Abuse isn’t always black and white. It can be incredibly subtle, making it hard for you to detect or view the behaviors as problematic or damaging. Abuse can take many forms, and some of them can be pretty confusing and difficult to classify because your feelings for your partner have convinced you that it’s all coming from a place of love. If you want to know whether your relationship is abusive, ask yourself these questions.
Does your partner enjoy putting you down in the presence of others? There’s nothing wrong with a little good-natured teasing every now and then, but if your partner insists on making you the butt of every joke when you’re out in public, that’s not healthy. Constant criticism, comments made to belittle you, and hurtful responses crafted to humiliate or reduce your sense of confidence are all classic forms of abuse.
Do you often feel sorry for your partner even after they’ve treated you badly? A lot of the time, we tend to want to see the good in people even when all the evidence points to the contrary. If you feel like the way they’ve mistreated you is your fault or something they can’t control, your relationship is abusive. Even if your partner had a terribly abusive childhood, it’s no excuse for them to keep perpetuating that behavior with you.
Is your partner a sweetheart to other people but mean to you? Abusive people are really good manipulators. They can be the kindest and most respectful person you’ll ever meet when there are other people around, but the moment you’re back behind closed doors, they take off that mask. This kind of behavior can make you doubt that your experience and concerns are valid.
Does your partner claim you’re too sensitive when you air your complaints? I used to go out with someone who used to say hurtful things to me about my work and my body to hurt my self-esteem. Whenever I brought it up or complained about it, they’d try to pass it off as jokes. It took me a while to admit to myself that I wasn’t getting upset for no reason. Whether they were doing it intentionally or not, their comments were intended to make me feel bad.
Are you afraid to do or say what you really want around your partner? If you’re walking on eggshells or constantly second-guessing everything you do to avoid disappointing your partner, it’s probably because your relationship is abusive. You shouldn’t be terrified or anxious about getting on your partner’s bad side. You shouldn’t be hiding your feelings or constantly putting yourself at a disadvantage to please someone that means well for you.
Does your partner insult you when they don’t get their way? Sometimes, fights get ugly and you end up calling each other names or saying hurtful things you don’t really mean. That’s normal, but it becomes abusive when that’s all your partner or both of you seem to be doing. If you can’t be civil with each other when things go wrong, you might want to reconsider the entire relationship.
Do you constantly question your reality? Gaslighting is one of the most common and efficient methods of abuse. It is subtle and it makes you doubt that your perception of things are accurate. If you find yourself trying to separate fact from fiction or overanalyzing everything for meanings or a bigger picture, that’s a sign your relationship is running on abuse.
Does your partner act friendly and affectionate one minute, then completely withdrawn? Maybe you can’t for the life of you understand why your partner blows hot and cold for no good reason. They might even deny that they’re being distant when you bring it up. You might become anxious and desperate to please them so they turn the love tap back on and give you some attention.
Has your partner punished you with silent treatment or by withholding sex or money? Any relationship where giving or receiving emotional or physical intimacy or financial support depends on cooperating with your partner’s wants is problematic. Withholding things a person deserves to experience in a relationship as a form of punishment is abusive behavior.
Are you always apologizing for things you didn’t do? This might be because you’ve internalized your partner’s assessment of you. If you’re frequently being made to feel stupid, incompetent, selfish, or too sensitive, you begin to see yourself that way. So even when you’ve done nothing wrong or your partner is the one at fault, you apologize anyway and accept the blame.
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