If you’re like me, when you’re in a relationship, it’s hard to define what you should compromise on and what should be regarded as a big red flag. Ultimately, the red flags you encounter and disregard will end up being what ends your relationship. Have you ever gotten out of a relationship and realized how toxic it was? Or found that you could finally breathe again, like a weight was lifted off your chest? Or realized how abusive it was?
I’m not a psychologist, therapist, or any kind of licensed professional; I just want to shed some light on the different forms of abuse from a firsthand experience. Emotional, financial, sexual, and physical - any form of abuse can lead to damaging after effects, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, diminished self-worth, etc.
“Physical abuse in relationships is nearly always preceded and accompanied by emotional abuse.”
(Dutton, Mary Ann; Goodman, Lisa A.; Bennett, Lauren (2000), “Court-involved battered women’s responses to violence: the role of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse”, in Maiuro, Roland D.; O’Leary, K. Daniel, Psychological abuse in violent domestic relations, New York: Springer Publishing Company, p. 197.)
The abusive relationship that I was in started out as normal as a relationship could. My ex was kind, compassionate, and attentive. He accepted my strong opinions and made me feel like a queen. I felt this exceptionally strong emotional connection to him. This was actually all an act on his part, or a 'bait and switch' as one of my friends put it. The abuse started after he realized he had me wrapped around his finger.
Here are some signs of abuse:
The biggest form I’ve dealt with is control. Beautiful friend, no one is allowed to tell you what you can and cannot wear, say, or do. No one is allowed to tell you who you can and can’t have in your life. Isolating you from your friends and family is textbook control and manipulation. If someone says you’re not allowed to vent to your people about the problems in your relationship, this is a huge red flag. You are allowed the space to need whoever you need to help carry your burdens and solve your problems. Control can be disguised as, “I feel like you don’t value me as much” or “I don’t feel comfortable with…” or "do you think that's right?" instead of someone outright saying “you’re not allowed to…” Don’t be fooled. Follow your gut instincts.
Other examples of emotional abuse include:
Gaslighting: planting a seed of uncertainty or making you question yourself. Someone saying that your recollection of a memory did not happen the way you remember. Someone accusing you of “trying to change the narrative.”
Dismissiveness: your partner saying your feelings aren’t valid, quickly barreling over your concerns, or getting angry or rolling their eyes at you while you express your feelings during an argument.
Indifference: seeing you cry and then doing nothing, guilting, or trying to turn the table to victim blame you. (Side note, a lack of empathy is a classic trait in psychopathic serial killers. Just a thought.)
Bullying: bullying or guilting you into doing or saying things that you are not comfortable with, or saying you should do said things to prove that you’re “on their team.” Give me a break.
Even more examples include but are not limited to: intimidation, blame-shifting, shaming, name-calling/insulting, demanding respect and not giving it in return, apologizing but not changing their behavior, patronizing, interrupting, unwillingness to compromise, refusing to take responsibility for their actions, and possessiveness.
Please please please be on the lookout for any signs of emotional abuse. Don’t allow your mental health to be toyed with. The after-effects of these emotional manipulations are just as harsh on your mind as they are when they’re happening. I’m still reeling from my own.
I’m a firm believer that all decisions in a relationship should be made together. You will not change my mind. If your partner makes important decisions without your opinion or belittles your opinion, it’s abuse. If they guilt you into any financial burdens, it's abuse. If they guilt you into giving them money to “put your money where your mouth is” or to “prove your trust,” it’s abuse.
Any and all unwanted sexual advances towards you is sexual abuse. If there is no consent, it is abuse. If you change your mind halfway through and they don’t stop, it is abuse. Withholding affection or using it as a weapon is abuse. Your partner downright telling you that you should pleasure them and expect nothing in return is abuse. If you’re expected to pleasure your partner every time they want you to, and you always get rejected with an excuse when you want it, it’s abuse. Sex should not be used as a bargaining chip, punishment, reward, or weapon.
If anyone ever lays a hand on you, even “jokingly,” leave. Even if they’re drunk and they “jokingly” push you in a parking lot. I promise it will only get worse if you stay. They’re testing your limits. It’s not okay for your partner to ever physically harm you. I don’t care what they say you did to “deserve it,” but I promise you that you did not, and never will, deserve it. What you do deserve is someone so much better. I also promise you that there is no such thing as “joking” when it comes to physical abuse. Any violence while sober or drunk or “joking” is not okay.
I was pushed around emotionally, financially, sexually, and physically. I walked on so many eggshells trying to cater to this man, apologized for things that weren't my fault, and was essentially at his mercy. I’m thankful I put all the pieces together so early on and left when given the chance. I make no apologies for how strong of a woman I am. I’m only sorry that he couldn’t handle it.
If you're seeing any signs of abuse in your relationship, please evaluate the situation. There are so many resources out there that can be of great help. Reach out to a friend, family member, co-worker, therapist, domestic abuse hotline, something. Don't stay in a situation that could harm you in so many ways.