Let’s be very clear about this: domestic violence
happens to other people – or, at least, that is what most victims of
domestic violence think.
There are many reasons why women stay in an abusive relationship.
Mostly, they stay as long as they do because they aren’t even aware
that what they are experiencing is domestic violence. They tell themselves it isn’t domestic
violence because of any, or all, of the following:
They are middle or high income – and they know that domestic
violence is something that only affects the people at the very bottom of the
Their partner doesn’t hit them.
Their partner only hits them when he has been
He is a well regarded member of the community, or church.
That was what they witnessed in the home, when they were
Their partner repeatedly tells them that something they
did, triggered his behaviour.
He may apologise, seem sincerely sorry, and vow that it
won’t happen again – although it always does.
Their partner tells them that they are ‘too sensitive’ and
are exaggerating the importance of their fights.
These are only some of the reasons why victims of an
abusive relationship tend to doubt their own feelings.
In reality, domestic violence affects people of all races,
religions and social and economic groups.
Nor does the violence have to be physical to qualify as
domestic violence. Any relationship in
which one partner is consistently hurt – emotionally and/or physically – by the
other is a relationship of domestic violence.
A relationship in which humiliation, criticism, superiority, contempt
and fear are consistently visited on a partner is a relationship of domestic
Never underestimate the power of words to inflict
damage. I have heard many, many women say:
“Ah, but it can’t be domestic violence, because he doesn’t hit me”.
What they don’t realize is that their fear of receiving a tongue lashing
from their abusive partner is every bit as effective a weapon of control as is the
threat of physical violence. Their abusive partner may choose not to hit, for his own reasons, but he has no qualms about
using words to intimidate and brutalize. An abusive man wields the weapon of emotional and mental violence to great effect.
Brutal words cause as much
enduring damage to the mind as physical violence ever causes to the body.
But, you may still be wondering
if this information applies to you. If
you are like most abused women, you will be saying: “Yes, but, my
partner is really not that bad. He
loves me really…” Maybe he does still
tell you that he loves you from time to time, to keep you on side. An abusive partner will declare their love
occasionally, especially when they feel that they may have pushed you too
The real clues to whether or
not you are in an abusive relationship lie with you and your feelings. So let’s take a quick look at some of the
key indications that you are in an abusive relationship.
- Walking on
eggshells. Most of the time,
you feel like you are walking on eggshells. You know that it doesn’t take very much for your partner to
become angry and pick a fight with you.
You spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep him happy, yet he
can find fault with you about absolutely anything. You can never guarantee getting through
any situation whatsoever without him finding fault with you.
- You constantly
obsess about him. Abused women tend to lose sight of
themselves: they spend their whole life worrying about their partner’s
mood, his behaviour, and whether or not he loves them. In their mind everything is about him,
not about you.
- You are generally
unhappy. If you are in an abusive
relationship, you will laugh rarely, because you have a very heavy
heart. You view your life as a
difficult, painful affair that you feel powerless to change, much as you
try. Misery has become your
- You feel bad about
yourself. You spend your time
either blaming yourself, or wondering if everything that happens is your fault – and therefore you should blame yourself. Your
partner has trained you in this pattern by blaming you for anything and
everything that goes wrong in his life.
You end up disliking yourself as heartily as he dislikes you.
- You shoulder the
responsibility for the entire relationship. It
takes two people to make a relationship work. It takes two people to do the work in a relationship. A functional relationship is all about
reciprocity, or mutuality, if you prefer.
It is about two people caring for each other, supporting each
other, actively, and sharing. One key indication of an abusive relationship is that one
partner spends their time desperately trying to make the relationship
work, while the other spends his time taking it apart.
- You are constantly
minimizing, denying and excusing. You manage to find a number of
“reasons” to explain and excuse his behaviour: stresses at work, a
difficult childhood, bad past relationships… You also tell yourself that things are not really that bad.
In fact, you have become so good at denial (that is, lying to
yourself) that you can manage to overlook his contempt, his affairs, his
meanness, his ill treatment of the children, his bad behaviour with other
people. Even when you find
yourself actually apologizing
for him, you still tell yourself:
“It’s not that bad.”
- You give up on your
own life. You give up on yourself, and your own right to happiness,
fulfilment and even your own interests.
You tell yourself that “it is all over for you”, and that staying
is the best thing for the children.
You put yourself a very poor second to him in everything. You come to believe that you have
nothing to look forward to, and that you would be lost without him. In reality, you have lost sight of
Does any of this sound like
you? If it does, you are in an abusive
relationship. You may still be hoping
that if you just pour enough love into your partner, then one day, he
will finally return that love.
Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. The reasons why your partner stays with you, and treats you the
way he does, have little, or nothing, to do with love.
The good news is that it is not
too late for you to get out, build a more rewarding life for yourself, and
provide a better role model for your children – if you have children.
If you would like to walk away
from the skewed, wretched world of abuse, hold this thought: a much, much
better life awaits you. Only take
action, take that first step, and you can grow your self-esteem, create a
happy life for yourself, and find the fulfilment you deserve.