Sometimes it is easy to tell that you are being abused. You know that your partner hits you. You have bruises and scars. You are sometimes afraid of your partner.
Sometimes it isn't as obvious. Maybe your partner has never hit you, but you still don't like the way he treats you. Maybe he gets physical with you when he gets drunk or is angry. Maybe he shoves you or kicks you. It's still abuse, even he doesn't hit you.
In some relationships there is no physical abuse at all. Instead, your partner might put you down or insult you when he gets angry. Maybe he tries to control you by telling you who you can and can't spend time with or when you're allowed to go out or what kind of job you can work at. Maybe he won't even let you work at all, instead insisting that you stay at home so you're available to meet his needs. This is also a form of abuse, known as emotional or psychological abuse.
If you're not sure that the relationship that you're in is "abusive," here are some signs to look for:
- Your partner tries to isolate you. He keeps you from spending time with other people. This can include your family members, your friends and the people you work with.
- Your partner blames you for the bad things and problems in his life. Here is an example: "If you just treated me better I wouldn't have snapped at my boss and I wouldn't have gotten fired."
- He tries to get you to participate in sexual acts that you aren't comfortable with. He might say things like, "This is normal, everyone does this" or "Don't you want to make me happy?" He may even force himself on you or act rough during sex.
- He has quick and erratic mood swings. He is nice one minute and angry at you the next. You may feel like you are always walking around on eggshells trying not to do anything to set him off.
- He restricts your communication. He hides or takes away your cell phone or doesn't pass on phone messages or let you know if someone stopped by to visit you.
- He "checks up on you" frequently. He might call you several times a day and even disguise his suspicious attitude as "just missing you." He might drop in on you unexpectedly at work with no regard for whether it is convenient for you. He might even "spy" on you when you're out or at work by driving by or asking others to check up on you.
- He snoops in your private business. He might go through the call log on your cell phone or read your emails.
- He is verbally abusive. He might say mean things to you or about you to others. He might criticize you, your friends, your job or your cooking.
- He is cruel to animals. He seems to enjoy teasing or hurting pets, strays or wild animals.
- If you have children, he might use them to try to control or manipulate you. He might tell you that the reason your child is failing at school is because you are a bad mother. He might even try to turn your children against you by telling them lies such as that you don't really care about them.
- He is cruel or abusive to children (yours or other people's). He might get a kick out of pushing them to tears or putting them down. He might enjoy embarrassing them in public or in front of their friends. He might even hurt them physically by slapping, punching, shoving or kicking them.
- He gets insulted easily and thinks that you're trying to put him down or hurt him when you aren't. What you do or say may have nothing at all to do with him but he will take it as an insult. An example might be failing to hold open a door for him when he is walking behind you. You weren't being rude, just forgetful, but he takes it as a sign that you're mad or that you don't care.
- He makes small problems bigger than they really are. He might tell you that forgetting to turn off the oven is going to blow up the house or injure him or your children or pets.
- He is controlling with money. He might tell you what you can and can't buy. He might deny you access to bank accounts or insist on checking all of your receipts.
- He has unrealistic expectations of you. He expects you to do everything perfectly, or the way he wants it to be done.
- He is physically abusive toward you. This is not limited to hitting but includes any and all acts of physical aggression or intimidation.
- He threatens to harm you, your children or himself if you leave him.
Everyone has bad days. But if you are experiencing one or more of these behaviours or acts from your partner regularly, your relationship may be abusive. Fortunately, there are numerous local resources available to help you learn how to take control of your own circumstances, make healthy decisions, feel safe and secure and take charge of your destiny.