No one sets out looking for an abusive relationship, whether it’s physical, emotional, or any other form of abuse. In fact, even after the relationship becomes abusive, it can be hard to recognize the problem and free yourself from the harmful situation. It might have become your new normal and you believe you don’t deserve any better.
But you shouldn’t tolerate any abuse.
What Does Abuse Look Like?
Abuse can be insidious and if it happens between you and a family member, or a romantic partner, it can be hard to see it objectively.
The clearest way to understand if you’re in an abusive relationship or not is to ask yourself these simple questions:
- Are you afraid of your partner?
- Do you have to walk on eggshells, because you’re afraid to anger or upset him / her?
- Are you afraid of their reactions? If you feel like you’re going crazy, or can’t do anything right, there’s a good chance that you’re in an abusive relationship.
Unfortunately, your relationship might not have started out that way, especially if the abusive person is your spouse or partner. And if you love them, you continue to hope that they’ll change, and that things will get better. It is this hope that keeps many women (and men) within abusive relationships.
While it’s good to believe in the best of people, and to believe that people can change, it’s never a good idea to put yourself in harm’s way.
How to Know You’re Being Physically Abused
Physical abuse is usually prefaced with threats of physical abuse. If your partner says things like, “I’ll break your neck!” Or, “I’ll kill you”. Seek help immediately. They may start out as empty threats, but they are usually the precursors for real, physical abuse.
Other signs of physical abuse include threatening to commit suicide, destroying objects, forcing you to have sex, being forceful and rough during sex, and hurting you, animals and children.
How to Recognize Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse might not seem like that big of a deal because first of all, there is so much emotional abuse out there. And second of all, no one is getting physically hurt, so it doesn’t seem as grave. But emotional abuse can be just as, if not more, destructive as physical abuse.
With emotional abuse, the abuser always seeks to have control over you, and that include things like your finances, friends, family, basic necessities and career. Abusers control you by being dominant, by humiliating, intimidating and isolating you, and by threatening you.
Emotional abuse gets more complicated because the abusers are usually very good at denying any wrongdoing and deflecting all blame. They’re very good at justifying their behavior and making excuses for their actions. This can make you feel crazy and guilty, which only causes you to put up with the emotional abuse again and again.
Why You Might Put Up With Abuse
It’s very easy for other people to tell you that you don’t have to put up with abuse. But unfortunately, it’s not always easy for abuse victims to believe this. Here are some reasons why victims tolerate abuse:
- Dissociation: This is a symptom of post-traumatic stress syndrome, in which people are not psychologically present and therefore, they’re unable to remember the pain and abuse they’ve experienced.
- Hope: This study revealed that over 50% of abuse victims believed their abusers were “highly dependable.” Are you tolerating abusive behavior because you believe your partner or family member will change and be better someday?
- You Blame Yourself: Some victims remain in the abusive relationships because they feel guilty for leaving, because it feels like they’re giving up on your partner and / or family member. This feeling of guilt is further complicated by all the victim-blaming that’s prevalent in our society.
- Loss of Self-Worth: Abusive treatment works to diminish you and your sense of self. It eats away at your self-worth, and you stop believing that you’re worthy of love, respect, safety and independence. Abuse makes you feel disconnected, helpless, desperate and it makes you replace any feelings of self-love with self-loathing.
Why You Don’t Have to Tolerate Abusive Behavior
It’s scary to think about standing up for yourself in an abusive relationship, especially when you’ve lost your sense of self-worth.
But here’s why you should stop tolerating abuse:
- You Are Worthy of Love and Respect
Now, you may not feel this way. And you might have a long history of not loving yourself. And when you’re being abused, it’s usual to feel scared, ashamed, depressed and confused.
But always remember that who you are is amazing, valuable and important in this world.
- You Don’t Have to Keep It To Yourself
Maybe it’s not safe, or maybe you’re not ready to confront your abuser, especially if there’s a history of physical abuse. But that doesn’t mean you should keep this to yourself. Abuse victims often feel like they’re the ones to blame, or that they’re going crazy.
By talking this out with someone else, you can see that you are being abused, and that you’re not going crazy.
The sooner you share your situation with someone else, the more help you can receive. Friends and family, or professional counselors can help keep you accountable as you make steps to end abusive behavior. If you’re not sure where to turn, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline to get local help.
- You Cannot Save The Abuser
Do you feel guilty about the abusive relationship? Do you love your abuser? And do you believe that they can change? If so, you may unconsciously believe that you can save the abuser. But the only person you can and should save is YOU.
- Doing Something Wrong NEVER Warrants Abuse
You may have done something that upset your partner or family member, but that should never justify physical or emotional abuse.
- You Don’t Have to Feel Stuck in the Relationship
Abuse victims usually feel completely helpless and stuck, but you don’t have to put up with a relationship like this. You can have relationships where you feel free, happy, loved and cherished.
Believe that you can have this, because guess what? You can!
Abusive relationships are confusing, stressful and dangerous. You don’t have to stay trapped in them. Speak up, seek help and above all, believe that you are worthy of love and respect.