There are consistent patterns in every abusive relationship, without fail. The patterns are the same and never vary. The fulfillment, or manifestation, of the pattern can be very different, however. Those differences can make the abuse very hard to recognize. So, I'd like to identify some of these patterns for you so that you might be able to recognize whether or not you, or someone you love, is in an abusive relationship. The thrust of this particular blog post will center on spousal abuse, but the patterns are universal.
You might be in an abusive relationship if.....
....your spouse makes threats disguised as jokes. Example: Someone might say, "Oh, I'll never take you all the way to (_______) to visit your family! We can't afford that!" This is a very subtle way to tell your spouse that he or she will not be visiting her family in the near future, or ever. The abuser will actively make it impossible, and over time unreasonable, to expect to travel for family visits.
....your spouse assumes negative emotions from your loved ones. They never find out how your family really feels about them - or you and your choices - they assume disapproval and feed that to you and nothing else. This also creates a difficult climate in which to communicate with those loved ones. Since the victim has heard only negative things for so long, they start to believe those negative things, which makes it difficult for them to communicate.
....your spouse creates a false set of expectations that can't possibly be fulfilled. Example: Abusers build up certain expectations of your loved ones in your mind. When they don't respond the way your expectations have been fueled, you're told it means that they really don't love you or care about your life. Then the language used is generally: "If your family loved you, they would .........(do this or that).
....someone in your life builds themselves up while putting others down. If someone in your life puts your friends and loved ones down while building themselves up, take note and beware. The abusers who use this technique are extremely insecure and this builds up their egos. The "put-downs" are usually very subtle, wrapped in false compassion and grief. ("Oh, I'm so sorry your Mom doesn't care.....what a terrible thing...")
....someone claims that only they, and people they love, really love you. I've seen young women who've grown up in loving homes fall for this one when they get married. They might be far from home or otherwise removed from their family for a time and the abuser in their lives paints a picture of him or herself as the "hero" who dispels all she's ever feared. Suddenly, she "clearly sees" how he and his family are the only ones who "really" love her. When her family does attempt to come close, he throws fiery darts to keep them at bay, and even convinces her that they are in the wrong, they are the ones creating the problem and he's trying to "fix" things. Many times, ultimatums are given at this time which are very hard to overcome. This is part of the abuser's plan, however. Don't think for a minute that any of these happenings are coincidence. This is part of the abuser's overall plan to keep their victim away from those who can see what he's doing. Nope, none of it is coincidence.
Overcoming abuse is not impossible. YOU can control your level of involvement in the situations an abuser creates in your life. YOU have the ultimate choice, but it can take time, so patience is also required. Developing a set of personal policies that control your level of participation is step one in your process of overcoming abuse.
My #1 policy for dealing with abuse in my life is simple: I will not ever keep an abuser's behavior quiet. Telling someone I trust is my #1 strategy. Abusers depend on the silence of their victims. I don't cooperate with their desire to keep me quiet. I will tell; I always tell. I get other loved ones involved. As a child, when experiencing my dad's constant abuse, I felt so incredibly ashamed and thought that no one knew what he was doing to us. Imagine my shock to recently hear a cousin say that his abuse was common knowledge in the family! I had no idea anyone knew! Chances are, any abuse you or a loved one is experiencing is already known, or at least suspected, by someone.
My theology plays a huge role in this in my life. I look first to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, and His Word. And I act.
More to come on abuse recovery.....