Early Warning Signs: Identifying DV Red Flags

By Jenn Rockefeller

It’s not always easy to recognize the warning signs of someone’s toxic behavior. These signs, or red flags, can be difficult to detect at times. More often than not, the red flags are thickly veiled behind a carefully crafted façade of charm and wit.

So how can you be able to better spot the red flags in the future? Below is a list of some of the earliest warning signs of an abusive relationship.


Lovebombing is exactly as it sounds. The abusive person will bomb you with proclamations of love. Abusive relationships always begin with an overabundance of charm and love. The relationship will move incredibly fast. So fast, in fact, that they won’t give you any time to think or want to slow down. The abusers will be so attentive and even profess their undying love for you rather quickly. They will even loudly proclaim their love for you on their Facebook pages, where they will make dozens of posts not just on their own page, but yours as well. They will raise you up high on a pedestal, saying how perfect you are and that they’ve never felt this way about anyone before. They will pretend to like and dislike the exact things as you to forge an instantaneous bond.


Derived from the classic 1944 movie, the term gaslighting refers to creating a situation where the person is made to feel like their reality is coming unglued. Abusers often devise a scenario where you are made to feel like you are losing your grip on your reality. You will doubt your own perceptions. You will second guess yourself at every turn. Lost your keys? The abuser will watch you become so frenzied to the point of hysteria, then miraculously point to where the keys are – which happen to be a place you had looked half a dozen times – and claim, “Well, you didn’t look hard enough.”

Glimpses of anger

When in an abusive relationship, you won’t likely see the abuser’s full anger potential right away. But you will see glimpses of their anger here and there. You will notice that they may become testy with a waiter in a restaurant. You may notice that they bark at you for being five minutes late to a date. Their mask may even slip to the point of unleashing full-on anger at you one night, but be oh-so apologetic the next day.

Jekyll and Hyde

One of the earliest warning signs of an abusive relationship is how they treat you in public versus behind closed doors. They will go from ripping you apart behind closed doors to being sweet and attentive to your needs when you are in public.

Condescending and “joking”

You may notice that your partner has begun to take a condescending tone with you. Abusive people will often rely on insulting you, claiming that they are “only joking.” They will begin to tease you relentlessly about your looks, your family, and your friends. When you protest, they may call you hypersensitive. They will also belittle your intelligence, claiming that they know better than you.

Lack of empathy

It has been said that abusive people are devoid of empathy. They just don’t care. They will never be able to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, nor will they ever understand or share the feelings of another. So if you notice that your partner doesn’t seem to care that you had a bad day at work, then this might be the reason why. Or perhaps you notice that your partner shrugs things off by saying, “Oh please, I’ve had it worse than you” and then proceeds to launch into a diatribe of their own troubles.


One of the cornerstones of abusive relationships is how the abusers love to lie to their partners. It’s all that they know how to do. They will lie to cover their tracks. The lies will come so effortlessly, that they may even have difficulty remembering the original lie they told, so they will have to come up with even more lies.

Blame shifting

Abusers never take responsibility for their words or actions. It’s always someone else’s fault. It doesn’t matter if they are clearly at fault. The abuser will never admit any wrongdoing. They may even insist that someone else made them do it.

So how do you identify these (and other) red flags in a future partner?

The biggest tip-off in identifying red flags in a partner is how uneasy the partner makes you feel. If you begin to notice the above red flags more quickly and if those red flags are blaring in a neon fashion at you, then you know that person is not right for you. These red flags become much more than red flags–they become deal breakers. Normal, loving people do not raise the above red flags in such a way that it would make you go running for the hills. Just remember, while it’s good to have a sense of awareness about yourself and what you want, you also don’t want to put up such a high wall that would prevent you from being happy with someone.

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