It’s that little voice in the back of your head that whispers “This isn’t right,” and the feelings that tug at your heart, begging your brain to listen to that voice. It’s all those things that you shove down because you are so unsure of yourself, unsure of him.
You wonder: Is this abuse?
Abuse creeps over you slowly, silently, in such a sneaky way that many women are completely unaware of its presence until they are completely engulfe by it. And once you’e trapped, it’s hard to get out. Not impossible, but hard. So listen to that voice and watch for the signs, before it’s too late.
1. His reaction to a situation is more terrifying than the situation itself. I once came back to my car in a parking lot only to find that someone had obviously backed into the bumper. The car was only a month old, there was a big dent, the paint was scuffed and flaking – yet I could not have cared less about the car. I was absolutely terrified to tell my husband. I drove home white-knuckled and shaking, knowing he would be angry and that this would somehow end up being my fault. I knew he was going to explode in anger and I was scared to death to go home. When you start to fear your husband’s reaction more than you fear the situation itself, there’s a good chance you’re being abused.
2. He has full control of your finances. Financial abuse is a real thing. It’s the way many abusers keep their victims trapped. Without access to money, escape becomes almost impossible unless you have a great support system who can help you remove yourself from the toxic situation. (I did not.) I would have left my husband years earlier if I had access to our finances but because he controlled all of our earnings, I had no way out – and worse, he knew that.
3. He isolates you from your friends and family.
Most abusers won’t readily admit that they’re abusing you, even though, deep down, they know that what they’re doing wouldn’t be looked upon kindly by people who care about you. He’s deeply fearful that someone rational will “enlighten” you to the abuse that is taking place and thus, tries to remove your friends and family from your life. By doing that, he’s effectively cutting off your escape route and removing your safety net. Even if he hasn’t physically abused you at this point, the control that he has over your life should be seen as a huge warning of things to come.
4. He makes you sexually uncomfortable. Sexual abuse is not just something that happens with strangers at drunken parties. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone you know and relationship rape is a very real thing. If you feel pressured and coerced into sexual acts that you’re not comfortable with or you feel forced to partake in activities you didn’t consent to, you’re being abused. Guilt, pressure, and force are not foreplay.
5. He makes you feel like you can’t do better. Abusers most often exert their power not by physical force, but by controlling the way we think. If he can get you to think exactly the way he wants you to, well, half of his job is done. If he can make you believe that you’re worthless and that nobody good would ever want you, there’s less of chance you’ll ever leave him. You’ll start to “appreciate” that he puts up with you, day in and day out, because you’re so awful.
When you’re broken to the point where you feel so worthless that you’re just happy to be allowed to keep living, it’s hard to realize that the problem isn’t you. If the person who supposedly “loves” you the most thinks nothing of you, the problem is not you, it’s him. No one stays in a relationship with someone they think has no value; they stay for the control and power they reap from tearing you down.
6. He makes you fear leaving him. If you fear leaving them out of fear they will harm you, your partner is an abuser. And if you fear leaving him because you feel you could literally not live without them (and not just because you love them and would miss them), you might be being abused. Abusers take who we are and suck out everything we need to live. They make us shells of the people we once were, leaving only the parts of us that serve the purposes they need. If you feel like you’re so lost that you can no longer lead your own life, it’s time to get help. I don’t say that harshly; I just mean you are worth more. You deserve to be more than what someone else simply allows you to be. You deserve to not be abused.
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