Relationship abuse comes in many forms, some subtle and some not so subtle. No matter the type of abuse, the victim always ends up feeling emotionally distressed. When you ask yourself, is my partner abusive, you might find that it can be hard to detect evidence of abuse.
This is because perpetrators play tricks with your mind, they gaslight you (telling you things that aren’t true or making you believe things are true when they aren’t) and they use your self-doubt against you. Many abusers can spot a potential victim as they know what to look for – someone who is kind, has a lot of empathy or low self-esteem are often targets for abusers. A lack of self-confidence means it’s a lot easier to manipulate a person.
Common forms of abuse
Never accepting responsibility for their actions
Abusive individuals rarely apologize for their abuse. They twist things around and deflect their behaviour back onto the victim. Making the victim feel that they are somehow responsible.
No empathy for another person’s feelings/minimising
Abusive behaviour involves verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse. Abusers are adept and confusing their victims. Don’t expect an abuser to change – they never will. Accept them as they are or leave. trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, if you spend ages wondering who was right and who was wrong – you might very well be in an abusive relationship.
Verbal abuse can be subtle, for example: “You don’t know how to deal with this problem correctly. You aren’t assertive enough…”. The victim often feels they are not good enough, that their abusive partner knows better and the victim begins to go quite and become a shell of their former selves. It’s a slow burner this one. Some abusers are very overt for example, “You are fat, you are a whore” etc but not all verbal abuse is this obvious.
Silent treatment is a form of abuse often used to control and manipulate. It can also be used as a form of punishment too. It creates emotional distress and acts as a form of rejection. It’s a form of social ostracization and inflicts pain. It’s an immature way to send a message to a partner and it stifles healthy communication. It is a form of abuse.
An abusive partner insisting they told you something when they never did is an example of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a psychological ploy to unsettle a person and make them doubt their perceptions of reality. Over time, it is a form of crazy-making.
Abusive partners often find it easy to lie or be dishonest without any guilt. In fact, they might get a huge kick out of manipulating another person through lies. A psychologically damaged person behaves in this way without any remorse or thought for the distress they cause. They inflict pain as it makes them feel powerful to affect another person. It’s dysfunctional and dangerous.
Provoking emotions to feel powerful
Abusive people like to test their partners. When they see an emotional response it makes them feel powerful. It shows them that their partner still cares. Of course is a damaging and dysfunctional way to feel powerful in a relationship and it wears the victim down over time.
What is a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship involves two people who respect each other and who care about each other’s happiness. There is regular healthy communication and no silent treatment, stonewalling, contempt, or criticism. A healthy relationship includes two people who are allies in life and support each other to be the best they can be. Arguments do happen in healthy relationships but mature individuals look for solutions together and collaborate. Do you feel that your partner truly cares about your happiness or do they tend to put themselves first all the time? Some people make their partners feel like objects that can be picked up and put down when needed.
Relationships take work and we all make mistakes but patterns of abusive behaviour show that the abuse won’t go away. When behaviour is repeated time and time again – it’s probably time to get out. I know how hard it can be to leave though, especially when the abuser has been ‘grooming’ you to take more abuse over time and the abuse has become normalised.
Trust that life will get better and you smile again after the initial hurt and shock of leaving. People with high self-esteem love themselves too much to allow another person to abuse them and demean them. Champion yourself, be brave and leave someone who makes you feel miserable most of the time. After a while your true self will be shining again but that can’t happen when you have an abuser keeping you small.
If you need help and support, you can try one of these charities (based in UK) or go to our resources page for help.