When was the last time you talked about abusive relationships?
From the 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to the 10th December (Human Rights Day), there is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign, focused to raise awareness on pressing issue of domestic violence against women and girls from all over the world.
I have decided to publish content on the subject for the next 16 days, in order to reach as many people as we can and spread some informations that can be helpful to many people who are suffering from domestic abuse.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a little guide on how to not be absolutely stupid in love; we discussed bad relationships, petty arguments and – as always -winning the battle of self-love and finding the person who doesn’t annoy you when you pee with the toilet door open.
But as we dig deeper into the world of bad relationships and insane break-ups, we found a layer that it’s often tossed to the side, forgotten and made it seem like a taboo for how uncomfortable it is to discuss.
When was the last time you have talked about domestic violence?
We hear about rape, murders and cruel violence on the news every day; we hear the distant noise of those news and we feel distraught at the thought of how dangerous this world has become, but then we say “Wow, the news are crazy tonight”. We go back to our normal lives. We go to work and maybe we see those signs that the psychologist on the news is talking about: abuse of power, silencing the victim, belittling someone, pushing them. They are small signs of violence that we see every day in a society that has taken a dark twist, but then we choose to carry on with our normal day, as we change the channel and crack another beer.
I have thought about sharing that article on how to choose the right person for you, only to quickly realise that it’s not appropriate for this kind of talk.
Domestic violence is not about being too stupid to stick to that person. It’s not about being stubborn, nor it’s about being weak.
Being in an abusive relationship is about being awfully mistreated and put inside a cycle that it’s hard to break. It’s about living a daily nightmare, where you don’t know if you’re going to come out of it alive.
We are surrounded by acts of violence against human beings at all times; children are shown acts of rape, sexual assault and abusive talks from a young age through video games, popular movies and, the one that we can’t directly change, at home.
If we keep making domestic violence a taboo, if we keep hiding in the corner ignoring the fact that millions of people suffer and die from domestic violence, we keep silencing their victims.
We keep allowing their abusers to get away with it, because not talking about it and not raising awareness is not caring, not feeling like this issue has some kind of priority.
When we talk about domestic violence and abusive relationships, let’s not just dwell on the gruesome details, in order to fuel this fascination with horrifying thing that the media is addicted to; let’s talk about how we can prevent people from falling into abusive relationships.
What are the signs that can help us identify when a relationship is taking a dark-twisted turn?
Today we talk about, reading those signs.
HOW TO KNOW YOU’RE IN A ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.
Playing with your mind-game.
For girls in particular, we grow up getting accustomed to the idea of the perfect man being someone who challenges our thinking and the way we behave. We applaud characters like Edward Cullen (Twilight), Christian Gray (50 Shades of Gray) and Mr. Big (Sex And The City), because they are hard to catch, they are half-available and half-fucking with our minds. We can’t deny it; young women have grown to fall in love with an idea of a the perfect man that is definitely more of the abuser than the McDreamy.
But how do we know when somebody is playing with our minds because they like to play, or because they want to control us?
Let’s deconstruct this. How do you know when somebody is emotionally abusing you, or just playing you?
Somebody who plays with your feelings and your mind, someone who takes pleasure in belittling you, knowing how guilty, or upset you would get -THAT PERSON DOES NOT love you.
And you’re going to be – but, nooo he’s just playing, that’s how we are, you know.
Before you think that, here is the checklist that you have to ask yourself in regards of this person:
Do they make fun of you for things that are absolutely out of your control?
Do they put you down for the way you look, calling you names and encouraging to change your looks by making you feel guilty?
Do they look down on your lifestyle choices and voice their disapprovals?
Do they guilt-trip you for not doing something they want to do?
If you have answered yes to most of these questions, even to one of these, or if you’re somewhat unsure on what to answer; then I can tell you straight up, eyeballs to eyeballs: they are being emotionally abusive. They are messing with your mind big time.
