Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
The saddest part of my job is treating people in or trying to extricate themselves from abusive romantic relationships. Many of them have been with abusive partners for decades and often question why they didn’t see the signs or get out earlier. Then they blame themselves for this oversight which often compounds the problem.
In brief, we make decisions based upon what is familiar to us from childhood but generally make these decisions unconsciously. They just feel right. Suffice it to say that if we had parents (or caretakers) who were abusive to and neglectful of us, we are used to mistreatment which leads to lowered self-esteem and this dynamic becomes the template for future intimate relationships. This happens often to children whose parents are narcissistic, sociopathic, and/or have mental health or substance abuse problems. For more on how we get set up to pick abusive partners, browse my blog archives (http://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog) on parenting, childhood, and abuse.
Remember that abuse is not a one-time thing. It’s a pattern. So, if you encounter any of the following, get out of the relationship as quickly as possible whether you’re on your first or twelfth date or your third or seventh year of marriage. Stop asking why someone is doing you harm or how you might have caused it. You didn’t. An abuser abuses.
Look for these behaviors which may happen regularly or intermittently:
- Lying. When partners lie, they’re putting their interests before yours and protecting themselves. They don’t care how their untruths affect you or your family.
- Cheating. If you discover that your partner has cheated on you romantically, assess the threat very seriously. Romantic texts to others are one kind of cheating and going to a motel for a weekend is another. Cheating shows an underlying problem with the cheater, not a problem in the marriage or with you.
- Yelling/Shouting: There is no reason for one person to raise his/her voice to a loved one except if they’re about to be run over by a car or the like. If someone yells at you repeatedly, this is a sign of being unable to control his/her anger. It doesn’t matter if you did or didn’t do something wrong. Never accept being yelled at or having your partner yell at your children.
- Blaming/Shaming/Not Accountable: When your partner regularly blames you and refuses to take responsibility for her/his behavior, something is very wrong with her/him. Do not accept blame for something you didn’t do. Don’t try to get your partner to accept blame. Get out.
- Fear/Intimidation: If your date or mate rules the roost by intimidation, especially if you wish to have or already have children, recognize that this is abnormal behavior and will not change. It will, however, deeply scar you and your children emotionally.
- Refuses Counseling: When things aren’t working, and you suggest going to therapy, if your partner refuses, things will not improve between you. By all means, seek therapy on your own, but understand that whatever reason your partner gives for not wanting to go (time, money, doesn’t need it, thinks it’s stupid, went before and it didn’t help, etc.) is not the truth. The truth is that he/she doesn’t want to change.
It’s obvious that if you’re in any way being physically abused, you cannot remain with your partner. And, if you have children, you do not want them to witness you being abused by a partner because it is terrifying to them. If your children are being abused, you cannot remain in the relationship by lying to yourself that it’s better to stay than go. Stop walking on eggshells and fighting back. Just get out.