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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

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      Dr. Magdalena Battles

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

      How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit An Expert Parenting Guide to Dealing with Toddler Tantrums How Divorce Affects Children: The Good and the Not So Good Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting a Marriage Counselor How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

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      Last Updated on May 7, 2019

      How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

      How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

      Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

      The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

      The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

      Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

      People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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        They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

        Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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            1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
            2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
            3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
            4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
            5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

            How to Spot a Wolf

              Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

              Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

              A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

              A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

              Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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              Ask Questions, the More the Better

              There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

              When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

              Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

              They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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              Wolves Are Everywhere

              As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

              Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

              Reference

              [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
              [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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