When we consider Domestic Violence, what do you think of? It is automatic to come up with physical violence first. That is why I prefer to call it Domestic Abuse. Within that whole picture emotional and psychological abuse is far more prevalent than you think. There are many aspects as to what is considered an Emotional Abusive Relationship. However, no one should or would belittle the effect this has on your inner self.
The different types of abuse
Take a look at the Duluth Power and Control Wheel. It shows what is considered as domestic violence. Not every element may factor into your relationship. All counsellors, psychologists, doctors, crisis centres, refuges, women’s centres centres etc will produce this in some form or another to you. However to consider the emotional abusive relationship, the 16 sectioned Power and Control Wheel by Dr Clare Murphy PhD can really help you decide if your relationship falls more under the emotional side of abuse, rather than the physical. This is not to minimise physical violence. Having suffered both emotional and physical abuse, I can honestly say that the Emotional Abusive Relationship is a very powerful form.
So I fell in love with a man. Again. By again I mean I loved him once before. 26 years ago. We were teenagers and we were inseparable. He was fun and exciting and we were each others’ first lovers, first in love, first everything. He was a bit of a naughty boy though, influenced by the wrong crowd. But my mother took a shine to him. Despite a rough upbringing, he was really a well-mannered young teen. I didn’t cope well when he was sent to a youth correctional centre, and when he did something stupid one night (escaping to see me), visting him was forbidden, so we grew apart, and I decided to break it off. I was young and didn’t understand love of course.
But move forward 26 years. I was in a marriage that felt loveless. I had four beautiful children, a stable life, but alcohol was more of a focus for my husband than I was. I was depressed and felt pretty low. But by chance I reconnected with the boy from my youth. We fell in love again. It was easy. He was charming, good-looking, perfect in every way. I didn’t judge him for his problematic past and I felt good.
However, it didn’t last. I do not want to go into what happened at this point, however the following topics I can truthfully say was part of this relationship.
Controlling, Coercive and Convincing
Do you find that you don’t want to receive a text message, even bill reminders, because every ding of your phone is queried? How does that make you feel when it happens day in day out? There are many relationships out there that have no problem checking each other’s phones or even sharing a phone and or email. That’s really great. They are able to feel OK about that, it is something they have accepted with each other – a form of trust in some way. But to have someone look over your shoulder, or watch you while you reply is a really anxious feeling. At first, it is just a ‘curiosity to see what is going on in your life, to know all about you’ – but after time do you really think they need to know that your sister told you that she bought an awesome outfit that day? You know, trivial stuff that goes beyond what is ‘going on in your life’. Or even if you talk to a sales person at a clothing store. They immediately think you must be talking about them because you are looking their way while talking to the store person. You begin to conduct yourself so that these questions/moments of insecurity are avoided. That person has just altered your behaviour. They have controlled the situation they don’t like by coercing you into behaving the way THEY feel comfortable with. In time, they convince you they are still the loving person they are, they just like things a certain way. You are convinced that what you said or did was what may have caused the problem at the time.
Walking on Eggshells?
This is an old phrase meaning to adapt one’s behaviour in order to deal with someone else’s. Pretty much to behave in a pleasing way (in their eyes), so any possible angry, elevated situation is averted or minimised. Do you find yourself walking with your eyes down so that you cannot be accused of looking at another person of the opposite sex? Are you able to continue to wear the clothing you use to because they think it is too revealing, even though they tell you that you are a very dignified modest individual and very classy? You rifle through your wardrobe and automatically bypass the clothing you now subconciously know will cause a problem.
Do you abide by a request, because it is easier than arguing? Do you really want to continue waking up each morning wondering what will happen that day, or planning ahead certain responses that will abate a situation? That’s almost like having a script to a story that you’ve read ahead. Not the best way to live a life.
But how do you feel?
Do you have silent tears? Do you cry yourself to sleep, tears that can’t be heard (for fear of them hearing it)? If you have suffered through name calling, belittling, demeaning, inconsideration, shouting, and even being talked over the top of, you are in an Emotional Abusive Relationship. Your feelings are important, and you should no longer suffer through such an emotionally draining experience. You may find that you still love this person (as I do), and have hope, but you need to look after yourself. Do not become a stroke on a chalkboard, a person that is just dealt there. Remember who you are. What are your hopes and dreams? I know from experience the only way to move out of this feeling is to acknowledge what has happened, recognise the forms of it and deal with it. Understand it. Take control of yourself, seek help. Believe you are better than how you have been treated. I woke up one day and said “I need to Empower Myself”. So I did. And I am.