5 Signs You’re in An Abusive Relationship and Don’t Know It
I have been speaking with survivors of domestic violence for a few years now. Often people will say to me, “My situation wasn’t as bad as yours” and they would hang their head in shame. I was shocked. When I inquired further, the most common answer I would get is “my partner never hit me”. This enrages me because I know that we, as a society, have created a culture where abuse is only “valid” if it is physical. Yet psychological research shows that ANY kind of abuse; emotional, psychological, verbal, or financial, all have the same effect on the victim. All abuse causes trauma. Trauma does not need to be scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. Trauma stories do not need to be compared to others so that a survivor feels that their story isn’t worthy because “it wasn’t as bad”. Trauma is trauma. A wound is a wound. And if it isn’t cared for properly it will never heal right.
I am writing this for you. If you clicked on my blog something inside you is fearful you may be living in an abusive relationship. Here are some warning signs that I want you to think about.
Your significant other puts you down, often in front of others. You come away from the situations feeling like it is your fault and that you deserve what is said to you.
Hateful comments about an individuals’ body, cognitive ability, family history, ethnicity, disability, mental health disorder (the list goes on) is a subtle yet highly damaging form of abuse. An abuser enjoys making their victim feel small and worthless. That is how they continue to make themselves feel important, empowered and in control. It also makes the victim feel as if they do not deserve better and should be grateful that this person “loves” them. When the abuser is confronted about the behavior they will often laugh it off and say things like, “don’t be so thin skinned” and “it was just a joke lighten up”. Or, sometimes they will continue down the path of hatefulness and spite and will respond with statements that blame the victim and make them feel like it is their fault for being ridiculed. As a survivor I feel it is my responsibility to say to you that it is not your fault. It is never your fault. Do not believe the lies you are being fed. Studies have shown that if you accept them long enough your brain will be wired to think the lies are truth. The real truth is you deserve better. True love is not mean or hurtful.
Your abuser knows where you are at all times. You mentally calculate the minutes it takes to get home from any task so that if you are late, your story is lined out. Otherwise they will accuse you of having an affair or planning to leave them.
My abuser installed a “spy” app on my phone that allowed him to GPS my location as well as hack into all of my emails, text messages and social media accounts. He had to have the passwords to everything. Refusing to give the passwords would result in a fit of rage and accusations about “what are you hiding from me? Who are you seeing?” It is interesting how often abusers throw around the cheating accusation. You see, losing you to another individual is the biggest loss of control they could ever face and therefore is the thing they are most scared of (besides going to prison). Instead of talking to you about it and building a relationship of trust and love (or leaving if the trust and love isn’t there), they put you in a mental prison that you can’t escape from. They know your friends. They know their numbers. They track your every move. Sometimes they will justify tracking devices and say it is to see if you are cheating. Other times they will say it is for “safety reasons, in case anything happens”. I am here to tell you that everyone is entitled to privacy, even if you are married. Everyone is entitled to their own safe space to write, read and communicate as they please. GPS tracking is control, not love.
You are not allowed to go out with friends or family. It causes too much of a fight. Even speaking with them on the phone can be risky.
You find yourself having to come up with multiple excuses to get out of work outings, dinner and movie with friends, or visiting your family (even during the holidays). For some reason your abuser feels that going out with people other than them is betrayal. Sometimes people will invite your significant other to tag along but you often decline because, let’s face it, your ex’s mood is unpredictable and who knows what will set them off. You will certainly pay for it when you get home.
Your abuser has a questionable job history. You are forced to be the breadwinner yet sometimes they harass you at work and threaten your job security.
This one is very confusing to people who were introduced to domestic violence years ago. It was believed that the man worked while the woman stayed home. It was thought that the man beat the woman and since she only had the skills of a housewife, she had no other place to go. This is so far from reality. Most women who are in abusive relationships are smart, beautiful, successful and talented people. They are managers, professors, doctors and lawyers. Sometimes their spouse also has a successful career. However, upon closer examination, the job history is hard to trace. Abusers sometimes hop from job to job. They often start off performing really well, even getting promoted, before the bottom falls out and they have an incident that gets them fired (kind of like how your romantic relationship with them started). Usually the incident involves their narcissism and emotional instability. Sometimes it’s sexual harassment against another co-worker, sometimes it’s bouts of rage, sometimes it’s simply not showing up to work because they don’t really care. Work isn’t interesting and they often feel that they are much more skilled and talented than the job they have. Forcing you to be the breadwinner is adding stress that should be shouldered by both people in the relationship. It can often keep you from pursuing your dreams or passions because you simply can’t afford to leave your job. So you are stuck. You should never feel stuck.
Your finances are a wreck and your abuser is mostly to blame.
The old school of thought told us that abusers are the ones who made the money and also blocked their spouse from having access to the money. Abusers are slyer than that. You probably have a joint bank account but the financial control happens when they spend the money before paying the bills. When I married my ex he was 26 years old and already in the process of filing for bankruptcy. He had racked up credit card, medical, phone bills and any other type of debt. One time I informed him that we had less money in the account than he thought because I paid my credit card bill (because you know, credit is vital in the adult world). He went crazy. After that I had to let my credit card lapse into default. Your abuser often goes on spending sprees when they are in the middle of yet another emotional crises. If you try to pay bills first it will cause a fight. They expect you to work and bring in the money and they feel that they are entitled to spend as they please. You are doing the right thing by trying to be financially responsible. You work hard and you are proud of being able to provide for yourself and your family. Your spouse should never stop you from doing that. They should never spend money when they know that it will put the household in financial jeopardy.
These are 5 forms of abuse that never once mention a physical altercation (although for some people these events can trigger one). Even though an individual is never physically hurt, you can see how much stress they bare as a result of their abuser. They are isolated from family and friends. They have no money. They work a job because they can’t afford to quit and pursue something that they truly love. They are sad and miserable and their abuser preys on that miserable disposition and exploits it by saying hurtful, demeaning things.
You are loved by so many.