Domestic Violence is a pattern of abuse that a partner uses to establish power and control over another. Not all abusive relationships involve physical violence, however emotional abuse almost always precedes physical violence in a relationship. Emotional abuse has long-term psychological effects and can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Take your time dating a new partner and maintain healthy boundaries. Try to spot these signs early on.
Does your partner…
‘Love bomb’ you and rush your relationship. Did they shower you in romance or pressure you to move in together quickly? Obviously romance is not a sign of abuse on its own, however an abusive partner needs you to trust and love them because then it’s much easier to control you.
Use religious or spiritual beliefs to pressure you into a relationship fast. Do they use terms such as “twin flame” or “it’s part of God’s plan” to rush through the dating phase straight into the committed phase? These terms can make you feel obliged and guilty to your abuser. Do they tell you they’ve been in love with you for years or months before you started dating? A healthy relationship takes time to build and these sentiments can be used to keep you feeling sorry for them and not leaving the relationship when you first start spotting early red flags.
Make decisions for you without consulting you? This is a sign of things to come.
Uphold sexist ideas.They may have a very traditional and conservative view of gender or sometimes joke about you their being property. Notice how they talk about women in their life. Do they speak about their ex-girlfriends, mother or other women in their life with disdain and barely disguised venom? (Note- I’ve written this section as if the abuser is male but abuse happens to same sex couples and to men as well.)
Tell you what to wear and what to do? Or do they constantly check up on you and your whereabouts? Exhibit possessiveness and jealousy but masquerade these as love?
Make fun of you, put down your accomplishments, tease you in a belittling way? They may insult you publicly in front of others with the effect of you becoming a shadow of your former vivacious self. Have they made nasty remarks about your body? By reducing your self esteem they will have more control over you.
Overreact or make a huge deal out of very small things? As the relationship progresses you’ll feel reduced and diminished for every tiny mistake and you’ll start feeling like you can’t ever do anything right.
“Gaslight” you to erode faith in your own memory and sanity? You feel confused and off balance and later helpless
Isolate you? Maybe they try to stop you seeing your friends or family or stop them coming to visit. They could also prevent you going to work or school or doing other activities.
Use finances to control you? They keep you in the dark about finances or won’t pay their share.
Use intimidation and anger to make you comply with their wishes? Hits walls, slams fists on objects, shoves you, grabs, stands over you, destroys your possessions, drive dangerously or do other things to scare you. This will inevitably escalate and should be taken very seriously.
Ignore you by cutting you off, refusing to communicate or using silent treatment? These are passive techniques to establish rules about when and what can be contested. This could include withholding sex as punishment.
Pressure you sexually before you’re ready to engage in unsafe or unwanted sexual behavior? Do they refuse to wear a condom? Dictate what birth control methods you use? Pressure you to get pregnant before you’re ready? Do you only have sex when they want to never when you want to?
Threaten to commit suicide if you want to leave the relationship. Or minimize their abuse; “It wasn’t that bad.” “It’s not like I beat you up.”
If you have recognized even one or two of these warning signs then I urge you to leave your relationship or prepare a getting-out-safely plan. It’s not your fault if your partner abuses you. Your partner chooses to abuse. Abusers rarely change. Control and isolation is not love. You may need help through counseling to build up your self-esteem before you have enough strength to leave.
Book a session with me if you’re worried you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
Cat O Dowd