Do you feel like you're being abused? Here are six sure-fire ways to know for sure.
At my most recent check up, a pretty nurse prepared me for the visit. Her fine face was decorated by a dark circle encompassing her eye — almost surely caused by the vicious hand of her "loved one." She was obviously deep in her ruins, but was valiantly pretending everything was alright. I was inclined to give her a warm embrace and tell her how sorry I was about what had happened to her.
I was wondering: how many people get into these situations, when their partners, who are suppose to give them love, appreciation and support, turn against them? Still, others might wonder why they are not leaving their abusive partner, as well. Once in a while, most of us get handled in a non-respectful way, and it would be irresponsible to break up after every conflict. On the other hand, the unfair but usual maneuver of an abusive partner who makes the victim believe that she or he is responsible for the bad turns of events, is completely unacceptable.
In addition, most of the time, the really dirty part of the mistreatment happens in disguise; hidden before the superficial observation. Although mostly unrecognized by the suffering participants, there are six characteristic features of an abusive relationship — whether physical, verbal or emotional abuse.
1. Low self-esteem and self-blame. If you have low self-esteem and you are not confident enough in your thinking, you are partially to blame for the wrong turn in the relationship. It might not have originated from you, but it can be the effect of the regular undermining tactics: labeling, judging, put- downs and constant critique. You might even adopt your partner's opinion: "You have to be fixed."
2. Confusion, frustration, anger, helplessness and hopelessness. You are confused of what is happening. You are hurt from the put-downs. You are angry because of the unfair treatment you're getting. You are embarrassed about the relationship; partly because you think it's your failure and partly because you put up with your partner's behavior.
Most of all, you feel hopeless, helpless and entrapped in the relationship, not knowing why it's happening and what you should do about it.
3. Imbalance in power and control. If you listen to the actions instead of the words, you see that you give way more into the relationship than your partner, while she/he is the one who sets the rules. There is a definite imbalance in the power and control.
4. Responsibility shift. There is a very strange sense of responsibility: you are responsible for everything, including the relationship and your partner's feelings, while your partner has no responsibilities whatsoever.
5. Manipulative emotion — induction. Your actions are driven by guilt, shame and anxiety. If you don't do certain tasks in a specific manner, you are deemed inadequate. Generally, your partner makes you feel "not good enough." This is why you have to accomplish more, more and then some more in order to compensate for your "failures."
No matter the ongoing efforts, you're never good enough for your partner. This is the way she/he gets you doing what she/he wants.
6. Your rights and interests are not considered. It might be hazy to detect at first, because on the surface, there is usually a pretense set: "You're the love of my life," or "I make it because I want to help you!" But if you look into the real happenings, you will see how much it is against your will, interests and rights. If you recognized yourself in this picture, don't be scared: you've made the first step.
The essence of overriding manipulation is getting a clear picture about what is truly happening. If you think you can change your manipulator, I have to disappoint you: you can't. But if you learn to react differently to the manipulation, you can change the process itself. Warning: If you have a physically abusive partner, don't experiment ... seek physical security immediately!
This article was originally published at Sound Soul Counseling. Reprinted with permission from the author.