This is a guest post by a good friend of mine, Jolie Elizabeth Main. In this article, Jolie will use her educational background and expertise to explore some tell-tale signs of abusive relationships and partners that may often go overlooked and pass off in our society as “normal” behavior, or be accepted as “just the way someone is.”
Please take a moment to read through this article, it could be exactly what you, or someone close to you, needs to read.
With the recent atrocious acts driven out by Elliot Rodger and his misogynistic mission to “slaughter” all women that would not give him the attention he felt entitled to, I felt disgusted hearing about it, but somewhat grateful that no woman ever fell in love with him and fell victim to what would have been his intense abuse.
Elliot Rodger is a prime example of an abuser, his misogynistic, entitled attitude was blatant, making him easy to identify as a clear abuser. Yet, as my favorite advocate against domestic violence has said “abusers come in all different costumes” which is why it is important to talk about some red flags in the early stages of a relationship that could potentially prevent someone from diving even deeper into an abusive relationship.
As you’re reading, remember that an abusers purpose is to consistently maintain power and control over another person; below are 6 signs that you may be with an abusive partner.
1) It feels like nothing changes.
Domestic/ Intimate abuse is a cycle. It usually starts like any other relationship- with love, romance, and butterflies. In a healthy relationship, usually this “honey moon” phase ends and a routine is established and as a unit the relationship grows together. In an abusive relationship there is also an established pattern but instead of growth there is tension or a feeling of walking on eggshells until there is ultimately what I like to call “a huge blow out fight” or clinically known as “acute battering.”
During this phase you are invaded by abuse; it comes in many forms such as lying excessively, cheating, abandoning you, physically attacking you, sexually assaulting you, but those are just a few as acute battering with an abusive partner takes on many forms. The only thing that all forms of abuse have in common is that they all violate a boundary of your psyche and vulnerability.
The next part of this cycle is that your partner is extremely remorseful with a thousand excuses and apologies; you forgive him/her hoping they will fix the damage by treating you correctly. In a healthy relationship when something like this is done the couple heals together and in most cases the instance never happens again.
In an abusive relationship your partner treats you better for a significant period of time (could range from days, weeks, or months) but inevitably ends up doing something similar if not the same horrific form of abuse to you again. While he/she has apologized for this already it is hard to comprehend how your partner could treat you in such a manner again. When this becomes a pattern you are officially in a cycle of abuse.
2) This person has treated you in ways you swore would never be acceptable, but yet you stay.
As expressed in #1 when you’re in an abusive relationship the behaviors of your partner are usually continuous. Regardless of the groveling and apologies, he/she continues to treat you badly if not in the same ways then in other ways he/she knows will damage you. Because there is no change in an abusive relationship (the same cycles continue to repeat itself) one would think it would be easy to leave. Wrong.
The most mind boggling thing about abusive relationships is that instead of repulsive – they’re actually addictive. Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, when you go through something traumatic with someone you’re almost inclined to protect them, to be closer to them because you’ve experienced something traumatic together.
Regardless if your partner is the person who caused the trauma in the first place you’ve created something called a “traumatic bond” with this person. While taking classes on domestic violence in my undergraduate study my professor compared this bond to “welding two pieces of metal back together in so that they’re almost impossible to break apart.”
Unlike a healthy relationship which is built on intimacy and shared vulnerability – an abusive relationship is built upon trauma and pain inflicted upon the victim from the abuser.
3) Gas-lighting/Crazy Making.
Wikipedia describes gas lighting as “ Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt her or his own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.”
Gaslighting is a huge red flag. While gaslighting can be as blatant as hitting you and then claiming not to, or blaming you for the hitting in the first place; it can also be as subtle as making daily comments about your weight or appearance until eventually your self esteem has rotted.
This is a grave warning of an abusive relationship, gas lighting invalidates a victims truth making him/her doubt themselves in so that an abuser has an easier time manipulating and controlling the thoughts and emotions of the victim. The most common way this is seen is by consistently blaming the victim for anything and everything, making the victim question his/ her perceptions of events as well as questioning their own reality.
