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9 Warning Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (with practical questions to reflect on)

9 Warning Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (with practical questions to reflect on)

Let’s get straight to business.

No one deserves abuse. We all deserve safety, freedom, and love. The numbers across the world, including within Western societies, confirm beyond a shadow of doubt that women (and trans folk, we must always be mindful to add) face the overwhelming brunt of violence, brutality, murder, and abuse at the hands of their partners. Of course, there are always exceptions and we all are responsible for eliminating gender-based violence and abuse.

But we need to be mindful of the fact that we live in a heteronormative, patriarchal world. That’s because, if we’re going to eliminate abuse, we have to frame the fight in the right way before proceeding. So, having hopefully done that, below you will find 9 signs of an abusive relationship, along with some practical questions to reflect on. If you see one or more of these in your relationship, it’s time to seriously assess things and make efforts to find safety, health, real love, and freedom.

1. An oppressive power imbalance in the relationship

A death knell for any relationship, if that wasn’t already an obvious point from the intro to this piece. It’s really simple to know whether or not there’s a power imbalance in your relationship, because deep down it’s very likely you already feel it — the powerlessness.

To know it as a fact, honestly self-reflect on the following questions: Do you feel like your partner has power over you to the point where your independence and happiness is solely at their discretion? What about your dreams, passions, life ambitions? Do you feel like they’re all at the whim and fancy of your partner, or do you feel like you have enough space to pursue them while in this relationship?

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2. Controlling, uncaring attitude, with a distinct lack of empathy and a marked desire to establish dominance

An attitude more suited to being a mercenary for hire rather than a caring partner. This is the micro version of the previous point. This manifests in the day to day, the daily neglect and lack of care, coupled with a domineering sense of control.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel you have equal power and control in the relationship? Do you feel cared for and like you matter? Do you feel alone but shackled in the relationship?

3. Put-downs: emotional, verbal, social, cultural, and spiritual

Among the more damaging, and utterly inexplicable, forms of social interaction that should never ever be in a supposedly loving relationship are put-downs. I have never understood put-downs between people who apparently care about each other — friends, relatives, loved ones. They are childish, immature, and hurtful, only justified by some bullshit reasoning around “toughening up” or some such macho nonsense. Make no mistake, if you’re facing put-downs from your partner, this is abusive behavior.

Reflect on the following questions: Have you faced or do you face put-downs from them? Is it ever acknowledged or apologized for? How do you feel and how do you think they want you to feel with these put-downs?

4. Survivors “walking on eggshells”

Constantly having to worry about their unending demands, always being on alert for their mood swings and insecurities —you’re not a commando and this is a supposedly loving relationship, for crying out loud!

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If you even think this might describe you and your relationship, you need to make some changes regarding your own safety and liberation, calmly but with immediate intent.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel constantly anxious and stressed about your partner’s issues and insecurities? Do you feel like you can safely escape? Does your partner have power over you to the point where you are completely at their mercy?

5. Lack of support for a partner’s freedom and independence

Love can blossom fully only when the shackles of our respective individual and collective lives are smashed (now that would be a Hallmark card worth keeping). Everyone in a relationship should feel a similar degree of freedom and independence, as well as support for each other’s freedom and independence. There are no two ways about it, and only relationships that constantly strive for one another’s liberation can truly be called loving.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel supported in your dreams and your own independence? Do you feel free to pursue your passions while being in a loving relationship? Do you feel like you are having to put your life goals aside for someone else’s?

6. The love, care, and support is never really there at a core level

You know that feeling, yeah that feeling, deep inside your gut? Please, oh please, heed that feeling. You will know when the love is not there. You will know when all you have instead is a semi-sociopathic, pretend version of love.

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Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel loved? Do you? Are you really sure? (It had better have been an emphatic, resounding, joy-filled, heart-exploding YES! each time when you’re in a truly loving and supportive relationship — anything else ain’t the real deal)

7. Friends and family who care deeply about you are constantly worried

Worse, you start finding yourself either hiding or embellishing your relationship. This is a big, giant warning sign that is important to heed. Start seeking help from other healthy, well-adjusted loved ones who have your best interests at heart. Don’t hide because of some sexist or puritanical notion of shame. Fight your way out.

Reflect on the following questions: Who will stand by you when the chips are down? Who will fight for you when you are cornered? Who will you do the same for?

8. You find yourself constantly depressed and despairing about the relationship

How many red flags must go valiantly up before you heed their bright crimson warnings? Look, the occasional bump in the road might be par for the course, but a constant and unending feeling of doom? Oh no.

Reflect on the following questions: Does thinking about the future with your partner bring about a sense of despair and hopelessness? Do you really want a life with them? Do you?

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9. The relationship hurts more than it heals, it destroys more than it nurtures

Health and healing are absolutely inviolable parts of any loving relationship. It doesn’t have to always be joyful and fun-filled, but it has to be nurturing and caring. Just reflect on this one question: Does your partner hurt you?

Remember that it’s never too late to get safe and healthy and on a journey towards real love and happiness. Seek out the long, often scary, road to independence. Make sure you have lots of support along the way. And it’s totally cool (actually deeply desirable) to have safe but awesome fun along the way. I foresee a well-made indy movie in your future, my friend. Or some such cool life victory anyway.

Now fight that good fight for your freedom. Your abuser’s got nothing on you.

Featured photo credit: Don’t Speak! by Kristin Schmit via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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