When you meet someone to whom you are romantically attracted, most people don’t ever think for a minute that the relationship will turn abusive. Most of us hope to live a fairy tale love story and ride off into the sunset deeply in love.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Many find themselves in an abusive relationship.
If you’ve never been in one, you might wonder why someone would ever tolerate that negative behavior toward themselves. Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to say, “why don’t they get out?” But from the inside, it’s a much different experience for most people who are abused.
How Does it Start?
Believe it or not, most abusive relationships start out just like any other. The abuser is typically very charming and charismatic. The abusee falls for the “act” they are putting on and, as a result, probably falls in love with them.
But that’s not the REAL person. The real person, deep down, is abusive.
It happens slowly. To explain better let me use a metaphor.
Let’s say you like to eat frog legs (I know most people don’t, but remember, this is just an analogy). So, one day you catch a frog yourself and intend to cook it by boiling it in hot water.
If you drop the frog into boiling water, it will be shocked and try to get out. Because of the suddenness of the change, they notice it immediately.
But, if you put the frog in room temperature water first, and then slowly, very slowly, turn up the heat toward boiling, then the frog won’t really notice until it is too late. It happens almost without the frog knowing it.
You see, that’s what happens in abusive relationships most of the time. The abuse starts slowly, and then apologies come. And then forgiveness. Then more abuse, and more, and more, until it finally escalates into full-blown abuse.
That’s why it’s sometimes difficult for someone to recognize when they are in an abusive relationship.
What Are the Signs of Abuse?
In order to get out of an abusive relationship, you first have to admit to yourself that you are in one. You can’t change what you don’t recognize. Again, that might sound like an easy thing to do, but it’s not for many people. So, here are just a few signs that you are in an abusive relationship.
“B*tch,” “Wh*re” and many other horrible names can be used when the abuser is angry. They use these words to degrade you and ruin your self-esteem.
See, an abuser can’t really abuse you if you love yourself – because you won’t stand for it. That’s why they have to call you names.
In addition to name-calling, any other kind of insult will be flying your way, too. They could call you fat, dumb, a slob, idiot, “no one likes you,” or anything else. Again, this is the abuser’s attempt to continually destroy your sense of self and self-esteem.
Gaslighting is a psychological technique of manipulation that makes someone question their own sanity. You are constantly second-guessing yourself. You frequently ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” and feel confused or even crazy.
You might even find yourself apologizing all the time even if you think you’re not really wrong. But the abuser makes you THINK you are wrong.
4. Jealous and Controlling Behavior
Unfortunately, most people think jealousy is a sign of love. But really, it is not. It is a sign of insecurity and anxiety.
If someone is jealous, they will naturally try to control your actions, such as, “You can’t talk to that guy at work.” They will eventually try to control your whole life if you let them.
In more extreme abusive relationships, the jealous and controlling behavior can lead to social isolation. In other words, the abuser won’t let you see your family or friends anymore. Because if they do let you, they might try to talk some sense into you and convince you to leave your abuser.
6. Blaming You for Everything
They never take personal responsibility for anything – because everything is “your fault.” This could also be a part of the gaslighting strategy as well. They think they can “do no wrong,” and therefore, YOU are the person who needs to change – not THEM.
7. Physical Violence – Even If Just Threats
Most people know that physical violence is a sign of an abusive relationship. However, perhaps you grew up in a family where you or someone else was physically abused, so you might think it’s a “normal” part of a relationship.
Let me assure you – it is NOT. Even mere threats of physical abuse is abusive behavior.
How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship
Now that you know some of the signs of an abusive relationship (although there are many more), let’s talk about how you can get out.
1. Document Everything
Write everything that happens to you down in a journal or diary. The reason for that is two-fold:
First, it will help you to NOT question your sanity. Documenting what you said and what they said (and did) really helps put things into perspective.
Second, it can serve as documentation if you need to file a restraining order or have to prosecute them in some way. There are apps out there that can help you. For example, if your abuser is degrading and threatening you, then you can hit a secret button on your phone and it will start recording them.
2. Pack an Emergency Bag
You never know when you are going to have a chance to leave. Kind of like when you have a baby, you just don’t know when the moment is going to strike.
So, pack a bag and have it ready to run out the door when the time is right. And if you have children, have theirs packed too. If your abuser has kept you isolated, this is especially important because maybe they don’t even let you leave the house – and as a result, they keep a close eye on you.
3. Have a Plan
It’s one thing to leave, but it’s another thing to know where you are going. If you have supportive family and friends, then the most obvious choice would be to live with one of them.
However, if your abuser is really crazy and violent, that could also potentially put them in harm’s way. You could also go to a women’s shelter or any other place that helps abused women.
Wherever you go, you have to have a plan set in stone before you leave.
4. Save Money in a Secret and Accessible Place
This will be a lot easier if you have your own job. However, even if you don’t, you can try to find money around the house and slowly save enough until you have some to leave.
Perhaps get a secret job where your abuser won’t find out if possible. But obviously, you don’t want to have your abuser know. It’s best to keep it out of the house with a trusted family member or friend if possible. Or even open your own secret bank account at a different bank.
5. Alert Your Family and Friends
If you have supportive family and friends, you will need to alert them of your plan. Tell them exactly what is going on in the relationship so they know that you could be leaving at moment’s notice.
If you’ve been in an abusive relationship for a long time, they might not actually believe you are leaving “this time” (think “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”) But assure them that you are serious this time and have them help you follow through with your plan.
6. Block and Disengage with your Abuser
Unfortunately, many people who are successful at leaving abusive relationships just sabotage themselves by going back. You can’t do that! I mean, what’s the point? In fact, your abuser will probably get worse because you had the courage to leave them, and that will make them angry!
So, STAY AWAY. Block their phone number. Block them on social media. Don’t post on social media so they can’t find you.
Completely disengage with them so you can move on with your life. That is the ONLY WAY. Because if you don’t, then they will make you think that they “changed” with their apologies and empty promise. I guarantee you that they won’t change – so don’t believe them!
While most people think of men as being the abusers in a relationship, it can also be the other way around. There are plenty of men in the world who are being abused by women, but they are probably too afraid/proud to admit it. It doesn’t matter your gender – abuse is abuse. And it needs to stop.
Remember this: You need to get some counseling or therapy before you enter into another relationship. You need to figure out what it is about you that allowed the other person to abuse you in the first place. There are many reasons, and many are unique to each individual. But you need to sort that out within yourself so you don’t attract another abuser the next time.
It might sound near impossible to leave an abusive relationship, but it’s not. Many people have done it before, and you can too.
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Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com