Do they always put you down no matter what you do?
Abuse – its not always physical
Identifying an abusive relationship can be hard, particularly if you are being abused. An abusive relationship rarely starts out as abusive, with your abuser slowly increasing their abusive behaviours. This means the abusive behaviours become normal within your relationship.
So how do you identify if your partner is abusing you?
One marker is that you find yourself justifying certain behaviours from your partner that you wouldn’t accept from yourself or others.
Another identifying hallmark of an abusive relationship is the abuse cycle. The abuse cycle starts with a gradual building of tension, the abuse takes place, and is followed by a period of reconciliation and calm before the tension builds up again, starting the cycle once more.
Because there are so many variations in types of abuse the cycle will be slightly different for each relationship. For example, in a physically abusive relationship, the tension is built up in a non-physical way, but becomes physical when it reaches a certain level.
Historically, women have been the most likely victims of abuse in relationships, but it is now acknowledged that abuse can be present in any relationship, regardless of gender, sexuality, cultural or financial background.
Abuse can come in different forms:
- Physical and sexual. This takes the form of any unwanted or non-consensual physical or sexual contact.
- Psychological and emotional. Examples of this might be name calling, belittling, shaming, not letting things lie, manipulation, gaslighting (being manipulated by your partner into taking responsibility for something they have done), your partner might sulk or freeze you out by refusing to speak to or look at you; threatening you.
- Coercive (controlling). Your partner might refuse to give you access to bank accounts, threaten to withdraw money or take your credit or debit cards, or fail to give you privacy both physical and virtual.
- Harassment (which can also happen online). This takes the form of any unwanted contact or communication (which includes stalking).
Some signs that you might be experiencing abuse are:
- Low self esteem (such as having negative thoughts and feelings about yourself or feeling unable to take action).
- Becoming isolated (reducing or losing contact with your family and friends or feeling afraid of your partner’s reaction to you meeting other people).
- Secrecy (hiding or lying about certain aspects of your relationship to other people).
- Erratic behaviour (cancelling things at the last minute because your partner is annoyed about it or doing odd or unusual things to keep your partner happy).
- Making excuses (to yourself or others) for your partner’s behaviour (s/he didn’t mean to do it, or it was a one-off).
- You may have a sense of guilt and feel that you deserve the abuse; for example I deserve to be shouted at because I broke something (rather than shrugging it off as accidents happen!)
- Abusive behaviours that have been normalised within your relationship might seem normal in other relationships (you unconsciously adopt some of the abusive behaviours such as being over critical towards others)
Psychotherapy cannot save anyone from an abusive relationship, but can support people to regain their inner strength to take the necessary actions to keep them safe and move their life in the direction they want/need.
This weeks post is written by Tiago Brandao