A person who loves you and cares for you DOES NOT put you down, guilt-trip you, call you names, manipulate you into becoming somebody else nor doing something else. A person who loves you DOES NOT feel the need to play with your emotions and your core values, because a person who loves you SHOULD NOT want to control you and own you.
These are the first signs that you could get when dating somebody, or when you just got into a relationship. Don’t lie to yourself and listen to your gut: you know what feels right, and above all – you know if you could feel in danger with a person. They are very subtle signs, but it’s important that you listen to them and reach out to someone you can trust, so that you can discuss it and end the abuse before it’s too late.
“He wants to be with me all the time, it’s so cute”
“She was waiting for me outside of my house to see what I was doing”
“I can’t go out tonight because you know how he gets when we’re around boys”
How many times have you said these words? How many times have you heard them?
Okay, now, how many times have you heard these words and thought they were part of a normal and healthy relationship.
Spoiler: they are not.
Another sign of abuse is isolation.
Stalking a person is not being extremely dedicated, nor it’s loving them so much that you can’t help track their locations through their Facebook logins.
A healthy relationships is about trust. It’s about giving space and sharing space.
If somebody starts to control where you are going and what you are doing and who you are going with; it’s not because they are madly in love with you, it’s because they want to control you. They want to own so much of you that they can’t bear the thought of you living your life outside of the part that you share with them.
They are jealous and demanding; they are constantly asking what you are doing and who you are with because they are insecure and in fear that you would leave them.
A person who loves you and cares for you understands that you have your own personal life and circle of friends, family and hobbies; and that as a person, YOU don’t owe your time to your partner.
A person who loves you respects your choices in terms of people you hang out with because they understand you care for them and wish to hang out with them.
So following every single move of yours and guilt-tripping you for what you want to do or where you want to go is a sign of an abusive relationship.
3. FEAR AND INTIMIDATION
This is where it starts getting serious. Not that the previous signs weren’t serious, but if they were big warning sign, this should have a huge STOP sign and a huge dog barking at the person who is doing that for you, because this is where it gets harder to break the abusive cycle, when you drive past it.
If the person you are personally involved has done any of these things to you, then break up with them. It’s going to be hard and you might be in denial, but talk to someone and when you’re ready, cut those people out of your life.
The big signs.
- Smashed something in front you out of anger and distress
- Making you feel uncomfortable or unsettled simply by looking at you or threatening to do something
- Shown signs of violence against other people or animals
- Threatens to hit you in the middle of a big fight
- Obsessive use of weapons
- Obsessive use of violent video games
- Obsessive use of violent pornographic material
- Aggressive behaviour in every day life
This is where it gets hard, because we do get certain signs that are somewhat close to the ones above, but we are in denial, because we are happy.
Abusive relationships are all different from one another, so saying YES to a checklist found on the internet is not going to solve anything, but these are major signs that we should all be weary of when we start seeing somebody, even a person we wish to be friends with.
When you first get with someone, you are filled with so much joy and hormonal imbalances, that your brain overlooks certain behaviours. If you throw in there the fact that books like 50 Shades of Gray become best-sellers and get movie deals and are watched by girls who haven’t even dated or had sex yet; then you understand how scary overlooking signs like this is.
Somebody who loves you and cares for you DOES NOT use violence, threats, stalking behaviour, or offensive language to get you to love them. They do that because they want to feel in control, therefore they don’t see you as equal as them.
If they are okay with watching violence, if they don’t stand up against violence and if they are constantly showing content with violent behaviour, THEY ARE NOT THE RIGHT PERSON for you. And even if you have been together for 20, 30 years, then honey, you got a big storm comin’, because you never know what might trigger the bomb.
And you can’t afford to have a bomb exploding in your life.
4. MAKING IT A SMALL DEAL
So it happened. It was a punch, or maybe a slap. Or maybe it was a really aggressive fight. You got scared and you said “Look, I don’t think you are the right person for me”. That subtle feeling in your gut started weighing heavy on your chest.