When the victim reacts to abuse, the abuser invalidates him/her by saying they are “over-reacting,” “being too sensitive,” or “being psycho” when in most cases that reaction is completed validated due to the abusive behavior. Anyone who tells you that your truth and experiences aren’t significant, real, or truthful is being abusive by invalidating you and your psyche. Usually, when an abuser is able to invalidate the victim’s experiences, the victim starts to believe that the abuse is normalized in the relationship.
4) Excessive jealousy and possessiveness.
This is a tricky one because our society loves to perpetuate the idea that jealousy and possessiveness are essentials to relationship. The biggest misconception about today’s dating is that if someone wants to spend all their time with you they must really like you.
Maybe, but beware of the partner that has no other life but to revolve their own around you. One of the earliest tactics (and red flag) of an abuser is someone who is already possessive of you immediately. Healthy relationships are based around independency, not co-dependency. Someone who is already obsessed with you is an enormous warning sign. Everyone loves attention, but a healthy relationship is built on healthy doses.
If you’re dating someone who constantly has to be with you all the time at the early stages of the relationship, you can expect that this will not change when you’d like time to yourself or others besides your spouse.
Because of possessive attitudes, jealousy will inevitably follow. Usually if your partner is overtly jealous, you will be stifled in all aspects of your life; It will be impossible to talk, see, or have relationships with anyone outside of who your partner “approves of” which can include any one from friends to parents and other family members.
An abusive partner will undoubtedly use his/her jealousy and possessiveness as a way to manipulate you into believing he/she does this out of love which will only create tension if you try to have relationships with others. This method in turn isolates you, causing you to rely on your abusive spouse to validate your feelings and reality- which expressed before can be very dangerous when you’re involved with an abusive person.
5) Inconsistency with emotions.
If you’re dating someone who is constantly acting in a “Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde” way, this is another warning sign that you may be in an abusive relationship. One of the best ways to intimidate and confuse a person is through inconsistency.
Abusers are known to be completely loving and kind one minute, then cold, dangerous, and violent the next. Because of this inconsistency in your partner’s behavior you’re constantly walking on eggshells living in fear of when his/her next attack on you may be.
Unpredictable behaviors are an easy manipulation tactic that creates circumstances where the victim is constantly trying to live up to the abusers expectations; expectations that the victim will never reach. Because the abuser can never be pleased, the victim of abuse is easily controlled by trying to constantly please his/her abuser.
6) Entitled attitudes, especially about women.
If a man (or even a woman) has negative attitudes about women this is another clear indicator of his/her attitudes and beliefs, and therefore an indicator of an abusive mentality. While it is important to note that we live in a society where most beliefs about women happen to be negative, it is significant to pay attention to this in the early stages of a relationship and it’s never too late to notice them.
If your partner perceives women as inferior, it will not change based solely on the fact that he/she claims to “love” you. His/her attitude that a woman is inferior to them will inevitably lead him/her to abuse her based on the fact that in their eyes, she is below any equal and respectable treatment. If your partner exhibits misogynistic attitudes and ideologies, abusing you will most likely feel normal as he/ she already believes that he/she is entitled to you, your body, resources, and life.
Elliot Rodger is the perfect example of a man who believed he was entitled to women and therefore had no second thoughts about “slaughtering them.” Most partners with similar misogynistic attitudes will not hesitate to abuse you, as they feel they are entitled in doing so.
Jolie is in her mid twenties currently living out her dream year in NYC. A Boston native, she has dedicated her undergraduate career to educating herself in women studies and her passion projects in advocacy for domestic violence. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate as well as lead domestic violence healing retreats along side author of “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling men,” Lundy Bancroft. This fall she begins her law school education back in Boston, where she will graduate and further pursue justice for all those affected by domestic violence and other injustice. Jolie mentors a number of friends and allies who struggle within their own abusive relationships and looks forward to furthering her advocacy once a member of the bar.
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