Are You In An Abusive Relationship?
What is an abusive relationship?
An abusive relationship is an intimate relationship (married, co-habiting, same sex partners) whereby one partner (the abuser) uses various methods to exert control and power over their partner (the victim). If you are reading this article, it is very likely that you know or suspect that you orsomeone close to you is in such a relationship. If you are at the point where you are just suspicious, I strongly encourage you to read on because one of the ‘symptoms’ of being in an abusive relationship is denial, which hugely minimises and justifies the abusive behaviour. Although it is commonly thought that most abusers are male, this is in fact not the case at all. So this article covers both female and male partner abuse.
What types of abuse are there?
This takes the form of pushing, choking, hitting, kicking or any form of aggressive physical contact. This could also include threats of such violence or damage to surrounding property in order to vent (punching walls, kicking furniture, throwing things etc).
This is the type of abuse most of us think of when we think of abusive relationships. We also usually think of the battered wife. Contrary to popular belief there are nearly an equal number of ‘battered’ men. These men are just as vulnerable as women because they are equally likely to suffer serious physical harm, but apart from this, there are very limited resources to help such men, they fear not being taken seriously, and because of their nature, they would find it difficult, if not impossible to discuss such a problem with friends or family.
Physical abuse is quite an easy form of abuse to recognize, but there are other very insidious forms of abuse that can keep the victim tangled in the abusive web without realising they are in fact a victim. I use the word victim with trepidation here because the word victim somehow suggests weakness and helplessness. I want to be very clear here. I am using the word victim here meaning ‘injured party’, and nothing else. The victim will have feelings of ‘weakness’ and ‘helplessness’ but that is not the reality. The victim is, in fact, the stronger party in the abusive relationship but the dynamics of the abusive relationship have given the abused the perception that they are weak, which is what needs to be healed. Now let us look at the other more insidious forms of abuse.
Financial abuse is where one party uses finance to control their partner. This could take many forms. It could be that you have to continually ask your partner for money when you need it for normal household expenses. Or your partner could spend large amounts of money putting your household in debt, or simply leaving a very small amount of money at your disposal. It could be that you have to constantly justify what you have spent to your partner even though there is more than enough to go around. Or your partner may hide their assets so you have no idea how much money they have.
Verbal abuse is where your partner resorts to name calling or undermining you verbally. This could take many forms such as calling you stupid, or ugly. It could take the form of blaming you for all the challenges in the relationship, or any events that your partner does not like. It may be that you are regularly judged and criticised by your partner or even humiliated in front of family and friends.
All forms of abuse are insidious in nature, but this form of abuse is particularly so. This could take a huge variety of forms so I will mention just a few examples. In all abusive relationships, it is important that the victim is isolated as much as possible. This allows the abuser much more control because the victim loses the support of loved ones and friends. So the emotional abuser will try to restrict access to friends and family. This could be done by arguing with friends and family and then poisoning the victim against their loved ones. They may try to control where you go and what you wear. They may also blame you for their behaviour, or for any other challenges in their life and in their relationship with you. They may undermine and humiliate you either at home or in company. They may also fly into a rage when challenged, or withdraw any kind of affection or support if you do something that does not please them.
This could take many forms. Your partner may continually insist that you perform sexual acts that you are reluctant to perform. It could also be that your partner tries to persuade you to have sex when you don’t want to. He/she may then fly into a rage if you won’t comply or threaten to go elsewhere for sexual gratification.
Above are just a few examples of abusive behaviour. Other indications of being in an abusive relationship are how you feel. I have listed below some examples that indicate you are in an abusive and/or toxic relationship.
