I decided to write about an extremely important issue that effects many relationships and can help you identify if you’re in an abusive relationship. I’ve worked with several individuals that report their partner having a “temper problem.” Usually when I hear this description, I know there is likely more to the picture. Being in a relationship that has elements of domestic abuse may be hard to identify, especially for the individuals who are currently in the relationship. It is common for people to use denial and rationalization techniques to justify staying in an unhealthy relationship. An example of rationalization might be “she only hit me once, I know she was stressed out about work, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened” or denial, “my friends say it’s weird, but honestly who doesn’t yell and cuss out their partner every once in a while.” It is all too common that the abused partner grew up in a home with domestic abuse and/or had their self-esteem whittled away over time, in either case, the abuse can be normalized to many people who are in the relationship. Additionally, those who are the abusers are also more likely to have witnessed domestic violence as a child and this pattern as an adult can feel normal. I’m writing this month’s newsletter to dispel some of the denial, rationalization, and justification that may occur and promote education to help people identify if they are abusing or being abused by their partner.
Identification and Observations
Domestic abuse or violence can include physical and/or sexual violence, threats of violence, emotional abuse, and coercive tactics. Emotional abuse can be hard for outsiders to detect since physical marks are not left behind to cue others of the abuse. Instead, the recipient of emotional abuse experiences psychological (emotional and mental) harm, due to these attacks. Emotional abuse can be characterized by verbal attacks, with the intention to belittle, humiliate, mock, criticize, or intimidate with the goal of controlling their partner’s behavior. These verbal attacks can occur publically to embarrass or humiliate their partner, or in the privacy of one’s home. Neglect and psychological (emotional) unavailability can also classify as emotional abuse. How to identify emotional abuse? Commonly people who are the recipient of emotional abuse have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, physical complaints (i.e. headaches), sleep and appetite disturbances, fatigue, dizziness, increased substance abuse, and weight change. Gastrointestinal and autoimmune disorders have also been associated with abuse. Be sure to listen for subtle cues that one is being emotionally abused; high conflict relationships can at times, tip one off to this occurrence.