October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In recognition, Femme Frugality is running a series on the topic every Monday. This series includes a mixture of factual pieces and personal stories.
Today’s post is contributed by Laurie Blank — a successful freelance writer who spent many tough years surviving through two abusive relationships; one physically abusive relationship and one emotionally abusive relationship.
Through education and perseverance she has learned how to find her voice and set healthy boundaries that ensure others treat her with love and respect.
Please use the hashtag #DVAM2017 when sharing this article on social media.
Note: This post may contain triggers for survivors of abuse.
When you think of domestic abuse, do you picture a man or woman being subjected to physical harm by a partner or spouse?
The truth about domestic violence is that it can take on many forms. Along with physical abuse, an abuser might also inflict harm on a partner by subjecting them to:
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Financial abuse
- Manipulation and control tactics
Domestic abuse is about much more than the physical act of hitting, punching or shoving someone. Both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse, and both men and women can be abusers.
Oftentimes, domestic abuse is very subtle. What might come off as loving and protective is often abusive.
How can you know the difference and stop yourself from becoming a victim of domestic violence?
The first step is in recognizing abusive behaviors, no matter how subtle or masked those behaviors might be.
Here are eight things to watch for that might be signs that your partner is abusive:
1. Your partner is overprotective or jealous.
While on some level it might feel nice to have someone love you so intensely that he or she gets jealous of your other relationships, it’s not healthy for a partner to be jealous of people or interests in your life.
If your partner gets upset when you want to do things on your own or when you have your own interests, this could be a sign that things are at or heading toward an abusive level.
2. Your partner doesn’t like spending time with your family or friends, and doesn’t want you to, either.
Abusers often dominate their partners via isolation. Does your partner seem to not like any of your friends or family members? Does he or she get angry when you suggest attending family gatherings?
Do they insist you stop seeing your friends? All of these behaviors are signs that your partner may be trying to isolate you from people who might call out their abusive behavior if they recognize it.
3. Your partner exhibits controlling behaviors.
Abusers control their partners in a number of ways. An abuser may work to control:
- Where you work
- Who you hang out with
- What types of activities you partake in
- How the money in your relationship is managed
Or any other number of things in your life. Financial abuse is becoming increasingly common. A financial abuser may cut off their partner’s access to the family money or put them on a limited and unrealistic budget.
A financial abuser may also refuse to let their partner see bank, credit card and loan statements.
All of these types of control tactics are a means to keep you under emotional — and sometimes physical — lock and key. If your partner is exhibiting these types of behaviors it’s time to seek help.
4. Your partner has unrealistic expectations.
Abusers often have unrealistic expectations of a partner’s performance, appearance or time commitments.
An abuser may expect their partner to look perfect at all times, to keep a spotless house or to behave a certain way around outsiders.
5. Your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their actions.
Most abusers, when called out on their abusive behavior, are quick to blame other people or circumstances.
They might deny an incident or behavior altogether, or they might absolve themselves of responsibility for the behavior by blaming you, their job, their parents or whatever other convenient scapegoat they can come up with.
A healthy person not only acknowledges their own unhealthy behaviors; they seek to change them as well.
As an abused person, you might not be able to pinpoint exactly what the other person is doing, however you can notice a gradual change in your feelings. You might be struggling with feelings such as the three listed below.
6. You feel afraid to share your true feelings or “rock the boat.”
A person who’s been subjected to subtle forms of abuse might be afraid to talk with their partner about the behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable.
They might feel it’s their responsibility to do what is asked of them to avoid upsetting the apple cart. If you feel you can’t share uncomfortable feelings with your partner, something is wrong.
7. You feel you can’t be honest with your partner about the things you do.
Do you have to lie or hide information about what you do and who you are with out of fear of a negative reaction from your partner?
This might be a sign you’re in an abusive relationship. Healthy partners encourage their spouses to grow and improve themselves, and that includes having individual activities and having relationships with those outside of the marriage or partnership.
8. You are unhappy in your relationship, but feel powerless to do anything about it.
Are you unhappy in your relationship but are afraid to do anything to help improve it? This could be a sign that your partner is an abuser.
In healthy relationships, each partner feels free to talk about things that they would like to see changed or improved upon.
You should always feel comfortable going to your partner to suggest changes or improvements in your relationship as long as those changes are ones that will make your relationship healthier.
What to Do if You Are in an Abusive Relationship
If you think you might be in an abusive relationship, the time to get help is NOW. If the abuse is non-life threatening, you may be able to talk with your partner about going together for counseling.
If you are feeling afraid of your partner or if your partner has made it clear that you are in imminent danger you need to find a safe way to get out quickly without being noticed.
Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get professional help and advice about leaving. This is important because the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when you attempt to leave.
Even those who “only” enforce abuse via psychological or economic means will sometimes snap and turn violent when they can no longer exert psychological or financial control over you anymore.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you locate a local domestic violence shelter – or even connect you with your local police or sheriff if necessary – for immediate help with your situation.
Don’t allow yourself–or your children–to be abused any longer. Get help today and get started on living the life you deserve to live.
Related Domestic Abuse Content
To learn more about domestic violence or abuse, or to find more ways to get help, check out other articles in this series: