You would definitely be aware if you’re in an abusive relationship, right? It would be quite obvious. Well, not always! A lot of women who are experiencing abuse from their partner will spend months or sometimes even years thinking that the problem is something other than abuse.
Maybe they think it’s a ‘communication problem’ or just a ‘failure to set the right boundaries’. Maybe you just write it off by thinking that your partner is facing some issues with anger management. Or perhaps you have started to believe that you’re the one who is doing something wrong or there is something wrong with your personality, not theirs. In a society like ours, people are not very good at discussing or even acknowledging the abuse that exists, so most women are just left wondering.
One common myth is that abuse should only be a problem when it’s physical abuse. But the truth is abuse can show up in many different forms, including psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. And all of these can be just as damaging to anyone as physical abuse.
For example, an abusive partner can be one who tries to cut you off or isolate you from all your sources of support, threatens you or uses sarcasm to constantly put you down, shows anger to intimidate you, expresses jealousy at the smallest of things, or stays emotionally distant all the time.
An abusive partner might be someone who refuses to allow you to fully practice your faith, devalues your education or knowledge, tries to control all the finances, or keeps threatening to have an affair if you don’t do exactly what they ask. These examples, and many others, are not usually perceived as abuse. You might acknowledge that there is something ‘wrong’ here but you still don’t label it as abuse. Here are 7 signs of an abusive partner. Take a moment to think about whether your partner is also guilty of these.
1. They take away your freedom to choose what you need or want
Most abusive partners can be very controlling. And very often, this behavior reflects in the way they don’t allow their other half to make the right choices for themselves. You might have noticed how you’re never able to ask for what you truly want or need without fear that your partner will become extremely angry, reactive, or aggressive.
2. They keep demeaning you
An abuser can be extremely critical about everything- your beliefs, your ideas, your feelings, and even your body. You might find yourself second-guessing everything about you- what you’re going to wear, the meal you should prepare tonight, even who you should be friends with. Because you’re always too stressed out about the kind of reaction it might induce in your partner.
3. They are volatile and unpredictable
While it’s possible for an abuser to act in acceptable or even positive behaviors at times, they can also be very unpredictable and even explosive in their behavior. This leaves you feeling like you’re constantly ‘walking on eggshells’ because you never feel sure about what your partner is going to do next. If this has been happening in your relationship, you might feel very confused and exhausted from always trying to anticipate your significant other’s next move.
4. They constantly blame you or someone else for their own abusive behavior
An abuser will rarely ever take responsibility for their behavior. Instead, it will always be someone else’s fault. Maybe their boss has been causing a lot of stress lately or the kids were making too much noise or you were just ‘pushing their buttons’ with all the questions you were asking. The abuse is never your fault, but they might leave you feeling like it is.
5. They use the ‘silent treatment’ to frighten or punish you
An abused partner will notice how they have been punished in various ways when they do something that their abusive partner does not like or approve of. The ‘silent treatment’ is just one of those punishments. And this one can be very terrifying for a person because they are never sure of what’s going to happen next and when.
6. They limit your access to money
An abusive partner is usually very controlling in terms of money. Since money is essential to do just about anything in life, it is an extremely powerful tool for controlling another person. If your partner is always controlling your access to money or any other necessary resource such as the internet, a car, or even a phone, then you are being abused.
7. They keep apologizing for their behavior and promise to change but never do
An important part of the pattern of abusive behavior includes periods of behavior that appear quite positive- times when they start seeming very helpful and caring. In these ‘honeymoon periods’, they might even apologize for all the pain they have caused you and promise to change from now on. But abuse is always cyclical. And although they have promised to change and even seem to be changing for a while, this behavior won’t ever be sustainable. Their behavior will start to deteriorate again, and they will revert back to their frightening, controlling, or unpredictable behavior.
If you believe that you have experience all or some of these behaviors from a past or current partner, you have very likely experienced abuse.
This is an extremely hard reality to accept. When you are with someone, it might be hard to think of them as abusive. Your partner might not fit the exact stereotype of an abusive person any more than you fit the exact stereotype of an ‘abused person’. But that really does not matter. A person who experiences abuse can come from any kind of racial, economic, religious or ethnic background. Abuse is never just reserved for weak and the poor- it can be happening to anyone!
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