Not all relationships are happy and healthy. Every minute in the U.S., nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner. Relationships do not have to get physical to be abusive or harmful. Emotional and verbal manipulation counts and can be more difficult to quantify because many people do not realize it is a form of maltreatment. Individuals in an abusive relationship may think their situation is normal or acceptable, but there never is a reason to tolerate cruelty and mistreatment to maintain a relationship.
Abusive relationship signs
Bruises and physical injuries can be obvious warning signs of an abusive relationship. Some signs are more subtle. If you notice any of these things happening in your own relationship, or that of one of your friends or family members, seek help immediately.
- Your partner accompanies you everywhere. While it is normal to enjoy doing things together with your partner, it is not OK to never have time alone or out by yourself. Abusive people can be controlling. They try to isolate their victims from others who might spot the signs of their malintent.
- Your partner frequently gaslights you. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It can include humiliation and taunting and claims that you are overly sensitive if you react to the behavior. If you find yourself questioning your reality, then you probably are being gaslit.
- Your partner delivers “love bombs.” Emotional abuse – emotional attacks, judgment, criticism – often is followed by displays of affection such as apologizing, complimenting, and grandiose gifts.
- Your partner makes you afraid to leave. Making up and breaking up repeatedly with someone can be a fear tactic common to abuse victims. They may lack the resources to leave their abusers or feel their life or the lives of someone they love is in danger if they do not stay.
Other signs can indicate an abusive relationship, such as a normally social person becoming withdrawn or sudden changes in physical appearance (which may be done to please the manipulative partner).
Abusive relationship cycle
There are four stages of the abusive relationship cycle. The first phase involves a buildup of tension between the two people in the relationship. Abusers lash out at their partners in response to external stressors in their lives, such as trouble at work or fatigue. They shift blame for these problems to their partner and take out their frustration on them either verbally or physically.
The remaining three stages include:
- Acting out. Once the tension builds up, the next stage involves the act of emotional or physical abuse. Abusive partners may hurl insults, attempt to control your behavior, or engage in sexual violence.
- Reconciliation. Abusers can be charming. It is why so many people in abusive relationships stay. They believe their partners will change or make more of an effort to control their behaviors. Abusers may even have long periods where they are kind and loving with their partners. The devoted behavior never lasts.
- Calm. This stage requires one or both partners to come up with an explanation for the abuse. Abusive partners might apologize while shifting the blame to others or point to outside influences to explain their behavior. Sometimes they deny the abuse happened or accuse their victims of provoking them. Even if they show remorse and promise it will never happen again, it will. The abusive cycle will start all over again.
Getting out of an abusive relationship
Hoping and praying an abusive partner will change is not the best solution. Victims can encourage their companions to seek help for their behaviors but should not expect that the person will do so. Many abusers refuse to admit they are the problem and can even be triggered by the very suggestion.
Getting out of an abusive relationship is hard but not impossible. Just remember:
- You are not to blame for your abuser’s behavior (no matter what they say).
- You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
- You deserve to feel safe and happy.
- Your children (if you have any) deserve to be safe and happy.
- You are not alone.
Comfort and guidance for abuse victims
Abuse victims can struggle with the decision to stay or leave their relationships. Care Net can help. We do more than offering help for unplanned pregnancies and STD/STI testing. Our caring staff provides the comfort and guidance abuse victims need to make the choice that is right for them. Contact us today to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your needs.