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5 Truths About Abusive Relationships

5 Truths About Abusive Relationships

The first time it happened I don’t even think it settled in for a day or so. We were in a fight about something when suddenly his hands were wrapped tightly around my neck and I was pinned up against the wall. He didn’t hit me. There was never striking by hand. Most of the time I was shoved and pushed into walls or furniture, shoved up against a wall and pinned against it beyond my will. Thrown head first into a headboard, resulting in a bloody nose. One time in the middle of a fight the shotgun was suddenly taken down off the wall. There is nothing like seeing your partner grab a gun during a fight.

Those were the physical things. The verbal attacks were about as damaging. “You’ll never amount to anything.” Or “If it wasn’t for your long hair you wouldn’t even be remotely attractive. Don’t ever cut it, or you’ll be nothing.” Or “Gee, looks like you’ve lost some weight, I think your ass seems less wide than normal.”

Fear, control, manipulation and threats were a part of my daily life. Combine all that joy with late nights out drinking and you may wonder why I didn’t go running for the door – right? What’s wrong with women (or men) who stay in these relationships anyway? (Domestic abuse victims are approximately 85% women and 15% men.)

Nothing. Well, nothing at the start other than a good heart, a bent towards forgiveness and searching for love in the wrong place. At the end of enduring this type of relationship for any length of time a lot of damage has been done. Over 38 million women will find themselves the victim of abuse at the hands of their intimate partner at some time during their life. See this link for even more sobering facts.

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Here are some insights about abusive relationships from someone that’s been there. Even if you don’t want to admit it, if you are in an abusive relationship then these are truths for you also, as painful as they may be to admit.

1. You are worth more

What starts off as well intentioned forgiveness turns into forfeiting your life for someone who is never going to be capable of being a truly healthy partner. Controlling, abusive partners need help. You are worth more in this life than waiting for their sickness to get better. You are worth a partner that respects you exactly as you are. You are worthy of a partner that does not control you or force you to hide parts of who you are.

What if you even had a partner that was there to be a catalyst – even to your own personal growth in a healthy way? Imagine how far you could go in your life by shedding what is dragging you down. The longer you stay, the more difficult you will find the truth something you believe. Experiencing abuse will eventually rob you of your self-worth.

2. It won’t get better

After every fight you hear promise after promise of how it will get better, and how sorry they are. It won’t get better. Your abusive partner has already shown a lack of respect for you, and that will not improve by putting up with being treated with abuse. Better exists, but not inside this relationship. It took years for them to learn to deal with people in this abusive, controlling, manipulative way. It will take a lifetime for them to unlearn it, and that is only if they want to do the difficult work required with help.

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Back to point one: you are worth more than forfeiting your life. The next time you want to fill yourself with false hope that this could change, please read these facts about your future staying with your abuser.

3. This is not your problem to fix

Being the victim in these relationships can cause you to think, “If only I had dressed better, or cleaned the house better, or been more affectionate… then maybe the fight wouldn’t have started.”

You should never think this way. If you had done everything perfectly the fight still would have started. The abuse still would have happened. Your partner is fighting something in themselves not of you, but taken out upon you. Nothing you do or don’t do can fix them or prevent this from happening again. You are not in control of this situation no matter how wonderful you are to them.

4. There is no prize for who survives the worst

Ask yourself, “Why am I hanging on to this?” What do you have to gain? There is no award at the end of years of long abusive relationships except a heart full of regret. Just because you love this person does not give you to right to forfeit the gift of your life.

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You are worthy of wonderful, healthy, loving blessings. You are not serving your life’s purpose by putting yourself in this jail, wasting your gifts from being shared with the world, under this person’s control and abuse. Fast forward your life to age seventy. What will you regret most?

5. You can help others

Abuse of all sorts is still hidden in our society and not talked about openly. Victims shield their abusers from judgement by staying quiet and not reaching out to others. It is common to stay silent to even your closest family or friends about abuse because of point 2, above – you are still in denial that it will get better. As victims we dream of the day the pain will end and they will see our worth, so we decide not to tell our family and friends. We fear judgement of our partner, our choices and ourselves.

If you believe everything happens for a reason, then maybe the reason this has happened was for you to overcome this struggle and grow from it so you can help others. My situation was not something I often talked about unless I met someone I recognized as possibly in the same situation. In those cases I always shared my story in private and encouraged them to reach out. There are ways to overcome and transcend this part of life.

No, getting out of an abusive, controlling relationship isn’t easy. It’s scary, difficult and at times you will want to retreat. I personally remember about six months of being in fear for my safety in every way. But staying and giving your life up to this person who has zero value for you is not the answer. Reach out to someone you trust. For more resources about what steps to consider to actually get out this is a great link with a helpline link near the bottom of the article.

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Even though my experience with this happened over twenty years ago, it’s still a part of who I am. The experience changed me in a way nothing else could. The most difficult part of the entire thing wasn’t actually the abuse. The most difficult part was letting myself down for not walking away sooner. The most difficult part was forgiving myself for putting up with far less than I deserved. Forgiving myself took far longer than forgiving him.

Remember that when you think about just treading water and just waiting a bit longer to see what happens. Give yourself a chance at life. You are worth so much more!

If you are in, or know someone who is in an abusive relationship, consider checking this link.

If you are in the United States then you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

More by this author

Dawn Hafner

Dawn is a Practical Life Coach who offers concrete tools to help people implement life changes.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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