Abuse In Your Relationship
When it comes to physical abuse, we have a clear idea of what that can look like and how to recognize it. What happens when there’s abuse in your relationship that you cant see? When there are obvious physical signs, we can see those. Others can see those. Even then, though, we do not really talk openly about it, admit it, or take action. We rationalize, normalize, and minimize in an effort to ease the discomfort and anxiety, and to hide the fear and shame.
Physical abuse is not the only kind of abuse experienced in our relationships and this has been a hot topic lately in my coaching practice. I recently was speaking to a client about this as he began to mention some things that were going on regularly in his marriage. I saw how there were many behaviors that he had just kind of gotten used to and how he did not really think of them as abuse. Now, I think this a common pattern because as we allow certain things in our life and in our relationship we begin to normalize it, and no longer see it as a problem. We get used to it and then we overlook it more and more. As we do that, more and more of it creeps its way into the relationship and we get better and better at adapting.
This is exactly what was going on with my client “Joe”. He had felt a little uncomfortable with some things from the beginning but just chalked it up to his wife being different than he was. I want to shine a light on some of the other ways we can experience emotional abuse within our relationships so if they are happening to you, you can identify them.
One way abuse in your relationship shows up is Gaslighting. Let’s say that you speak up about something that is upsetting to you or not okay for you and your spouse denies what you are claiming, says they don’t know what you are talking about, or claims they did not do or say that. When one person is manipulating the other to question their own reality, it IS a form of emotional abuse.
While this one is fairly well-known, there are other ways abuse shows up in relationships and many relate to control. Here are some more examples of control and what that may look like.
Maybe your spouse monitors who you spend time with, checks your phone, looks at your email, monitors your social media. This can often times be expressed as concern, but there is a difference between concern and control. It is one thing to question who you are spending time with out of concern and another to be watching it closely and being questioned constantly, having your privacy invaded, and used against you.
Another example would be leaving you out of any decision making. This is another way to control you and the relationship. Maybe your spouse does not ask you when they decide to make big decisions or even small ones and you find out after the fact. It could be anything from moving to vacation plans, to who is taking the kids to the birthday party. When you are constantly not asked or consulted and given the outcome and directions, you are not being given the opportunity to have a voice. This is a form of control.
Financial control can be another example. Maybe your spouse limits your access to funds or demands that all of the income be placed in one account that you do not control. Maybe you are only “allowed” a certain amount each month, or maybe you are questioned for each expenditure you make even when it is for daily needs like gas, food, or a gym membership. Financial control is one area that many feel is experienced predominantly by women only, but I see this happening more and more with men.
Making threats is another form of abuse and control that many clients have reported. Typically this happens when you express something you are not okay with, or stand up for yourself. Maybe you do one of the things mentioned above like spending some money without “permission”, or going and seeing a friend your spouse does not like and when they find out about it they threaten to leave you or divorce you. Maybe they even leave but come back and blame you.
Consistent blame is another way we can experience emotional abuse in your relationship, within your marriages. You are always the cause of any problem and your spouse never accepts responsibility for their actions, No matter how hard you try to do it right and point out that it was not your fault, the blame keeps coming.
These are not all the ways we can experience abuse within our marriage or relationships.
Maybe some of these sound familiar and maybe you are experiencing them right now within your relationship. I want to make sure that you know some of the other ways emotional abuse shows up, even when we don’t see it, or don’t want to see it.
All my best