Cartoon by David Horsey
By Jessica Spohn
Go into any bookstore and you will see hundreds of books about healthy relationships. No one expects to have to pick out the books that discuss warnings signs of an abusive relationship, also known as domestic or intimate partner violence. Physical, verbal, mental/emotional, and financial abuse can happen to anyone. Sometimes abusive relationships are easy to identify; other times the abuse may take a more subtle form. Below is a list of warning signs of an abusive relationship that I wish someone would have told me:
- Spending all your time together:
Your significant other texts and calls, Facebooks, and tweets you every twenty minutes to check up on you. Aww, how cute! But is it really? Do you have time for yourself—quality alone time where you’re allowed some peace to do homework or work or watch TV without interruption or questions about why you haven’t answered any messages? How long has it been since you had a catch up session with your best friends?
Spending time with your honey is important—it helps build the relationship and maybe you were best friends beforehand—but spending every waking moment together is not healthy. Constant checkups and attempts to distance you from your friends are signs of jealousy and control. If you’re concerned, sit down and have a conversation with your partner. In a healthy relationship, your partner will value and respect your needs as well as their own, including personal space. Your feelings are important and both sides should listen to each other openly.
- The double standard:
Is it “anything goes” when it comes to your partner but always a “no-go” when it comes to you? For example (in a heterosexual relationship), he spends time with his female friends but does not want you to spend time with your male friends. Or, he hangs out with his friends but gets upset with you if you spend time with yours. Does this happen frequently? This can quickly turn dangerous if not addressed. In a healthy relationship, your partner will trust you and respect your right to friends and activities outside of the relationship.
- Your health and immune system:
How are you feeling? No really… take a step back and reflect on your health. Since the start of your relationship (including the flirty dating period), do you feel lethargic, lazy, bored, sleepy, or get more colds than you did before you were in the relationship? Has your appetite changed to where you eat more or less often than before the relationship? An abusive relationship can weaken the body mentally (e.g., you may develop symptoms of depression) and physically. In contrast, healthy relationships bring happiness and wellness to our lives.
There’s a difference between wrestling on the carpet because your partner won’t give you the remote and having a good laugh about it and having a wrestling match that ends up in painful bruises and cuts. It doesn’t matter if your partner says it was an “accident.” Does your partner grab things from you or shove you to be “playful”? If these things have happened to you (even once) it’s time to give your relationship a good look. My ex used to push me into bushes and cars– he thought it was funny because I was smaller than him. Healthy relationships are not harmful.
- Second-guessing your confidence:
You have a right to think your own thoughts and to be who you are. People with abusive personalities are often charming at first but can be manipulative and will try to make you second guess how you think and how you feel. Believe and trust in yourself and in what you do (even if it’s something as simple as “I did the dishes today”).
In conclusion, it is important to know red flags. However, it is also important to keep in mind that a partner that uses these behaviors may not always intend to be abusive. Sometimes people may not realize the behavior is controlling and/or abusive. Communication is the key in relationships, so don’t be scared to talk to your partner! Establish boundaries and keep them; I know it can be rough at times. Remember: you are beautiful, wonderful, and deserve all the respect in the world.