Subtle Signs of Abuse

Subtle Signs of Abuse

Abuse is a choice one makes as an attempt to take control of another person’s will. When abusive behavior is subtle, it can be hard to recognize. Especially when it is coming from someone you love.

Physical abuse is obvious but emotional abuse can be harder to detect. You may not even realize what they are doing.

Eventually though, the negative effects build up over time and can leave you feeling hurt, dominated, intimidated, foolish, bullied, and like your independence is being stripped away from you.

Abusive behavior can be so subtle, you may not even realize that the person is being abusive.

Make no mistake about it, people who exhibit subtle abusive behavior, have the same full intentions of dominating you as someone who is physically abusive.

It is all about trying to take your power. They don’t want you to be yourself. They try to keep you from making your own choices. They want you to do things their way. Or, they are just simply trying to dominate you because it makes them feel powerful.

Typically a person who dominates is one who believes they have the right to have power or control over you; such as a spouse, an older sibling, or immediate family member.

Anyone can be a victim of abuse, especially when the abuser is subtle. They may say things like, “I’m just playing.” Or, they may lay the blame on you.

Subtle signs of abuse typically grow stronger as the perpetrator learns what to expect from you, through the way you respond to them. The perpetrator gets more bold as time goes on.

Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect, while unhealthy relationships are built on domination and fear.

“If you don’t do this, I will be angry with you.”

The truth is, another person’s anger doesn’t have to control you. If you are afraid of someone, don’t allow it to control you, but don’t ignore it either.

The fear is there for a reason. Listen to your heart.

If you are dating someone who tries to intimidate you, you need to get away from them.

Intimidation is a sign of weakness, and weak people do stupid things to other people.

If you feel fear toward another person, take it as a red flag that you need to get away from them. There may be something about that person that your heart is trying to warn you about.


I can tell you from experience that you are better off without an abuser. I can think of many instances that I’ve had to leave people alone, and trust me, it is worth giving up the relationship to have peace in your life.

It is easier to love them from afar because you don’t constantly have to deal with their negative behavior.

People who make you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells, will wear you slap out. That’s a slang Alabama term, btw. 😉

It isn’t good for your emotional health to put up with abuse. Put a stop to it by reaching out for help from those who love you, or from the police.

Take care of yourself and don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

When I think of freedom I think of a dancer, arms high in the air, not a care in the world.

If you are an adult, anyone who makes you feel less than free, is probably displaying signs of abusive behavior.

My goal is to help you recognize subtle signs of abuse, that shouldn’t be ignored.

Maybe the person you are dating thinks they know best, and may even have good intentions for trying to control you.

Maybe someone wants you to make better decisions for your life. In this case, that isn’t domination.

A parent and child situation, for instance, is where controlling behavior may be necessary to bring a child under subjection to a parent’s rules. This isn’t the type of situation I am referring to.

What I am referring to is in a dating relationship between two adults. Adults have the right to make their own decisions.

Why We Stay

Many times we put up with an abusive relationship because we have a lot invested in it.

Maybe you gave up everything to be with that person, or had children with them. Maybe you built a business or bought a house together.

When we invest ourselves in a relationship it makes it harder to get out of it because we don’t want to lose whatever time and energy was spent.

Having kids with someone is one of the top reasons people stay with abusers. Keep in mind those kids are affected by everything that goes on in your home, even what you experience affects them greatly.

Children realize when behavior is negative. Adults who respect one another will display positive behavior toward one another.

Keep in mind you are not responsible for another person’s negative behavior. We do not cause another person to react in anger or in a violent way.

There may be something in your behavior that needs to be addressed, but it isn’t right for another person to blame their reactions on you. If they have anger issues, that is on them.


The most overlooked subtle abusive behavior is behavior that looks like it’s coming from a loving intention.

