After a long hiatus from writing, it’s time to get back to the drawing board. I could go into the reasons why, but I won’t just yet. Let’s just say I’m going to give this thing a real go this time. To start off (again)…
The topic of domestic violence and abuse is central now to our societal and political discussion, and it’s about time. While some forms of abuse can feel more shocking or seem more insidious than others, all of it is damaging and cruel. As a survivor of an abusive relationship, I’m lucky that I got out when I did. The further I’ve stepped beyond from it, the clearer I see the signs of what was to come in the four years we were together. These are the most poignant identifying behaviors I’ve taken so far from the experience, and are clear dealbreakers in every partner to come in the future:
- Unwarranted Opinions
- While this seems like a no-brainer, it can be hard to see what it truly is when emotion clouds your judgement. One could interpret this as your partner just expressing their wishes. People have a right to say if they think something is negatively affecting them. But there is a limit. Something as minor as changing my hair color became a point of contention because he preferred my hair darker when I didn’t. Each haircut became a chance to tell me how he thought I should look. Even if it’s spun as a compliment with regard to their preferences, the precedent it sets is that their opinion needs to be consulted prior to every decision. The entitlement to control in a relationship can be a slippery slope from verbal commands to physical ones, so shut that down right away if your partner seems to think their wants should take precedence over yours
- Needing Constant Attention
- Some people’s idea of romance or a committed relationship is spending lots of time together because you can’t get enough of each other. And that’s okay if it’s what you both want and it’s balanced. But if your partner tries to pull you from whatever you’re doing when you’re not together, whether that’s out with your friends, at a study group, or home alone just needing some “you time,” that’s not respecting your priorities or boundaries. We both had busy college schedules, so when he was free, he wanted to be with me. I would leave things early or skip events to spend time with him, but half the time he’d be playing a video game or studying and I was to sit and wait for him. I realized it wasn’t that he wanted to spend time with me, he wanted to be sure I wasn’t spending any time with anyone that posed a threat to him.
- Being Playfully Possessive
- Some argue that a little jealousy is healthy. I won’t agree or disagree, but there are limits to how far that should go. Whenever a guy would show me attention, my partner would put his arm around me and declare sternly, “Mine.” Our friends would laugh this off like this was just a way to show his devotion to me. But he would even do it to guys he didn’t know, some I considered friends. Most guys were scared off and would never speak to me again. His defense was “it’s not you I don’t trust, it’s them.” That sentence form him translated to “I don’t trust you to choose who you spend time with wisely, so I’m doing it for you.” And who wants a partner who doesn’t trust them?
- Comparisons (Positive or Negative)
- It’s now a running joke on the internet that “You’re not like other girls” is often spoken by a man not out of respect but insincere flattery in order to garner a woman’s favor. It can be especially damaging to your sense of self when said by your partner, even if they consider it positive. Whether you’re being told you’re smarter, or prettier than someone, it still builds the idea of a standard or ideal you’re being held to, real or imagined. If you gain 20 pounds or lose 5, decide to pursue that master’s degree or change careers for the “starving artist” life, it doesn’t change what kind of person you are, and whether you’re worthy enough of your partner’s love and respect.
- Caring Too Much About What Others Think
- Most people would like to say they don’t care about what our peers or strangers or even our family think, but this isn’t very realistic. I can’t say it. It can take some years to overcome their insecurities, and it’s easier said than done. But when someone draws their self-worth almost entirely from outside perception, it creates a bad energy of needing everything to appear in order despite whatever the reality underneath. This led to an all-too-common situation of the abuse being behind closed doors, and constant badgering of how my behavior or appearance or even my career prospects made him look. It was hard to tell someone what really went on because to the rest of the world he appeared as a committed provider and devoted partner.
- Not Respecting Physical Boundaries
- This was probably the hardest for me to distinguish as a foretelling behavior in my relationship. I was undiagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome at the time, which gave me horrendous cramps every month. To combat it, I started the pill, which caused my normally high sex drive to plummet. Instead of approaching it with sympathy, my partner grew aggravated with me that I no longer wanted to have sex. I would assure it wasn’t him, but that I didn’t want it with anyone. Some nights I would force myself to be into it to avoid a fight. There is never an instance where you should engage in anything physical that isn’t mutual. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or a casual fling, manipulating someone into fulfilling their desires shows an utter lack of respect. And if they don’t respect your sexual needs, they probably won’t respect any others.
Disclaimer: I understand this is tense subject matter, and I can only draw from my own personal experiences. No two relationships are ever the same. My only intention is to relate what I learned from it and how I overcame, and express my compassion for other survivors. No offense or quick judgement is intended by anything stated above, and I’m not claiming to be an expert on the subject.