5 Signs of an Abusive Relationship

The earlier the disturbing signs of abuse are acknowledged, the easier it is to move on and find a healthier, happier existence.

If you're being abused, surely you must know it, right? That's a commonly held misconception. But abuse is about power and controlling a message. An abuser will often make the victim feel as if it's his or her fault. That's called manipulation. Manipulation creates confusion and wrongly placed blame [source: Stanford]. Ultimately, a victim of abuse can't clearly see that she's a victim -- that is, until someone shines a light on the situation.

Think of it this way. If you've been sick for a long time you may wrongly believe that the way you feel is normal. It's not until you've read about the symptoms that you finally say, "That's how I've been feeling -- you mean there's another way to live?" One thing you wouldn't say is, "Yes, I recognize now that I am sick but it's a sickness that I created and deserve." A victim of abuse never causes the mistreatment. The abuser decides his course of action. It's his choice alone [source: Stanford].

Perhaps the confusion you feel is grounded in the fact that you're in an abusive relationship. Control can masquerade as "protection" or a violent reaction can be labeled as a response to "being hurt." Even cruelty can be called "playfulness" by an abuser [source: LABMF].

Consider the possibility that what you're experiencing is not part of a normal relationship and then review the signs ahead. If these indicators seem familiar and the situations listed are similar to what you live with, it's time to take action.