Is my relationship abusive?
We all behave badly at times. We all stumble into feelings of frantic need or despair. We all say things we totally regret later: we yell, we drop F-bombs, turn our backs, and give the silent treatment. And we usually feel terrible when the dust settles. We apologize. And next time, we remember to breathe. We remember the look of hurt on our lover’s face and we listen instead of pushing our point. We change. This is not emotional abuse. This is relationship and growth.
But some partners don’t grow with us. They loop around in the same tantrum-like behavior without seeming to learn from the experience of hurting us. Some partners go into an altered state and inflict pain, habitually. They have a hard time taking feedback. They make us feel wrong for being so hurt. They make us feel like the whole thing is our fault. This scenario plays out in my new novel, Wife Material.
There’s no clear, reflective line between “normal” and “abusive.” And even “normal” relationships can be abusive in a moment of extreme stress. But if, more often than not, you feel pushed into a corner, forced to hold back your thoughts and feelings, you probably need help or advice from the outside. Consider these signs…
- You feel afraid to express an opinion different from hers/his.
- You notice a cycle of mistreatment where there’s a buildup of frustration followed by an explosive event, followed by a period of apology, silence, reconciliation, or calm.
- You limit your outside friendships or activities because you don’t want your partner to feel slighted.
- Your partner insults your intelligence or mental health.
- Your partner suggests that he/she is the only person who would ever understand your or tolerate your needs.
- In the heat of conflict, your partner shouts, calls you names, slams things, curses, particularly if you express a different opinion or feeling from theirs.
- Your partner withdraws from you and refuses to talk or give you eye contact if you express disagreement.
- Your partner makes fun of you in front of friends.
- You find yourself limiting your creative activities to make sure you don’t threaten or upset your partner.
If you abuse, manipulate, or mistreat a loved one, know that you can change, with help and appropriate relationship advice.
If any of these things happen to you, know that your partner’s behavior is not your fault. You can’t change your partner, no matter how agreeable, compliant, or supportive you become.
But…you can get help for the relationship if you remain calm and awake. EMDR treatment and/or couples therapy can help both of you resolve the old trauma that fosters abusive relationships. Start by getting help for yourself.
If you’re in immediate physical danger, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Contact me to find out about how to stay awake and aware while protecting yourself in an abusive relationship.