I am astounded by the number of clients I meet who are not aware that they are in an abusive relationship.I know friends who are in abusive relationships and I grew up surrounded by this type of relationship. My mother and both her sisters were in relationships where they were physically hit and verbally abused.
This affected me growing up and I almost have a sixth sense about this factor in relationships now. I have even occasionally had clients come to see me and from the moment I have met them I have sensed an underlying unhealthy attitude and so far, I have never been wrong in identifying an abuser.
In order to deal with the issue though, denial has to be replaced by acceptance. Many people in abusive relationships live in denial as it helps them to cope with the situation. I hear statements like “Well, he/she isn’t always abusive. Sometimes they are quite nice to me”. This does blur the boundaries and many people doubt themselves when they see abuse towards them. No one is all bad and this makes it harder to identify what is really going on.
Here are common signs of an abusive relationship:
1) The obvious one is when someone is physically violent towards you. This includes hitting, punching, slapping, pinching, putting you in a headlock, hitting you with a object or putting their hands around your throat. There are many more examples but these should give you an idea. This type of abuse is the easiest to identify and it is completely unacceptable, as are the types of abuse that are listed below.
2) Jealousy and control. Does your partner try to dictate where you can go and who you can see? Do they try to stop you from seeing your friends and family? Are they very jealous? Do they try to control what you wear? This type of behaviour often stems from low self esteem and insecurity and they try to find this safety and security by trying to control others. Ultimately – this is an ineffective way to go about trying to meet their needs and their behaviour is likely to escalate and become worse. There may also be an attempt to control finances and take care of all the bills – keeping you dependent and reliant upon them works in their favour.
3) Criticism. Are you regularly criticised? Do they tell you that your cooking is terrible and that no one else will ever want you? Do they put you down and insult you regularly? This is emotional abuse and no one should have to put up with this. It will destroy a person’s spirit and make them a shell of their former selves.
4) Withholding love and affection. Does your partner play cruel mind games and punish you by withholding love and affection? If you don’t ‘play their game’ they will teach you a lesson by ignoring you and making you feel rejected. Abusive personalities are incredibly good at spotting another person’s vulnerabilities. They will often know exactly which ‘buttons’ to press in order to manipulative you and get you to do what they want.
5) Crazy making. Sometimes, in order to gain control, an abusive partner will find ways to make you doubt your own sanity. They will, in extreme cases, constantly challenge your perception of the world and wear you down until you become their puppet. Confidence is eroded by this type of behaviour and someone who has low self esteem and confidence to begin with will find it very difficult to stay strong in this situation. The more they isolate you from others, the easier ‘crazy making’ can be implemented.
6) Manipulation and emotional blackmail. Abusers are frightened underneath and their attempts to control others helps them to feel powerful.They will coerce others into doing their bidding by using subtle manipulation and emotional blackmail. They will say things like “if you loved me you would do what I want”. They are able to twist everything to accommodate their way of seeing the world and will minimise what their partner is going through. The relationship is all about meeting their needs and they are often selfish. Initially they will most likely be very romantic and shower you with compliments and attention. As soon as they feel they have hooked you emotionally, the abuse will start. Be very wary of someone who wants to rush ahead with the relationship in the early stages. You may find this flattering but it is often a warning sign – be wary.
Trust your gut instincts and be aware of your own vulnerabilities. Sometimes, we are so flattered by the attention and lap up the wonderful way they make us feel. We become addicted to that warm feeling and then find it hard to believe that this kind person is starting to show a dark side. Abuse takes many forms and often there will be warning signs.
When someone constantly makes you change who you fundamentally are and tries to isolate you from the world, it is not a good sign. A healthy relationship consists of two people who respect each other and bring out the best in each other. Arguments and anger are normal in healthy relationships but they are dealt with and people move on. Look out for PATTERNS of behaviour – where there is a consistent attempt to undermine you or control you. This is when you need to re-assess your relationship.
Abusive people rarely change – they are ‘wired’ a certain way and it takes great commitment to work against their habitual ways of thinking. The more you allow the abusive behaviour to continue – the more ‘acceptable’ and set in stone it will become in the relationship. Notice the warning signs early on and try to nip them in the bud.
The longer you allow abuse to continue the harder it becomes to get out or stop it.
For more info – watch my YouTube video on abusive relationships:Â https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGN_tzmM6Fk
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