Then this is where their Oscar movie starts.
Because a person who is abusive is also manipulative and always knows how and what to say to convince you to stay with them. It’s all about control, remember?
So they will say things like this,
“You know that I was just playing”
“It was a joke, why don’t you have some sense of humour”
“You know that I love you and I would never do anything to hurt you”
And it goes on and on, with a little bit of flowers, cards, chocolates, puppies, anything they can possibly throw at you to make you believe again that they are good people and that that bad side of them was just a moment, an unexpected storm brought by an undefined causality.
And you will believe them at first, because you want to believe them. Nobody wants to know that the person they love is actually a manipulative asshole, right?
I mean, look at what Bella had to do when she was faced a choice between Edward – a nerd lunatic – and Jacob – another stalker lunatic. (She jumped off a cliff). It’s inevitably hard to part from someone you once loved and admired, because you are still holding onto that hope that they will be good and happy once again.
But this isn’t a fairytale. The Evil Prince doesn’t turn into Prince Charming after midnight just because he said that he will be good this time, or that he will make it up to you. Things like that happen in movies because movies are written by people who are still trying to deal with their own personal lives. And mostly, movies are written by MEN who are not all aware of the mechanisms and effects of an abusive relationship, because they benefit from their own male privilege.
This is why it’s important that we talk about it.
Because as an abuser is addicted to the control and the power they exercise over you, it means they will do whatever they can do to maintain it.
When you think about it, talking about the good times, promising better times and showering you with gifts is such an easy thing to do.
Standing up to your mistakes and making sure that the person you love is alright without having to use an obsessive behaviour and excessive controlling and stalking; THAT’S different.
Don’t believe what you see, or hear. If they have done it once, they will do it again. To you, or to others.
4. BEING THE ONE WHO WEARS THE PANTS.
I have written this entire article gender-neutral, because abusive relationships come in all sizes and colours, but I think it would be hypocritical to deny the fact that statistics show that a MALE is more likely to do acts of violence and abusive behaviour.
We live in a man’s world; written for men’s pleasures, fought for men, destroyed by men and reinvented and commodified by other men.
Masculinity is the drug of the century. Younger generations are becoming more and more obsessed with the idea of being THE MAN of the situation; the one who has got all the money, all the Instagram follows, all the fame and all the Victoria’s Secret models lusting over them.
This is what power looks like in the 21st century: Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street. Making an absolute mess off the back of innocent people and letting the bimbo clean it, because what else can she do other than shaking her head to his dumb decisions and smile.
Many guys – not necessarily straight – will buy into this narrative and will want to make YOU buy it too; they will let you make it acceptable to be the one wearing the pants and doing all the working and serious stuff, but you have to resist.
Here’s what they might do:
- Control all of your finances
- Force you to do all the cleaning, washing, etc. just because he’s da man.
- Belittle your work because he earns more than you
- Not including you into the big decisions
- Not caring about your opinion on a life that you share together
- Treating you like a slave
- Asks you money
- Prevents you from earning money
- Not allowing you to access to shared income
These are all signs of abusive behaviour. Somebody who cares and loves for you respects your independence and only wishes for you to have a fullfilling life with financial and personal success. They want to support you on any level and wish for you to do great things.
They don’t slow you down with their negativity, they don’t try to limit your personal and financial freedom, nor they should make you feel like you are a 50’s housewife. That is not love, because love is about being equal and respectful with each other. There is no love in control.
But most of all,
TRUST YOUR GUT.
If you feel like the person you are seeing is not the right person for you, because you don’t think they can respect other people, and they show signs of controlling behaviour; go with your gut.
Talk to people, seek support and read about other people’s experiences. Stay wary of those who tell you that relationships are hard work and that things will get better, because things do not magically get better when you’re being abused. Abuse is abuse.
Next: How To Get Out Of An Abusive Relationship