Hidden abusers: Recognising subtle signs of covertly abusive behaviours in relationships
Subtle forms of abuse can cause serious harm in relationships, warns psychotherapist Ginger Dean. From ghosting to gaslighting, watch out for warning signs.
In the intricate web of human relationships, some forms of abuse can be subtle, insidious and easily overlooked. While many people associate abuse with overt acts of physical violence or outright emotional cruelty, there are subtle abusive behaviours that can cause serious wounds in victims and leave scars that aren't always visible. These covert forms of abuse can undermine a person's sense of self-worth, mental health and overall quality of life, often trapping them in an unhealthy dynamic. If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there are some warning signs to watch out for. Some abusive relationships begin as toxic relationships, and you may not recognise the toxic characteristics until they become abusive. (Also read: How to manage disagreements that we cannot resolve? Therapist shares tips )
"Have you ever been in a relationship that felt like tiptoeing through a field of landmines? Where every step you took was accompanied by the fear of setting off an explosion? Let me know if this sounds familiar: you're in a relationship that initially felt like a warm embrace. Love was in the air and you couldn't have been happier. But then, slowly and insidiously, things started to change. It's like a subtle shift in the wind that you can't quite put your finger on. Why do people behave this way? It's important to understand that hidden abusers often have their own unresolved issues", says Ginger Dean, Licensed Psychotherapist in her recent Instagram post.
She added, "You find yourself questioning your own sanity, wondering if you're truly too sensitive or if you've just become a pawn in their manipulative game. It's a painfully, isolating place to be. But you don't have to stay there. Imagine a life where your boundaries are respected, where your emotions are validated, and where you're not constantly walking on eggshells. This is where The Inner Circle comes in. It's important to recognize these abusive patterns, heal from the emotional scars, and build the life you deserve."
Signs of covertly abusive behaviours in relationships
Ginger Dean further shared five covertly abusive behaviours in relationships that you must watch out for.
1. Back-dooring your boundaries
Violating your boundaries in underhanded ways after repeated requests not to do so. Then they blame you for making them feel bad for asserting your boundaries.
2. Ghosting after a disagreement
Disappearing intentionally to "teach you a lesson" after conflict. Later they return when they feel you've had enough of their absence and are ready to continue on without discussing the issue. This is known as resetting the relationship in order to avoid addressing what happened.
3. Invalidating your experience with them
"You're too sensitive" is a classic example which is also gas-lighting.
4. Using vulnerable information against you
Example: "You're just like your mother!", especially if she was your abuser. Or engaging in smear campaigns by contacting friends/peers to triangulate them into a conflict with you.
5. Moving the goal post
There's always something about you that needs to change before the relationship moves to the next stage. They move the post and keep you at arms length, performing and walking on eggshells with empty promises around "When you do then we can be in a relationship".
"Even if you can't put a label on your experience because the behaviour is so covert - your intuition is always talking to you. Just make sure you're ready to listen and take action when it speaks," concludes Ginger Dean.