  • Unprovoked JealousyProvoked jealousy is a situation where your spouse flirts, lusts, or even cheats. Flirting is being openly forward with another person. Lusting is not just noticing a pretty face but rather staring at body parts, as though trying to take mental snapshots. Cheating is self explanatory but mental cheating is just as hurtful to your partner. Lust is mental cheating. All of these behaviors not only cause jealousy but also distrust. Unprovoked jealousy is where a person has never given you a reason to be jealous and the jealousy comes from your own fears or insecurities.
  • Unreasonable Demands -This can look innocent but when a partner insists on things like you staying at home, not working, not going back to college or self-improving in some way, not wanting you to spend money on driving your car to get out of the house, or not wanting you to have a life of your own away from them. The question to ask yourself is can I afford to do these things? If the answer to that is yes, then you probably have a controlling or dominating situation on your hands. A lot of abusers like to keep their spouse broke, uneducated, and without work experience so that they don’t have a way out.
  • Takes You to a Deserted Place -Moving you away from friends and family is the first sign of domination. Abusers like to have full control, without input from people who love you, because they know people who love you will see through their abuse.
  • Makes Demands on Someone Else’s Behalf -Demands that make it appear as though they are looking out for someone else, but in reality have selfish motives is dominating behavior. For instance, your sister tells you that you need to be at your mother’s house every week on a certain day of the week, to help out. Or, your husband tells you that you can’t leave the house because the kids “need you.”

Subtle Signs of Abusive Behavior

  • Name calling
  • Getting up in your face (intimidation)
  • Fit throwing because you won’t do what they want
  • Yelling or screaming at you
  • Banging on things because you won’t do what they want
  • Stomping feet in an attempt to get your attention
  • Withholding objects that belong to you
  • Throwing your things
  • Playing too rough
  • Reckless driving to scare you
  • Hitting walls with their fist or feet to make you feel intimidated
  • Throwing their own objects across the room in anger
  • Hiding, breaking, or taking your things
  • Refusing to allow you to have freedom to make your own choices

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can also be subtle, or, may have been going on long enough you don’t realize it is abuse.

Any physical touch that harms or traumatizes you is physical abuse.

Some people take it too far and say they are being abused, when reality is they are selfish, whiny, or spoiled rotten and want everything to go their way; so much so, they wrongly accuse others.

In which case, the spoiled rotten person would be the abuser of whomever they accused. A wrong and unjustified accusation is verbal and/or emotional abuse.

Examples of physical abuse are:

  • Hitting
  • Pushing
  • Knocking
  • Grabbing
  • Kicking
  • Thumping
  • Restraining
  • Unwanted touch of any kind
  • Unwanted sexual contact such as touching, fondling, kissing, rubbing or having sex with you without YOUR consent, or with your consent if you are under age. Having your parents consent is NOT consent.
  • Having sex with a child who is under the age of being able to make such decisions
  • Throwing things at you
  • Chasing you or doing anything to insight fear

Unhealthy or Dangerous Responses

  • Hitting back. This could cause you to get hurt worse.
  • Standing up to them verbally. Many times this provokes an abuser to anger.
  • Online behavior where the abuser can trace your activity.
  • Anger. This can escalate abuse.
  • Reacting in any negative way can cause an abuser to react out of control.

Healthy Responses to Abusive Behavior

  • Find the right time for communication.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Many times our anger is expressed with our body language. Stay calm and in control at all times.
  • Communication -an open, honest relationship breeds comfort. Honest communication can bring healing where two people are both willing to work on the relationship. Communication with an abuser is very necessary, as it is important to let the perpetrator know that you are not comfortable with their behavior.
  • Talk about serious issues in person, not over the phone, texting, through social media, or in email.
  • Do not attack verbally or physically unless you feel your life is being threatened.
  • When something makes you uncomfortable, SAY SO.
  • If you are not heard when you tell someone you are uncomfortable with their behavior, tell them again in a different way. Tell them how it makes you feel and that you feel your rights are being invaded or boundaries are being crossed. Keep in mind an abuser may not realize they are an abuser!
  • Send pictures & identifying items of your perpetrator to someone who loves you; such as, drivers license, car tag #, or names of previous people they’ve dated or previous addresses they’ve lived at. Stay in touch with someone who loves you and tell them where you are.
  • Call the police.
  • Call a family member and tell them what is going on and ask for help.
  • Get out. Leave. If you can’t get out alone ask someone to help you get out.
  • Go to and ask for help but be sure you do this on a secure computer that cannot be traced if you think someone is monitoring your use.
  • Call the help hotline
    1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
    En Español

4 responses to “Subtle Signs of Abuse”

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