Most of us want to be loved. We want someone to get us, know us on a deeper level, and respect us for who we are and also, for who we are not. It’s a very human trait to want to be known. We are taught from an early age that we need a partner, and those without a partner or spouse are somehow flawed and viewed with suspicion.
Sometimes we’re willing to sacrifice our sense of self-worth for a relationship that mimics a respectful, loving partnership of equals — at least on the outside. Sometimes we are willing to lie to ourselves in order to keep holding on to a relationship that hurts us on the inside. We rationalize that the relationship is not so bad, highlight the good moments in our mind and tell ourselves that we can’t be without that person — or maybe that we will never find another like him or her.
You might feel alone, even with your partner. You might tell yourself that your relationship is different, but still fine. This may very well be the only kind of relationship you’ve experienced. Sometimes it feels great, but then just as quickly, it becomes messy. Sometimes you make up stories about how good things are in your relationship hiding the real picture of what is happening in your life.
It’s embarrassing. On some level, you know you deserve better.
Unfortunately, intimate partner violence and abuse, in general, are complicated and difficult to acknowledge — especially when they are happening to you.
Anyone can be abused by someone they love and care about. But not everyone can leave. Although counter-intuitive to those who’ve never experienced abuse, it is VERY difficult to leave an abuser for many and varied reasons. Leaving an abuser is an act of great courage that requires planning, caution, and a medal of triumph if achieved.
Be gentle with yourself.
Here are 8 signs that are present in abusive relationships. Not all have to be there in order for abuse to be occurring. If any of them apply to your situation, check it out, you are most definitely not alone! Many of us have experienced the same things and are with you every step of the way.
1. Fear of Partner
· Fear of physical violence. Physical violence includes hitting, punching, slapping, strangling, pushing, etc. Physical violence should never be ignored and is a sign that the relationship has become more immediately dangerous. The presence of guns in the home makes the situation even more lethal.
· Fear of angering partner and his/her retaliation.
· Feeling of walking on eggshells whenever partner is around.
· Rationalizing to yourself that it is better to be mistreated than to make partner angry.
· Need to placate partner and keep the peace at any cost.
· Feeling frozen in tracks, unable to make a move.
2. Treated like an Object, not a Person
· When someone treats you like a thing, then they can justify any action toward you!
· You can be raped by a person that you know. You can even be raped by a person that you love.
· Partner makes you do things you don’t want to do — forced sex of any kind including anal sex, oral sex, humiliating sex, unwanted BDSM, makes you have sex with other people while he/she watches, pimps you out, makes you do porn, etc.
· Humiliation takes its toll on you until you feel like less of a person. It is often painful and embarrassing to ask for help.
3. Feeling Off Balance and Crazy
· Partner blames you for their behavior. If you find out that your partner is cheating, then your partner will accuse you of cheating instead of admitting it.
· Anything you try to discuss, or are worried about, will be turned around and thrown back at you by your partner.
· Partner denies all abusive behavior and accuses you of overreacting or being crazy. Partner accuses you of abuse.
· Belittles you, blames you for everything, criticizes all that you do and tries to make you feel stupid.
· Calls you names like slut, whore, bitch, cunt, etc.
· Gaslights you — in other words, manipulates you into doubting your memory, perception and sanity. (Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse and the term comes from the title of a 1944 film which stars Ingrid Bergman).
4. Threats from Partner
· Destroys your possessions as a warning.
· Threatens to hurt your children, take your children or turn you into the local child welfare office.
· Threatens suicide if you leave.
· Threatens to kill you, or threatens murder-suicide.
· Threatens to hurt your family or friends if you leave.
· Threatens to hurt your pets.
5. Unpredictable Behaviors of Partner
· You feel constantly on your guard — watchful, hyper-vigilant and defensive.
· You never know where your partner will show up, what they will say or do, or what “mood” they will be in.
· If you are in an automobile with them, you never know when they will drive like a maniac.
· You feel that you are being watched.
· Partner can be loving, fun and friendly one minute and then change on a dime.
6. Your Whole Being Feels Controlled
· Partner plays mind games.
· Jealous and possessive; limits access to family, friends, money, transportation, even phone.
· Controls your behavior through words, gestures, glances.
· Checks up on you.
· Steals from you.
· Makes you miss work, sabotages your career, even if just by making your day miserable through upsetting words, calls, texts and actions.
· Keeps you distracted and unable to focus on important things.
7. Feelings of Shame
· You feel isolated within yourself; embarrassed and misunderstood with nowhere to turn.
· Loss of self-worth, even if you used to feel confident.
· Anxiety and panic attacks, sometimes leading to depression.
· Suicidal thoughts.
· Feeling overwhelmed, not good enough, like something is wrong with you, and sometimes even like a prisoner of your own mind.
· Feelings of guilt.
8. Feelings of Rage
· You realize that your abuser can stop their bad behavior when it benefits them.
· You notice that their physical abuse usually never leaves marks in areas that others can see.
· You notice that their mental and emotional abuse leaves scars far deeper than any physical abuse.
· You may feel extreme rage about the entirety of the situation. It is entirely possible to feel rage and fear and shame and pain at the same time. In fact, it is likely.
If you were abused in any way as a child or young person — or grew up in an alcoholic or violent family, then these feelings may be even stronger and more confusing. For people of color, it is sometimes more difficult because the structural racism inherent within systems of justice often further silences people.
If any of these things applies to you. Seek assistance. Talk to an advocate. Call your local domestic violence resource center or the National Hotline at 1–800–799–7233 (SAFE). Abuse wears many masks.
You are not alone. One step at a time, you can break free.