Some abuse is obvious; some is much more subtle. Domestic violence is about a pattern of control and coercion, which might mean emotional abuse only with no physical component.
If you have a sense that something is not quite right in your relationship and in the way your partner is treating you, then please read on.
When you really love someone, you want to minimize their flaws. You want to overlook some twinges you’ve been having in your gut, or rationalize them away.
Don’t. Your intuition is the best indicator of what’s really happening in your relationship. And with domestic violence, the deeper in you are, the harder it is to get out. There’s a quicksand quality to it, and that’s because abuse tends to diminish self-esteem.
The worse you feel about yourself, the more willing you are to submit to abuse. It might not even feel like abuse. It might just feel like your partner is seeing the truth about how worthless you really are, and treating you accordingly.
Now, I’m not saying that your partner is necessarily aware of this cycle. He or she might have no idea. But being oblivious to your partner’s needs and feelings is not an excuse. It’s a sign of narcissism. (See more about this in my recent blog.)
To know if your partner is controlling you, here are some of the less-obvious signs (since most of us would recognize the obvious ones!):
Somehow, their needs always seem to be paramount. You almost always ends up doing it their way, and you’re not sure how that happens.
This could mean that your partner is good at making you feel that his ideas are your ideas. It could mean that his approval has become so important that you’ll give up what you want in order to make him happy.
Most importantly, just ask yourself why this is, and then take a closer look at the dynamics in your relationship that support it.
I’m aware that it doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault. It could be that your very mellow and just don’t care about a lot of things, while your partner is more high-strung so it makes more sense to acquiesce. It doesn’t have to mean control dynamics are in place.
But if you suspect that they are, one way to test this out is to bring it up to your partner. Say what you’re noticing and how it makes you feel. Your partner’s reaction will be very telling.
If he/she seems concerned and wants to know how to change things to make you happier, that’s a great sign. If he/she is defensive or seems to want to preserve the status quo, not a great sign. An especially bad sign would be if your partner attacks your perception and/or your character.
The key thing to look for is whether your partner thinks you are of equal value, and that your feelings matter. Because they should. They should matter deeply to both of you.
You might notice in this process that you don’t matter, even to yourself. That could be part of how you’ve gotten into a negative relationship and what maintains it. In that case, I’d strongly recommend therapy. The fact that you’ve read this blog entry to its conclusion is an indicator of a good prognosis.
Controlling man image available from Shutterstock.