Many people are so obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship and the seeming affirmation and status that comes with the label – that they’re willing to ignore their own unhappiness rather than be single.
All relationships have problems and committed partners must work them out as part of the process.
However, there is a big difference between the flaws of an otherwise healthy relationship and one which is simply toxic. We wonder how women can stick around when men are abusive, but it is hard to pass judgment until one has been in another’s shoes.
We assume that if we were in the same situation, we would make “smart” decisions and act at the first sign of trouble, but that’s not always the case. In many cases, the initial signs of abuse in relationships are so subtle that they are easily overlooked and/or excused.
These small things, however, can lead to major patterns of psychological cruelty and physical assault. The people who tend to be abusive and manipulative often use sly, even subconscious, tactics to slowly and subtly gain control over the individuals they victimize.
It’s important to be able to notice signs of trouble in your own relationship or that of a friend or colleague.
Here are 8 specific patterns to look for:
A common tool of abusive individuals is the threat: A threat of abandonment, hurting you or themselves, etc. These threats can often prove to be completely baseless and just a tactic to manipulate the victim.
Intentionally creating fear in another through words or actions is type of abusive behavior. This can take the form of holding a knife up to someone or verbal threats of blackmail.
Many times, this behavior is displayed in less obvious ways, such as trying to control a situation.
Insults and humiliation
This category can encompass most of the others on this list. The smallest versions of this behavior: Name-calling, inducing guilt and public embarrassment are not acceptable acts.
Individuals who demand total control or inspire submission in another person to make them feel like less of a human being, or unworthy. Insults and humiliation diminish a partner’s self-value, making acceptance of abusive behavior easy to “rationalize.”
Isolation from family and friends
An abusive partner might try to slowly distance a victim from the people that could protect and defend them. He or she might use convincing arguments as to why these friends or family members are the actual negative influence on the relationship in question – in an attempt to distance the outside observers who could help a victim identify troublesome behaviors and dangerous situations.
Denial and blame
When forced to face their behavior, abusers often resort to denial and blame. They may even try to reverse the blame for their own aggressive behavior.
Children as a weapon
In an abusive relationship which includes a child, an abuser can try to use the child as a tool of manipulation, either by threatening to distance you from them or by convincing the child of your fault.
Additionally, they could threaten harm to the child if you do not obey their commands. A general rule is: when a child is at risk, immediately remove them from danger, if not yourself at well.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Seek help from a professional or the authorities.
Control of money
An abusive partner might either not allow you to work, accumulate your own money or might give you a restricted “allowance.”
No matter who is a bread-winner is a relationship, money should not be used to determine an adult’s behavior. You have rights to equal and respectful treatment, even if your contributions to a household are not cash.
This can take a physical form: Not being allowed to go certain places or do certain things, or mental: Not being allowed to make decisions. A normal, healthy relationship has a balance of power and a plenty of freedom.
If you should recognize any of these symptoms of abuse in your own or another’s relationship, contemplate involving other loved ones or a professional before it’s too late.