Indicators that you are in an Abusive Relationship
· You feel you can’t express yourself openly and honestly with your partner
You are walking on eggshells
You constantly censor what you say
You lack spontaneity
You do not feel listened to in the relationship
You feel emotionally unsupported in the relationship
You sometimes wonder if your partner has your best interests at heart
You often feel drained of energy
Life in general seems a lot more difficult
You feel isolated
You feel brow beaten
Your confidence and self-esteem are low
You try really hard but never seem to be able to genuinely please your partner
You doubt your own decisions and feel the need to ‘ask permission’ from your partner before taking action
You sometimes dislike (even hate) your partner
You feel sorry for your partner
You are afraid of your partner
You long to be free
This list is by no means exhaustive but if you experience a few of these feelings on a regular basis you need to look at your relationship in more depth.
What is a Healthy Relationship?
According to Dr Phil, the health of a relationship is directly linked to the degree in which the needs of both parties are met. We all have needs and the more of those needs that are met, the happier and healthier we are. In a toxic/abusive relationship, the needs of the abuser are of paramount importance, and the needs of the victim are neglected. In fact, if you are in an abusive relationship it is likely you may now not really know what your needs are. The abusive relationship is so all encompassing for the victim that they often totally lose themselves in it, making it even more difficult to escape. A healthy relationship is a relationship that makes you feel safe and supported. Both you and your partner should feel nurtured and nourished and be totally free to express yourself fully. It should support the growth and feelings of freedom of both within the partnership, respecting and meeting the needs of both concerned.
How to Escape from a Toxic/Abusive Relationship.
The first and hardest step is often to admit you are in an abusive relationship. Toxic relationships are immersed in denial. The progression of the abusive relationship is a very insidious one as mentioned earlier. The abuser is often very charismatic and at first, will only show the abusive behaviour on occasion. By then, the victim is often hugely invested in the relationship. To protect this investment, the victim then invests more to overcome the challenges the abuser introduces to the relationship. As the insidious abuse becomes more frequent, the self-esteem and confidence of the victim diminishes making them less assertive and able to overcome the abusive cycle. And so the cycle continues. The victim is also now very isolated so their only point of reference becomes the abusers warped perception, because they no longer have their own independent perception. They are now lost in the relationship, so to admit the relationship is toxic means they have to take action. They feel powerless and helpless against their abuser so they deny that the problem is as serious as they secretly know it is because they feel trapped.
So the first step towards freeing yourself is to lose the denial and admit your relationship is toxic. As a starting point it is wise to do as much research as possible on this subject. This will help you remove your blinkers and see the relationship for what it really is. It is important to do this because when trying to leave an abusive relationship, the abuser will employ any tactic they feel will keep you invested in the relationship. It is important to see these tactics for exactly what they are so that you don’t get hooked back in. This is also the time where any abuse is likely to escalate so you must devise a plan of escape that will keep you safe. There are lots of organisations out there that can help and support you through this. Make absolutely sure that you do not put yourself in danger during this time. Seek professional help and advice.
Once you can see the relationship for what it is, you can then spend time nurturing yourself to get your strength and energy up again. Be kind to yourself, and as far as possible try to do at least one thing a day that you really enjoy. Work on your damaged self-esteem. See Complimentary Therapists or a Counsellor to help you find yourself again, and turn to family and friends for support. Make sure you turn to people or organisations that specialise in abusive relationships to get the best help possible. And finally you may find comfort in the last paragraphs.
Who Makes a Good Victim?
All too often the victim of an abusive relationship feels weak and stupid. There is nothing further from the truth. In my experience, the people who become victims are actually very kind, loving and inspiring individuals. They fall prey to this type of relationship because they want to nurture the people around them. They want the very best for their family and friends. They often become embroiled in toxic relationships because of this very fact. They really want the best for their abuser, but no matter how hard they try, it never seems to quite work, so they try harder, and harder and harder! This shows great persistence, great strength and compassion. All great attributes that will assist you in your escape!
Who is the Abuser?
In my experience, abusers are very weak individuals who feel powerless. If you think about it, why would someone want to control someone else’s behaviour? They do it because they feel powerless and their control gives them a sense of power. This also leads to the question, why would they want to exert control over the victim? Because they see the victim as powerful and they want to diminish that power! So the dynamic of the abusive relationship is actually the reverse of how it is seen by the victim!
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