Being in a relationship is never easy. Inevitably, people argue, they disagree on small matters, they get on each other’s nerves…But an abusive relationship is different. It will have you questioning your self-worth and even questioning your own sanity. So how do you know if you are in an abusive relationship? This is our guide to identifying them so you can get out if you need to.
What is an abusive relationship?
An abusive relationship is a relationship in which one partner is disrespectful or violent toward the other partner. That abuse can take several forms. The first, and most easily recognizable one, is physical abuse. If a partner slaps, punches, beats the other person, even once, this is abuse. If a partner demands sex from the other person and touches them without their consent, this is also abuse. If this happens repeatedly, then the relationship can be called abusive.
The second form of abuse is emotional. Unfortunately, this is a lot harder to identify. In an emotionally abusive relationship, one partner will criticize, belittle and insult the other—eventually making them feel that they are not worthy of love. Emotional abuse is often ignored in discussions of abusive relationships, but it can be just as damaging as physical abuse.
What are the signs of an abusive relationship?
So how do you know if you’re an abusive relationship? There are a couple of signs that you should watch out for.
The first is physical violence. Has your partner ever laid hands on you? Have they ever slapped you, shoved you, pushed you during an argument? You may think that physical violence is a normal part of arguing with someone but it’s not. You may even think that it’s your fault for angering them and pushing them to the point of violence. But the truth is, if the relationship wasn’t abusive, that kind of violence wouldn’t even cross their mind.
Another sign of an abusive relationship is if you’re apologizing to your partner a lot. Are you careful not to get them angry because the smallest thing can annoy them? Do you constantly apologize for your behavior? If a person gets angry at you constantly for doing things you would normally do, like going out with your friends, wearing certain clothes, being late… then it’s a sign you may be in an abusive relationship.
You also have to have a good, hard look at how you feel in the relationship. Do you feel that you and your partner are equal? Or do you feel that they’re better than you, more successful, more talented? Abusive people will often try to belittle your accomplishments so that you start feeling inferior to them. Does your partner ever express their pride in your achievements? This is an important question to ask yourself.
Finally, notice how your partner talks to you. Do they use soft words of affection like “babe”, “honey”, “darling”? Or do they use nicknames you don’t like? Frequently, abusive people will say things that they know offend you and refuse to acknowledge it. For example, they may criticize a physical trait that you’re insecure about. Or they may make rude jokes about your family. When you confront them, they’ll say that they’re only joking and make you feel guilty for being “too sensitive”. But the truth is, feeling repeatedly hurt by the words your partner says is a sign you’re in an abusive relationship.
Do abusive relationships ever get better?
If you’ve identified that your relationship is abusive, you may still be thinking of ways to make it better. After all, can’t you just do something that will make your relationship healthy again?
Unfortunately, this doesn’t tend to happen. If a person is abusive toward you, it means they don’t respect you. All their words and their claims of love mean nothing if their behavior doesn’t show respect toward you. And the sad truth is, there’s nothing you can do to make someone else respect you if they don’t decide to do it themselves.
Your abusive relationship may get better if you do everything to keep your partner satisfied. But you’ll feel like your walking on eggshells, and you just won’t be able to be yourself. So the best thing you can do is not hope for your abusive relationship to get better.
What can you do when you’re in an abusive relationship?
The best thing you can do when you realize you’re in an abusive relationship is to leave. Your partner will likely disapprove of your decision, after all, they want someone they can keep on abusing. They might make you feel that you’re overreacting, that you’re being too emotional, too sensitive, that you won’t get anywhere without them. But you have to remind yourself that being single is better than being in bad company.
Breaking up with an abusive partner is an act of self-love, and it will change your life for the better.
What you should do when you’re scared to leave an abusive relationship
The problem with abusive relationships is that they can create a sense of fear. If your partner is easily angered, you may be scared that breaking up with them will cause them to lose their temper and throw a destructive fit. Many people are afraid to leave an abusive relationship or marriage because they fear their partner will beat them up or even kill them.
If this is the case, you need to reach out to a support network, whether in your own circle of friends or with dedicated associations. A lot of the time, people in abusive relationships lose their friendships with those around them because of their abusive partner. So if you feel like you have no one to turn to, your first step should be to call your local domestic violence helpline; they will be able to guide you in the right direction.
Realizing you’re in an abusive relationship is the beginning of the end of a long nightmare. It shows you that your partner is not treating you the way they should and that you deserve better. If you see yourself and your relationship in our signs of an abusive relationship, it may be an uncomfortable realization. Take some time to think about it and be patient with yourself. But eventually, you will have to leave that relationship if you want to get the life you deserve.