Domestic violence, outside of the obvious signs of physical abuse such as pushing, grabbing, and hitting can be subtle, and both genders are at risk.
When I talk about non-physical domestic violence and abuse, I’m not speaking of the occasional fight, or ups and downs of any normal relationship. I’m talking about patterns over time. Controlling behaviors, shaming, refusing to listen, talking over you, blaming, emotional abuse, yelling, lying, neglecting, stalking, inappropriate sexual pressure, intimidation and psychological manipulation are all examples of abuse.
Those that had upside-down childhoods where they were forced to “parent” a parent or had healthy boundaries ignored, are most at risk for this type of relationship. Children who were yelled at one moment and then showered with apologies and loving behaviors the next become confused and often times miss the signs of abuse in adult relationships. Children that were blamed, made wrong, ignored, put down, or abused physically are at high risk for adult domestic abuse.
When your childhood is filled with emotional ups and downs; it’s easy as an adult to equate this type of behavior with love. As a child you can’t leave your parent so you either try to “fix” them, or you make excuses for them and take the blame.
If you, like so many, had this type of childhood, here are the signs to watch for in your intimate relationships:
— Being extra attentive to another person’s needs vs. your own healthy boundaries. Over time, if you’re in an abusive relationship (or grew up in an abusive household), you learn to walk on egg shells so you don’t upset your partner. Chances are you did this with a parent and unconsciously do this with friends and co-workers. Keeping quiet, not speaking your mind, not wanting to rock the boat, justifying bad behaviors as “oh, i must be overreacting” are all signs that you’re not listening to your inner voice. Anytime you’re in indecision about whether or not you should be upset about something you’re ignoring your inner voice.
— Another sign is that you no longer get together with friends as often as you once did, since you are always trying to repair an argument or get over a recent dramatic event within your relationship. Missing social events or spending the weekend fighting instead of having fun together can be a sign that you’re in a bad relationship. You may start to feel isolated as your partner demands most of your time. You may even hear yourself justifying your partner’s behaviors and making excuses for them. As time passes, victims lose their self esteem and start to question and blame themselves for all of the problems within the relationship.
— Often domestic violence victims start to cower in other areas of their life, backing down from any sort of conflict. Rather than speaking your truth, you keep quiet to keep the peace. Perhaps it is a habit from your relationship, or maybe you’re just too tired to speak up after so much conflict at home. Asserting your needs and desires begins to feel like a battle zone and it becomes easier to just accommodate instead of worrying it will erupt into a tense situation.
— If you grew up in an emotionally disruptive household you may not be able to really identify what you’re feeling or what you need and want. Children that live with volatile parents learn to put the parent first and caretake. If children aren’t taught good boundaries, they are taught to think outside of their own needs and grow up ignoring these needs.
— Do you put yourself in dangerous situations such as aggressive driving by your partner yet stay quiet so you don’t set them off into a violent rage?
— Are you exhausted most of the time? Are you starting to have a hard time making decisions for yourself and find your thinking cloudy? Do you question yourself and your needs more than you trust your own knowledge?
— Do you find yourself having sex when you don’t want it on a regular basis to just keep the peace? Any time you find yourself doing what you really don’t want to do just to keep the peace is a sign that you are giving your power away.
— Do you find yourself breaking up and then getting back together, often forgiving bad behaviors, giving them another chance and believing empty promises that never come true?
Many domestic violence victims want to believe that their partners have changed, want to believe that there can be a fresh start and hope that their love can overcome all obstacles. When children from violent childhoods can’t escape the angry parent, they learn to justify bad behaviors, blame themselves and then hope unrealistically that the parent can and will change. This cycle becomes learned and unconscious. True love is a give and take scenario. Sure at times you may do things you don’t really want to do for your partner’s sake but you know in your heart when this is occurring on a regular basis.
Real love between two healthy people respects boundaries, shares the burden of blame when things go wrong, and works to find a way to work things out without verbal abuse or rage. The good news is that once you get it, really get it; you look backwards and forwards with such clarity that you never miss the signs again. You vibrate at a different frequency and clarity moves back through your past and into your future. You recognize the signs you ignored and see the patterns you participated in…. Ah-ha moments realizing what you’ve endured, where you came from, how these habits formed, and how you will be treated in the future come frequently and with crystal clarity. You are stronger and smarter and able to lend a hand to those around you that may be in this situation. One by one we wake up, say no, and walk away forever.
Photo from freedigitalphotos.net David Castillo Dominici