This post is all about unhealthy vs abusive relationships.
There is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes an abusive relationship because it can look different for everyone. However, if you’re debating whether your relationship is abusive, you need to ask why and believe yourself.
People rarely ask question the health of their relationship without reason. Listen to yourself, first and foremost. If you’re here, take care of yourself (use this link to find resources and local support).
Make sure that you look for the reasons why your relationship is harmful rather than trying to prove it’s not. If you’re still not sure by the end of this blog, ask yourself this: “Does my partner make me feel comfortable in bringing up issues with them or do I feel too scared?”
Communication can fix just about any issue, even if that means you end a relationship because you’re not right for each other. So, if you don’t feel safe communicating openly with your partner, please prioritize your safety over the well-being of the relationship.
This post is all about unhealthy vs abusive relationships.
UNHEALTHY VS ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS:
1. Listen to Your Gut
You know more than you think you do. The moments when you’re second-guessing that odd feeling or that critical voice in your head are the moments you need to listen to yourself the most.
It’s entirely possible that you’ll be second-guessing a healthy relationship. Even in those cases, you should approach partner and friend with a critical perspective.
Not in the sense that you criticize everything they do and find constant fault in them. Instead, you have to be sure they’re the right partner or friend for you and they’ll treat with the love and care you deserve.
Listen to that voice the first time it tells you something is unsettling. Then, let the other person prove it wrong multiple times before you let it go.
2. Educate Yourself
If you’re not sure what an unhealthy relationship looks like, do research. Ask the people in your life what they think that looks like and if they see it in your life.
Be careful when looking these kinds of resources up on the internet because you might be putting yourself in danger. But, if you have the ability, absorb as much information as you can find to help you figure out if the relationship is working or painful.
Valuable resources will have the signs you can look for, including patterns of behavior that you can identify in an abusive partner.
3. Reflect on Patterns
Once you identify some of those signs and problematic behavior, take a step back. If you notice negative behaviors from your partner, ask yourself if they’re consistent.
Even if negative behaviors are isolated, they’re still dangerous and can result in a pattern of behavior that would otherwise apparently completely unfounded. Regardless of what you notice when you take a step back, remember that you are not responsible for their actions.
Keep in mind that your emotional abuse is still abuse. If they’ve yelled at you, threatened you, or proved in any way that they can’t resolve conflict in a healthy way, they could be a danger to you.
With abusive partners, it’s entirely possible that they overreact to any type of trigger and, as part of that overreaction, hurt you when you least expect it. So, take note of problematic behaviors and consider whether you feel safe around your partner.
4. Reach Out to Trusted Friends
Meet up with friends you trust. If you’re close with your family, reach out to them. Avoid having this type of conversation over the phone because it’s a heavy topic. Plus, they need to provide an unbiased perspective.
If your partner scares you even just once, then you need to talk about it with someone. Get another perspective and talk about it in person with someone you trust. It’s possible that your partner will not become abusive. Even then, you could still wrong for each other.
The purpose of reaching out is to get clarity on how healthy your relationship is and ask others about their perspective. However, if your partner is actively abusing you, this is a great opportunity to spend time away from them and find safety with a friend or family member.
Assuming that your partner has not abused you, boundaries are a great tool to start creating a healthier relationship. Plus, if you share your boundaries with your partner and they react poorly, that could be an indication that your relationship will never work for both of you.
Boundaries look different for everyone, depending on the struggle they’re working on. If you and your partner bicker a lot, it’s a good idea to spend time apart and do activities that you each enjoy separately. This looks like setting aside time to be alone.
But, if the two spend lots of time apart and rarely talk about your relationship, it’s a good idea to set aside time for exactly that purpose. This looks like going to dinner without technology.
6. Assess Communication
Think about how you and your partner communicate. When you argue, consider how those arguments end. If there’s any type of abuse, that’s a clear indication that you need to leave the relationship.
But, maybe the arguments with the other person yelling, leaving, and forgetting the argument ever happened. While this is not abusive (unless they are berating and belittling you), it’s also not healthy.
Bring up your concerns about how the two of you argue and watch how your partner reacts.
If they’re willing to listen, work on your joint approach to conflict, and re-assess alter on, there’s potential in your relationship. Otherwise, any defensiveness or anger means that you’re most likely better off to end it.
7. Trust Your Feelings
Believe yourself. Your body reacts to the world around without you knowing why half the time. Notice physical sensations that happen around your partner, especially if you’re in conflict with them.
Look for pain or discomfort in your body when you’re around your partner and ask yourself why you might feeling that way. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you should be aware if your partner doesn’t make you feel at ease, comfortable, or loved.
Notice any feelings of anxiety or stress within the relationship. Take those feelings seriously and think about how it feels to bring those feelings up to your partner. If, in any way, you feel scared to do that, take action and get away from your partner.
8. Consider Your Well-being
Think about your mental health. Maybe you’ve been getting sick much more often in the past year of dating your partner than in the past.
This can be as simple as noticing that you’ve been handling so much of the responsibility in your relationship that it’s taking a toll on your body. You might be doing the household chores, going to work, and feeding the dog while your partner does nothing but work.
While that type of relationship isn’t physically or emotionally abusive, it’s not healthy or sustainable. And, if you notice that dynamic in your own relationship, it’s a good idea to bring that up with your partner to see how they respond.
9. Document Incidents
While we never want anyone to have to document abuse, this is the most important step on this blog. Go to the doctor, take pictures, show people in your life. There will not judgment or stigma around intimate partner violence.
Even if your partner doesn’t physically hurt you, document outbursts. Whether you use these to get a restraining order, press charges, or just to remind yourself why you won’t go back, document the abuse or the string of concerning behavior.
If the idea of documenting abuse scares you, remember that you’re doing it for your future self. That way, if it happens again, you can be sure it’s not the first or last time.
10. Trust the Process
You’re coming to terms with a lot. Whether you’re finding out that your relationship in unhealthy or abusive, you’re coming to terms with a lot of painful truths.
Keep in mind that your relationship probably wasn’t always negative. The abuse probably didn’t start from the beginning. You and your relationship have evolved over time and they both will continue to change.
You don’t have to have all of the answers right now. Heal from the relationship at your own pace. Leave the relationship at your own pace to make sure you are safe.
11. Consider Professional Help
Look into a therapist. If you’re want to improve an unhealthy relationship, consider a Marriage and Family Therapist. They’re equally beneficial if you are leaving an abusive relationship and need support.
A therapist can give you guidance and help you navigate your feelings more effectively than if you had to heal on your own. They can bring a no-judgment perspective that gives you an informed perspective on your current or past relationship.