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If It Hurts, It’s Not Love: Why Not to Stay in an Abusive Relationship

If It Hurts, It’s Not Love: Why Not to Stay in an Abusive Relationship

Abuse is not love. It is about power and control over a person. It usually starts small in a relationship and becomes a bigger problem over time. Abuse doesn’t typically begin with physical harm; it begins with emotional harm.

The abuse gets worse as the relationship progresses. He/She may not be hitting you while you are dating, but the controlling behaviors are often evident early in the relationship. Those controlling ways are abuse. That’s why it is so imperative to recognize the signs of abuse before you are in too deeply.

The impact of abuse is much more widespread than people acknowledge.

You may be thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t being abused, but it does, because someone you know is being abused.

Abuse has no socioeconomic, racial, or cultural barriers. It happens to people who are rich and to people who are poor. It can happen to anyone, in any walk of life. An article on Livestrong.com provides some important information about abuse and states:[1]

“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44”.

This means that women in this age range are more likely to be harmed by their partner than they are to be injured in a car accident.

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Abuse is not just about physical harm.

Many people associate abuse with physical harm, but there is so much more involved in abuse than physical harm. Abuse is about a person wanting control over another person. That desire for control leads to a variety of controlling behaviors including isolation from friends and family, threats, emotional abuse, and more.

Most domestic violence centers use the “Power and Control Wheel” to show the types of abuse, as they go far beyond the physical. Abuse is about power and control which come in these forms, often far before the physical abuse ever begins:

    Abusers may change, but not very likely.

    Most abused individuals who stay in the relationship do so because they hope the person will change. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research or data that points to abusers changing their ways.

    Is it possible? Yes, but many researchers, including well known abuse expert Lundy Bancroft, say that an abuser changing their ways is a lifelong process and will only happen if an abuser is determined to change.[2] It is like a disease that never truly goes away but just becomes dormant.

    In the case of abuse, it will only become dormant because the abuser seeks help and has decided not to abuse anymore. You also need to consider the likelihood of them changing, which experts say is not promising. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states,[3]

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    “There’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.”

    It takes a huge effort on the part of an abuser to change their ways. If you are dating someone that exhibits the signs of abuse you need to seriously assess your future and what it will be like when the abuse gets worse as time progresses.

    How to Know if They Have Changed

    How do you know if your abuser has really changed or if they have really stopped abusing you?

    The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes how an abuser exhibits genuine change. Some of these changes include him no longer making excuses for the abusive behavior, recognizing the controlling patterns that underly the abuse, making amends with those he abused, and most importantly exhibiting new behaviors when a situation becomes heated.

    An Open Letter From a Former Abuser provides a real life example of how an abuser changed and describes how difficult that change can be:[4]

    Are you able to express your opinion to your partner without fear of him lashing out at you verbally or physically? Are you able to be open and honest with your partner about your feelings and feel comfortable that he won’t respond abusively?

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    If not, then he hasn’t really changed.

    Abuse is cyclical. The abuse may just be in the post-abuse phase (also known as the honeymoon phase). The honeymoon phase of abuse is when your partner is being sweet and kind, trying to make up for the recent abuse he inflicted on you. The change isn’t real if it goes right back into the cycle of abuse after time has passed and he has begun to forget about how he abused you.

    The Domestic Violence Round Table explains the three phases of abuse very clearly:[5]

      The honeymoon phase is usually what keeps most abused individuals in the relationship. They have such high hopes that things will remain in that phase that they stay in the relationship after an abusive episode has happened.

      In most cases the abuser has not sought professional help and the abuse cycle will continue. It’s just a matter of time before the cycle starts over. It’s up to you whether you stick around in an abusive relationship to be abused again. If you are being abused, end the cycle by seeking help today.

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      If you are being abused, get help now.

      Life is too short to allow yourself to be harmed and mistreated by another human being. Nobody deserves that treatment. There are domestic violence centers all around the country that help abused individuals for free. You can also contact the National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for immediate and free help.

      If it is a friend or family member that is being abused you need to be supportive and listen to her. It is extremely hard for a person to leave an abusive situation because of a variety of reasons, so you need to be supportive and not judgmental.

      Some reasons that a person may not leave include: they fear embarrassment, they don’t have the money to start a life on their own, they love the person, or a number of other reasons. Often it’s not just one reason, which makes it even more difficult to leave. The Love Is Respect Website outlines many of the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships.[6] Provide your abused friend with resources for help, such as information from you local domestic violence shelter or hotline. Most importantly, be there to listen to your friend and not judge her for her difficult situation and decisions.

      Professional help is what an abuser needs. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that abusers need to participate in a “Certified Batterer Intervention Program” if they want to change.

      If you can’t leave, create a plan for your safety.

      Sometimes a person is not prepared to leave their abusive situation for a variety of reasons. She may not have a place to stay, not have any money, fear embarassment, or any number of reasons. It is important to have a safety plan in place so that if things escalate in an abusive situation you can easily get to a safe place.

      Some ways to prepare include having a plan for multiple escape routes in the home, have a specific friend or contact to call for help, have money saved for emergency exit, and have information for a local domestic violence center near you. The “Stop Relationship Abuse” Website provides greater detail on safety planning including having important documents such as birth certificates on hand in case you have to leave in an emergency.[7]

      Reference

      [1] Livestrong: What Are the Causes of an Abusive Relationship?
      [2] Lundy Bancroft: Why Does He Do That?
      [3] The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Is Change Possible In An Abuser?
      [4] Positive Juice: An anonymous open letter to people in abusive relationships who want to stay in the relationship despite the abuse
      [5] The Domestic Violence Round Table: The Cycle of Domestic Violence
      [6] Love Is Respect: Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships
      [7] Stop Relationship Abuse: Develop a Safety Plan

      More by this author

      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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      Last Updated on February 11, 2021

      20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

      20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

      Dreams — Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell. Dreams are all that and much more.

      Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about:

      Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time

        If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams.

        The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.

        Fact #2: Lucid dreaming

        There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.

        Want to learn how to control your dreams? You can try these tips:

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        Lucid Dreaming: This Is How You Can Control Your Dreams

        Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams

        Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:

        • The idea for Google -Larry Page
        • Alternating current generator -Tesla
        • DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
        • The sewing machine -Elias Howe
        • Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev

        …and many, many more.

        Fact #4: Premonition dreams

        There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about.

        You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:

        • Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
        • Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
        • Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
        • 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe

        Fact #5: Sleep paralysis

        Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is.

        Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!

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        Fact #6: REM sleep disorder

        In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.

        Fact #7: Sexual dreams

        The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term, it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.

        Fact #8: Unbelievable sleepwalkers

          Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.

          Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:

          • A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
          • A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking
          • A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived

          Fact #9: Dream drug

          There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.

          Fact #10 Dream-catcher

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            The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.

            Fact #11: Increased brain activity

            You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.

            Fact #12: Creativity and dreams

            As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity.

            Scientists also say that keeping a dream diary helps with creativity.

            In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.

            Fact #13: Pets dream too

              Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em buddy!

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              Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it

              Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.

              Fact #15: Blind people dream too

              Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.

              Fact #16: In your dreams, you only see faces that you already know

                It is proven that in dreams, we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.

                Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative

                Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.

                Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night

                You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.

                Fact #19: Gender differences

                Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.

                Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color

                As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.

                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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