Many early behaviors and tactics used by the abuser are hard to recognise unless you have experienced it yourself. Many of these behaviors could be observed as being ‘loving’ or ‘caring’ actions to the inexperienced eye. The perpetrator will often be overly attentive at the start of the relationship. Gradually the abuser will use your love and commitment to him/her to manipulate your life for their gain. This results in the victims fear of displeasing the abuser, therefore finds themselves adjusting to their demands in subtle ways. The victim then lives in a state of quiet desperation feeling as if she is being pulled by invisible strings. His subtle actions send out a powerful signal making you feel that you are being punished for something you haven’t done.


How to recognize signs/actions in your own relationship: (this list is not exhaustive and it is important to keep this into context)

  • Overly attentive at the start of the relationship

  • Tries to sow seeds of doubt about our friends

  • Bullies waiters/bar staff by being subtly rude

  • Insists on dropping off/collecting you

  • Often has a ‘sob story’ about past relationships/life

  • Arrives unannounced on surprise visits

  • Plans ‘surprises’ for us when he knows we have plans

  • Puts you down – claiming ‘Its only a joke.’

  • Monitors your time. For example, quizzes what time you have done this/that

  • Excludes you from some social events with no reason

  • Makes derogatory remarks about women

  • Sometimes makes you feel uneasy and you cant put your finger on why.

  • Smiles with the mouth but glares with eyes

  • Manipulates relationships within your family to try and isolate you

  • Blames his behavior on anger issues/drink/drugs

  • Snoops around your phone/emails

  • Displays passive-aggressive behavior – often throwing you ‘the look’

  • Cause arguments before family occasions

  • Will make sly and accusatory comments within only your hearing while in social settings. He will often glare at you making you feel you have done something wrong.

  • Will persuade you to take out loans/finance for his equipment such as phones, iPads etc

  • Persuades you to open a joint account in order for him to exercise power over finances

  • Inflexibility of changing arrangements unless it suits them.

  • Will often minimize their own behavior by using the word ‘only.’ For example: “I only brushed past you.” or “I only grabbed you to stop you.”

  • Goes quiet and/or sulky

  • ‘Accidently’ leaves the house with your car keys/door keys/buggy to ensure you are kept indoors.

  • Will go out leaving you indoors with no idea where he is or what time he will return.

  • Will make visitors to the house feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, often through subtle gestures.

  • Withholds money from you or limits your access to money

  • Will blame you for their actions reinforcing the belief that it’s your fault “You made me do it.” “You know it winds me up.” “You know what I am like.”

  • Makes up fictitious stories on what you have been ‘seen doing’ or who you have been ‘seen with.’

  • Mistreating family pets


In schools, we encourage children to stand up to bullies. We teach that to stand back and let bullying happen is wrong. So why do we not support these values in adulthood? Many people turn a blind eye to domestic abuse through ‘not wanting to get involved.’ When our friends or loved ones are in an abusive relationship it’s not easy to spot the signs. We may have a feeling that something isn’t quite right but can’t quite put our finger on it.  Also, people are reluctant to interfere for many reasons, “what if I’m wrong.” or “I don’t want to cause awkwardness in our social group.”  Here are some of the actions you may observe or signs which could suggest someone is in an abusive relationship. The victim will also cut herself away from family and friends as she feels embarrassed and humiliated about the situation she is in and wants to hide it from those around her.

  • Changes from a happy go lucky person to someone who ‘seems on edge’

  • Seems to be in a permanent state of unease or anxiety

  • Changes plans or makes last minute cancellations

  • Subtle changes in their normal behavior – social habits, style of dress

  • Seems quick to defend their partner’s behavior

  • Drops everything to his demands

  • Weight loss

  • Will leave social occasions early, especially if he is not with her

  • Persistently checks phone when not with him

  • Petty stealing (he may be controlling her access to money or her belongings)

  • Using words such as ‘only’ to minimise his actions. For example; “He only did this because…” or “It was my fault really because….”

  • Gradually seems to stop seeing family/friends as much

  • Overly attentive to his needs (through fear of displeasing him)

  • Tearful

  • He may even pull you to one side for a chat stating ‘he is worried about her.’ This is a common tactic used to discredit her mental state in order to ease the way for his further manipulation.

  • Is dropped off and collected – he will often turn up early or manipulate situations to make her leave earlier.

  • General change in habits​


Do not tell her what you think she should do and bad mouth the perpetrator. There is a high chance she will just defend him as don’t forget, she does love him. If she feels you are against him and their relationship she will push you away and be reluctant to speak to you.


Most importantly you just need to listen and be non-judgemental. The victim lives in constant hope that he will change so it’s important to her that you do not show any negative emotions towards him.  Listen and support – not to dictate to her what you think she should be doing. She knows what she should be doing but needs to muster up the strength first.



You need to let her figure things out for herself and she needs to make the journey where she just one day ‘snaps’ and then there is no going back. She will end the relationship when she feels ready. It’s a brave move to leave a relationship and enter in that spiral of hurt so she needs to have the negative experiences as a ‘driving force’ to break fully away.


Encourage her to keep a diary of their relationship and what he does. Also ask her to keep any text messages or emails that show emotionally manipulative behavior. If she does report him or there is police involvement she will need this to build a case.