Abusive relationships, for men as well as women, take many forms and are much more common than many of us might realise. A relative, friend or workmate may be in an abusive relationship right now without you having noticed anything. So could you, which sounds incredible. Or does it?
All relationships are rarely plain-sailing and will have their ups and downs. Many of us will be argumentative, selfish or hurtful sometimes. There may even be the odd outburst if under extreme stress, but an abusive relationship is very different.
Your partner doesn’t need to raise their hand, or even their voice, to be an abuser. The abuse can manifest itself in the way they talk to you, the expectations they place on you, the way they treat you.
An abuser will often have no regard for the feelings of others and will make demands, or expect you and others, to do whatever they want, however unreasonable, in order to make them appear ‘happy’. Behaviour is often consistent and relentless, and they will have no remorse for their own actions, nor will they care whether you are happy.
Abuse is about power. Abusers often lack self-confidence, have low self-esteem and must gain control over their little piece of the world to achieve a sense of power. As their partner, you are the centre of that world, and therefore the focus of that abuse.
How can you spot the more subtle signs of abuse? What do you need to look out for – not just in your own relationship, but those of the people you know and care about?
Some of the things an abusive partner will do:
• Humiliate you
• Shout at you
• Put you down and criticise you
• Ignore or belittle your accomplishments
• Blame you for their own behaviour or mistakes
• See you as their property
• Ignore your feelings or wishes
• Hold you responsible for their feelings
• Have unreasonable expectations of you
• Have unreasonable expectations of your children
• Be jealous or possessive
• Pick fault with your family or friends
• Stop you from going out with friends or colleagues
• Discourage you from seeing your family
• Be resentful of your happiness
• Restrict your access to your phone, car or money
• Keep tabs on your emails, phone and social media accounts
• Keep track of your movements
• Force, or guilt you to have sex
• Act recklessly with your joint finances
• Force you to live beyond your means
• Accuse you of having affairs
• Threaten to take your children away from you
• Threaten to harm your children
• Use emotional blackmail
• Threaten to harm you
• Threaten to harm themselves
• Destroy your home or possessions
• Fly off the handle for no reason
• Pick fights when you’re about to go out
This list is not exhaustive, but it is indicative of the warning signs to look out for that someone may be abusive.
But what about you? Is there anything you’re feeling, or in the way you behave that is telling you your relationship is not good for you?
Some indicators you are in an abusive relationship include:
o Sometimes feeling afraid of your partner
o Editing your life and keeping innocent things from them, because you don’t want to cause a fight
o Seeing your friends or family in secret, because they’ll be angry if they know
o Deleting innocent emails and messages, because you think they’ll get the wrong idea
o Feeling like you’re always walking on eggshells
o Feeling you’re responsible for their feelings or actions
o Feeling as if you can’t do anything right
o Avoiding topics of conversation that might set them off
o Constantly looking for the tell-tale signs that they’re about to get angry
o Trying to manage the world around them, just to keep them happy
o Feeling like you are worthless, that no one else would want you
o Feeling when things go wrong, that it’s all your fault
It can come as a shock to realise that your relationship is abusive, and it may take time for you to accept that you may be abused.
You might still love your partner, or feel tied in some way to the relationship, especially if you have children, or a hefty mortgage, and you may feel a sense of duty or the desire to find a way to work through this situation together.
What can you do? Can an abuser change their ways?
In order for anyone to change, they need to recognise that their behaviour isn’t healthy and make the decision to change themselves. Being encouraged, pushed or forced to change by you or anyone else is very unlikely to work.
Abusers need to start their journey to recovery and understand that:
• Their behaviour is inappropriate and abusive
• They can’t blame their behaviour on anyone else
• They must take full responsibility for their behaviour
• The desire to change must be genuine – not simply do it to stay out of trouble or because you have given them an ultimatum
• Verbal promises to change must be followed with positive actions
• New actions need to be maintained over a significant period – it’s easy to be sorry and change your behaviour for a few days, but true change is only evident after months of consistent new behaviour
If your partner genuinely meets these criteria, you may consider remaining in your relationship (if you feel safe) – but it’s still a good idea to seek help for yourself too.
Where to find help?
Abuse in any guise isn’t acceptable. If you have concerns about a person’s behaviour towards another, or you fear for someone’s safety please get in touch.
Call us in confidence on 101, and remember, always call 999 in an emergency.
Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
For advice about domestic abuse, we have information and details of partner agencies who can find the right help for you.