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Many people think that an abusive relationship only occurs when someone is hitting or physically abusing their partner. Some people even think that the only way that a relationship can be abusive is if someone has visible signs of a physical altercation (i.e. scars, bruises, or broken bones).  Unfortunately, there are many other ways for a person to be abusive. Abuse in a relationship most commonly comes in the forms of either physical, sexual, emotional, isolation, intimidation, and economic. Some people even have a relationship that includes 2 or more of the abusive behaviors.

Here is a breakdown of each type of abuse

Physical Abuse:  Involves hitting, kicking, punching, shaking, restraining, or using any object to cause physical harm to a partner.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse in a relationship occurs when force or threat is used to make a partner participate in unwanted sexual acts. Even if the couple is married, or consensual sex has occurred in the past, if a person is coerced to engage in sexual activity against their will it is considered as sexual abuse.

Emotional Abuse: Someone can be emotionally abusive if they humiliate, degrade, or disrespect their partner in public or private.  Name calling and unfair criticism in an attempt to devalue a partner’s self worth can also be a part of emotional abuse.

Isolation: Isolation happens when an abuser frequently attempts to keep the victim away from others.  These abusers won’t allow their victim to be around friends or family due to jealousy.  Partners experiencing this type of abuse aren’t allowed to have many interests outside of their home or relationship.

Intimidation: Abusers who intimidate their partners usually do so by threatening to harm them or destroy property.  Sometimes these perpetrators will even threaten to harm their partners friends or family.

Economic Abuse: When an abusive individual controls the finances and resources of his/her partner they control the relationship because the victim doesn’t have any control Financial control is another tool of the abusive partner. By controlling the victim’s access to money and resources, an abuser controls the victim’s freedom and access to help.

Domestic abuse not only affects those involved in the acts, but it also touches their children.  Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.  Also, men who as children witnessed domestic violence among their parents are twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.

As a healthy relationship educator I often find that when I talk about abusive behaviors in a relationship most people don’t even know that they are involved in a situation that is  harmful.  Many times they will exhibit behaviors that are destructive and don’t even realize that they are harming themselves and the other person in their relationship.  If you are used to doing something for so long, and no one ever tells you that your actions are wrong, you probably won’t ever change them.

There are certain red flags that are usually present when someone has an abusive personality.  These red flags usually present themselves during the early stages of the relationship.  Sometimes both parties in the relationship are abusive to each other which can cause an extreme amount of hostility and destruction in the relationship.  Healthy relationships are built on things like communication, trust, commitment, passion, intimacy, love and so much more.  A relationship built on a foundation of abuse and destructive behaviors is bound to not only fail, but potentially cause long term hurt and harm to the individuals involved.

If you are in a relationship and aren’t sure if it is abusive, her are 10 signs that you and your significant other are moving in the wrong direction.

1. Physical Injuries – If you or your partner are inflicting bodily harm on each other there is a problem.  Injuries like bruises, broken bones, cuts, burns, bone fractures, bites can all come from domestic disputes.  Some folks think that this is normal.  On numerous occasions I have heard women say things like “I don’t know how much my man loves me unless he beats me”.  WRONG! This is the type of attitude that is going to land someone in the hospital, or even the morgue.  Physical abuse should not be tolerated under any circumstances in your relationship.

2. Disruptive Visits To Work or School – In this case the abuser will pop up at your place of employment or at your school and disrupt your daily activities.  This usually happens when they are upset about something, or feel like they are going to get back at you because of something that you did.

3. Controlling Behavior – Abuse is about power, and if the abuser feels like he can control his/her victim then they will continue to do so as long as they are allowed to. Victims who are being controlled  have to take back their power in this situation and stand up for themselves against these types of individuals.  Controlling behavior only gets worse over time.  The person wants to have complete authority over every decision that the victim makes.

4. Unrealistic Expectations –  An abuser wants his/her needs to be taken care of at all times regardless of any other circumstances.  When the abuser doesn’t feel like all of their emotional, sexual, and domestic needs are being met they begin to belittle their victim or make them feel guilty for not doing things the way that they want them to.

5.  Split Personalities – Have you ever met someone who was able to go from being the sweetest person in the world to hell on wheels in a matter of seconds? These mood swings can cause issues because the victim usually doesn’t know what type of mood their lover will be in from one minute to the next.  These types of personalities are usually found in physical abusers.

6. Threats of Violence/Breaking Things – Any type of physical threat that is made should be taken serious.  You just never know what someone is capable of these days.  If someone is threatening to harm you, your family members, or even your pets it would behoove you to take them at their word and do your best to diffuse the situation and walk away.  These individuals will also be more inclined to break things around the house as a part of their threats.  There are unresolved anger issues involved here and the abuser will harm anything that comes in their path while they are upset.

7. Isolation/Jealousy of Friends and Family – An abuser who wants to isolate his/her victim does so as a way to control them.  These abusers don’t want you having any type of close relationships with friends or family because they want to be able to control your mind and have you all to themselves.  Friends and family can many times spot an abusive situation and even when we don’t make the best choices our loved ones can offer opinions that are a little less cloudy than our own.  These abusers become jealous when their significant other spends time with others because they feel as though all of the time and energy should be with them.

Now that you know a few indicators of abusive relationships I challenge you to look at yourself and your relationship and see if any of these traits are present.  If they are, you have some work to do.  Work on on changing these behaviors or either removing yourself from a harmful situation. There is nothing fun about abuse, and if we want our relationships to be long lasting and healthy we have to remove those toxic people and situations from our lives.

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