Abusive relationships are no longer exclusively for heterosexual couples — if they ever were. Although women have the reputation of being loving and nurturing, we are also quite capable of being abusive in our relationships. In one recent online poll there were a number of women who admitted they were unsure if they had ever been involved in an abusive relationship. Admittedly, there are many levels and types of abuse, so I believe it is understandable that someone could be unsure if their relationship would be termed as simply a painful experience or fully defined as an abusive relationship.
Then, of course, there is the shame one feels in being a victim of abuse. The question of “how could I have allowed it to happen?” comes to mind, followed immediately with shame and feelings of guilt. Once you have admitted to yourself that the situation was abusive, you then must acknowledge the length of time you allowed it to continue. As if the pain of the abuse was not enough, now you must accept, acknowledge and forgive yourself. Far easier said than done, as we all know.
Well, before we beat ourselves up with shame and guilt, it is important that we learn the dynamics of abuse, since most women become victims from ignorance rather than intent.
The first step toward an abusive situation is where one partner relinquishes control over her life. Few women intentionally turn control of their lives over to their partners – rather it is something that starts as an insignificant situation that then grows to encompass her entire existence.
Go through the following list and see how much or little applies to you and your relationship.
Control Through Criticism:
She makes me feel like I never do anything right. Nothing is ever good enough. She makes me feel like I’m not supportive and loving enough. Her compliments are often backhanded: “You look attractive for the first time in ages.” She dismisses my insecurities as unimportant telling me that my feelings are stupid. She calls me derogatory names like whore, dummy or a bitch. She often corrects things I say or do – Only her way is the right way. When we are around others I am tense because I expect to be humiliated about something I have done.
Control Through Moodiness, Anger and Threats
I am afraid she will be mad if I am the least bit late.She expects me to read her mind and loses her temper when I cannot.I am often tense around the house because I do not know what will set her off.She blows up and stops talking to me when I do something that she judges to be wrong.When she is silent I have to figure out what I’ve done wrong and how to fix it.When she is depressed I am expected to cheer her up.She tells me she’ll never let me leave her.
Control Through Overprotection and Caring
She does not like when I am away from home because she worries about me too much.She becomes jealous when I talk to others.She often calls or drops by work to see if I am okay.She does all errands so I do not have to go out.She says I do not need to work, as she wants to take care of me.She picks out my clothes so I will look just right.She takes me to work and picks me up after so the people I work with won’t get any ideas.She encourages me to drink or take drugs so we can “share” the experience.
Control Through Denying Your Perceptions
She will act very cruelly and then say I am too sensitive and cannot take a joke.She often breaks promises and then claims to have never made the promise.She makes a scene in public and then will accuse me of exaggerating or fabricating.She shows excessive interest in my emotions and tries to convince me I need a shrink.She says I often imagine things.She hits me then asks how I got hurt.She makes me cry and then tells me I am hysterical and wonders why I upset myself.She says she can help me fix my character defects, and makes lists of my faults.When trying to talk seriously with her, she will treat me as though I am upset when I am not.
Control by Ignoring Your Needs and Opinions
She never helps when the kids or I are sick – denying promises to help.She expects me to drop whatever I am doing when she wants my attention.When I am talking she will interrupt, twist my words or forget what I just said.She changes the subject as soon as I attempt to resolve a problem.When I express my opinion she either does not respond or makes fun of me.I cannot make plans because she will not show up when expected or show up unexpectedly.
Control Through Decision Making
She always has to have the last word.Even though we come to an agreement, she will go out and do the opposite.If I try to discuss a decision she made without consulting me, she labels it as harping.She says some subjects are not open to discussion.She says that it is her responsibility to make the decisions for the family.She says that it is her responsibility to make decisions for the children.
Control Through Money
She will not share information about our financial situation.I must account for any money I spend.She spends money without thought, but will blame me angrily when there is none left.I have to ask for money when I need it.She says I should be glad to support her financially.She gives me everything I want, but reminds me I could never live so well without her.She does not work – she takes money from me or steals my stuff and sells it.
Control Through Shifting Responsibility
If I tell her she is being bossy and overly critical, she tells me I am immature.She blames me for her inability to stay sober.She says that if I ever leave her, she’ll kill herself and I will be to blame.When she lost her job she blamed me and now refuses to look for work.She blames the children and me for her loss of temper.She blames me for her loss of control and claims she is always good-natured with others.
Control Through Limiting Contact With Other People
She starts a fight when I want to go out.She does not like me to spend time with my family – either with or without her.She says I never give enough of myself to her, that I spend all my time on others.Although she does not say it, I feel as if she wants me to ask permission to go somewhere.She grills me about what happened whenever I go out.She accuses me of having affairs.She made me late for work so many times I lost my job.When I spend time with friends, she accuses me of ignoring her.
Control Through Physical Intimidation
She blocks the door so I cannot leave during an argument.When angry, she stands very close to me while clenching her fists.I feel afraid when we argue, so I stop.She throws and breaks things when angry.She destroys my clothing and personal things.She will not leave me alone when I ask her to do so.She will not let me sleep.
Control Through Sexual Humiliation
She pressures me to have sex in ways that make me uncomfortable.She makes sexual jokes about me to other people and in front of the children.She makes fun of my body.She tries to seduce my friends and family members.She forces me to dress in ways that make me feel uncomfortable.She compares me to other women.
Control Through Physical and Sexual Violence
She throws things at me.She beats my head against the wall.She chokes me.She kicks me.She shoves and pushes me.She hits me.She forces me to have sex with others.She rapes me.She threatens me with weapons.She hurts me and then will not let me go to the hospital or see a doctor.
How many behaviors did you never notice until you asked yourself these questions? How many behaviors did you previously consider acceptable? I leave the answers up to you.
Until next time…