Abuse Safety: Early Warning Signs

This page is about spotting the signs that warn of a friendship/relationship becoming abusive in the future.

Most bullied and abused people can look back at the early days/weeks/months with their abuser, and realise there were warning signs they didn’t spot. Often we’re so caught up in the whirl of a new friendship or relationship that we are happy overlook incidents that make us feel uncomfortable; but I strongly encourage you to pay attention to your gut feelings! They are an extremely good indicator of what’s going on, whether that’s good or bad.

Autistic people are often not so good at seeing a situation as a whole, so it’s important to add all those little details together – any time you’ve been upset by a friend or partner, or shocked, humiliated, frightened, or made to feel in any way uncomfortable – and consider those occasions as a whole. Then ask yourself if you’re happy to be treated that way. Remember, abusers are more than capable of being sweet and kind – and are often exclusively so at the start of a friendship/relationship – so don’t think just because s/he’s nice “most of the time” that the abusive behaviour should be ignored. Even if it’s only occasional, it’s still not okay, and it will very likely become more frequent once you are committed to the relationship.

Some Warning Signs for Friendships & Relationships – links take you to the relevant pages in the “tactics” section

  • Borrows money/stuff and doesn’t give it back, or you have to keep asking before it’s given back, or you’re made to feel mean/selfish/unfriendly for wanting it back, or not wanting to lend again. (See: Mind Games)
  • Tries to influence you what you wear and how you look. Might comment on you need to lose/gain some weight, remarks on how s/he’d like you to do your hair/makeup. (See: Mind Games)
  • Texts/phones more than you’re comfortable with, perhaps for no particular reason (or might say s/he’s always texting/phoning because s/he “loves you so much”), and/or expects you to always answer. Might give you a hard time (including sulking) if you don’t always answer, or don’t answer quickly enough. (See: Isolation)
  • Always wants to know where you are/who you’re with, what you’re doing. (See: Isolation)
  • Is jealous of existing friends/family, and/or tries to turn you against them (or turn them against you). (See: Isolation)
  • Makes “jokes” about “making you suffer” or “getting their own back”. (See Bullying & Intimidation)
  • Talks about his/her plans for you as though you’ve already agreed to them. (e.g. I thought we could go shopping on Thursday, so remember to put it in your diary). (See: Isolation)
  • Expects you to cancel previous arrangements for his/her sake.(See: Isolation)
  • Doesn’t use your name, but has a “pet” name for your instead. (See: Mind Games)
  • Wants to know all about you, but is reluctant to discuss his/her own past or current situation. (See: Mind Games)
  • Is always late, but gives you a hard time (or sulks) when you’re late. (see: Lording It)
  • Says/does something cruel, and says it “was just a joke”. (See: Lying)
  • Might try to turn a friendship into a sexual relationship when you thought you were just friends. (See: Degradation)
  • starts leaving their dirty laundry at your house. (see: Lording It)
  • says they’re “no good at cooking”, or “can’t” operate kitchen appliances. Might compliment you on how good you are at these things. (see: Lording It)
  • Asks for sexualy explicit photos/films of you. OUR ADVICE? NEVER SEND EXPLICIT PICTURES OF YOURSELF TO ANYONE! Even if you are in a relationship with them. (See: Degradation)
  • Sends sexual explicit photos/films of him/herself, whether or not you want/ask for it. Might send explicit pictures to persuade you to send a similar picture back; but remember, the picture they send might not be of them. (See: Degradation)
  • Always expects you to pay for everything, or never lets you pay your way when you want to. (see: Lording It)
  • Scares you with their driving, and won’t slow down when you ask. Makes a “joke” out of calling you a chicken. (See Bullying & Intimidation)
  • Doesn’t introduce you to friends and family, even if you’ve been together for a while. (See Isolation)
  • Always wants to stay at your place, or always expects you to go to theirs. (see: Lording It)
  • Blames ex-partner(s) 100% for the breakdown of their previous relationship(s). (See: Lying)
  • Bitches or pokes fun at other people behind their backs. (See: Mind Games)
  • Behaves differently towards you when other people are around, either being more attentive, or more unkind. (See: Mind Games)
  • Talks about “babysitting” his/her own children, or doing their ex-partner “a favour” by having the kids. (See: Bad Parenting)
  • Talks about jointly owned things as “his” or “hers”. (See: Lording It)
  • Keeps phoning/texting you “because they love you so much”, but makes you feel checked-up on, and claustrophobic. (See Isolation)
  • Begins to dominate your time, so you don’t feel you have time to see your friends, or do your own activities. (See Isolation)
  • Wants to move in together, or proposes marriage, very early in the relationship (after only a few weeks/months). (See Isolation)
  • Talks about being “together forever” from the very start of the relationship. (See Isolation)
  • Promises all kinds of lovely things (e.g. a holiday), but won’t discuss firm plans or commit to actually doing it. (See: Mind Games)
  • Doesn’t respect your need to put your children first. (See: Bad Parenting)
  • Let’s down his/her children in favour of other activities (including spending time with you). (See: Bad Parenting)
  • He doesn’t see his children, and tells you it’s because his ex-partner is denying access. (See: Lying)

Financial Vulnerability
If you have your own savings or other capital assets (e.g. a house or car), be wary of a new partner who is unemployed (including retired), in debt, and/or going through a divorce. Many such people will be genuinely struggling to get back on their feet, and will be grateful for the support of a new partner, but some will target you if you have savings and/or a good job, especially if you’re lonely and keen to find a new partner. They’ll probably tell you how greedy and selfish their ex-partner is. They might complain about having to pay so much towards their children’s upkeep, or say they’re frightened of a divorce leaving them destitute. It’s unlikely they’ll take responsibility for their own situation – it will always be someone else’s fault. So if you meet someone with a financial sob-story, consider keeping details of your savings/income private until much later in the relationship (for six months at least), and resist any attempt by your new partner to find out. Once you do reveal details of your finances, be very careful about investing your money in anything that doesn’t have your name on it, e.g. paying for “essential repairs” to someone else’s property, or using your capital to pay for a holiday, or day-to-day living expenses.

If you have your own warning signs, please post them in the comments.

Related pages
» Abuse Safety: Reading Dating Profiles
» Abuse Safety: Writing Dating Profiles
» Abuse Tactics: Introduction
» The Cycle of Abuse


4 thoughts on “Abuse Safety: Early Warning Signs”

  1. A suggestion – Lundy Bancroft’s Book “Why Does He Do That?” covers a lot of these same tactics and cycles in a great deal of detail. It’s available as an ebook or as a paperback, and is easily found via Google (search string “lundy bancroft why does he do that” will bring up numerous results).

  2. Thank you so much for this extensive list. I was in an abusive marriage for some years and got out of it. Although I’d like to date and meet someone new, I know I’m still vulnerable as a woman with asperger’s as I take what others say very literally. I’m quite self aware of myself and have decoded a number of NT traits to keep myself safe, however, having a someone else write them all out so I can see the words and explain it further has reconfirmed some of the things for me. Thank you once again!

  3. This is the best list I have seen re: abuse & actually if mind game, degradation etc. I will study all of this for now & future. I would like to tweet it but cannot see twitter icon? Many thanks

    • Thanks!
      (There should be a twitter icon, along with facebook, google+, and linkedin icons at the bottom of every post – between the main text and the comments box. Try reloading the page or clearing your cache if they don’t show up.)

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