental, too. Here five subtle signs that someone you know is in an abusive relationship.

relationships difficulties, conflict in family

Not all relationships are what they seem. | iStock.com/anyaberkut

1. They pay significantly more or less attention to their appearance

If someone has stopped caring about the way they look, it could be because their confidence has been shattered. If a woman puts on weight and stops doing her makeup, she may feel less confident because of an abusive relationship.

In contrast, abusive relationships can also make women (and sometimes men) feel like they need to meet a certain standard in order to be appreciated by their partner. A woman may begin wearing a lot of makeup, get in great shape, and always leave the house looking her absolute best in order to gain acceptance from her partner.

2. Their social media presence changes

When someone is in an abusive relationship, they may not feel like they want to advertise their life on social media anymore — or, their partner has decided they’re no longer allowed to post certain photos. If someone had a significant social media presence and it changes once they start a relationship, it could be due to a controlling partner. Plus, if a woman follows several men on social media (as most people do), her partner may not want other men seeing photos of her. She may not be able to post photos freely for fear of being punished in her relationship.

3. They’re not as reachable as they used to be

If your friend stops answering phone calls or is never around to make plans, it may be against their will. In an abusive relationship, the partner has become controlling and might only allow your friend to spend time with who their partner deems appropriate. In most cases, the only person they can spend time with is the partner. If you’ve called your friend several times and she never gets back to you, she may not be as busy as you think — she may actually be “not allowed” to make plans with you anymore. Most abusive partners think the woman will confide in others if she hangs out with them.

4. They’ve become disinterested in hobbies they once loved

If the two of you used to love playing tennis, yet every time you extend the invite she says no, it could signal she’s in an abusive relationship. A lack of confidence plus a controlling partner both mean she has less interest in the things she once loved. She can only do the things he loves and no longer gets the freedom to enjoy her own hobbies. Plus, doing things without him gives her the opportunity to run into another man or see friends of the opposite sex, and that’s not allowed.

5. You’ve caught them in several lies

If you’ve asked your best friend why she isn’t around only to realize that she lied about the reason, it doesn’t necessarily mean she is a bad friend or doesn’t want to see you — it’s possible that she doesn’t want to admit her partner controls every aspect of her life. Catching her in a lie may mean he told her she couldn’t do something, but she didn’t want to admit that to her friends. Lies cover something up, and if you’ve known her for years, she probably isn’t covering up genuine disinterest — she could be covering up abusive behavior.

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