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How Does It Feel to Be in a Domestic Abusive Relationship?

how-does-it-feel-to-be-in-a-domestic-abusive-relationship

How It Feels To Be In An Abusive Relationship

'Why do you stay with an abusive partner?

'What does it feel like, being in an abusive relationship?'

Many years ago I was asked these questions and I could not give an answer. Now that I am not in an abusive relationship, I can answer the question, How does it feel to be in an abusive relationship?

To be in an abusive relationship I had to adapt my personality and true identity and act in ways that fitted the needs of my partner. I had to act and speak the way I was told to and hide the real me. I had to deny my needs and eventually forget that I had needs so that I could focus on my partners needs and keep him happy. Like others, I sacrificed a lot of who I really was and what I truly needed from life as a way of proving my love and in return I got abused.

I write from my own personal experience and learning in the hopes of reaching out to those in an abusive relationship, those who are unsure if their relationship is abusive or not, and those in new abusive relationships.

Some people don't understand that they are being abused because they're not in a violent relationship. You don't need to become a punch bag before you realise your relationship is abusive.

I will reveal how abusive partners use tactics of control, intimidation and isolation in order to gain control of your personal power before takng over every aspect of your life. I will show how to become aware of, and identify warning signs, or the 'red flags,' which are warnings, often in the form of a bad feeling, of bad times to come in the relationship. My hope is that whoever reads this becomes more aware and avoid becoming trapped in an abusive relationship.

What Is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser purposely designed to frighten, manipulate and control their partner. At first some of these behaviours exhibited by a new partner can leave us feeling unsettled or disturbed in some way but we convince ourselves that we are wrong in feeling the way we do. We don't want to admit or believe what we see, hear or feel in behaviours out of the norm.

Anyone forced to change their behaviour because they are afraid of their partner or ex-partner’s reaction is experiencing domestic abuse. Any fear felt at the thought of not pleasing our partner or adult child is a result of abuse or fear of abuse.

Domestic abuse by an abusive person is not always as obvious as some would think as there are many ways we can be abused by our abusive partner and they include emotional, physical, sexual, financial, stalking abuse and technology abuse.

Domestic abuse can occur at all levels of society and in all population groups around the world. Men, women, the elderly and children can be victims of domestic abuse but women form the largest group of victims. Women who experienced childhood abuse or more likely to find themselves in an abusive relationship and this is because they have very low self esteem.

Remember, no one deserves to be abused by anyone so if you suspect you are being abused and are afraid to think about it or speak up, please read on.

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Red Flags In A Relationship

Sometimes we can see that the red flags are there, frantically waving in front of our face's but we choose to ignore them because we don't want to belief what we are seeing and we are in denial. Now I can clearly see and feel those 'warning flags' that many survivors of domestic abuse see with hindsight. We see how clear the red flags were that led to the unhappy relationships and unhappy place in life we found ourselves in.

Red flags in a relationship means those gut instinctive feelings that tells us that something is not quite right about a situation. It could be that your new partner always wants to be with you and declaring their love for you early in the relationship and you feel suffocated. Maybe it's a feeling of being controlled in some way and you adapt your behaviour to fit what is expected of you. They do something that makes you feel disrespected, controlled or uncomfortable in any way. My ex used to call me 'Stupid' or some other derogatory names and if did react and ask him to stop calling me names he would say, "I was only joking around with you," or, "you are so sensitive and cannot have a laugh".

Using guilt trips like, threatening to hurt themselves if you leave them is a serious warning flag. Statements like, "you had better do what I say or else." is an abusive threat. Anything that feels bad about the relationship is a red flag and Ignoring red flags will result in an unhealthy relationships.

Using an addiction to drugs or alcohol as an excuse for any kind of abuse is not acceptable and neither is having a 'mental illness.' My ex had a mental illness and I felt that he could not help himself because he was ill. I had a mental illness but know I would not have wanted to abuse another so there is no excuse on this planet for anyone to abuse another.

Red flags in a relationship can include your partner;

  • At the start of the relationship they put you on a pedestal.
  • Being disrespectful of you in public.
  • They tell you that you are fat.
  • They tell you that you're ugly.
  • They tell you what you are really feeling and dismiss how you really feel.
  • They want to spend all spare time with you and are possessive.
  • They want to know where you are and who you are with to the point it's uncomfortable.
  • They insist you stop doing the things you once enjoyed like hobbies, classes, your job, and put your focus on them.
  • They insist you put them before your family and friends.
  • They act jealous or sulky if you look at, or speak to others.
  • Your thoughts and feelings are trivialised and when you try and discuss how you feel, you are told by your abuser that you are 'over reacting'.
  • An abuser might talk to you as if you are beneath them or like you are a child.
  • An abuser might make fun of you or insult you in front of family or friends and you feel hurt and humiliated.
  • They might threaten suicide if you leave them.
  • They project their negative self on to you and accuse you of being the problem.
  • The are not honest with others.
  • You catch them lying a lot.
  • You feel that you cannot trust them fully.
  • They project their fears and insecurities.
  • They threaten to leave if you do not comply with their expectations.
how-does-it-feel-to-be-in-a-domestic-abusive-relationship

My Abusive Relationship Experience

I find it hard to believe that I was in an abusive relationships for many years and although I was desperately unhappy, depressed, and anxious, I could not walk away. I just wanted to be loved but didn't understand that I was looking in the wrong direction for the love I felt I needed. I felt miserable and scared all the time and my nerves felt shattered to the point of having panic attacks in the streets. As a result of constant beatings and I was diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) and eventually I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (CPTSD)

Like many victims of domestic abuse, I lived a life of misery, pain and distrust because I did not know that I had a choice in life. I didn't know that I could choose differently and that I did not deserve to be abused. I used to think it was fairly normal to be beaten by your partner and I had experienced my mother being beaten by my dad.

I thought that giving your partner a beating when she misbehaved was a sign of love. My ex used to say to me, "If I didn't love you, I wouldn't have wasted my energy on you," I wanted to believe he loved me but now I know love and abuse cannot go together.

When I remember being in an abusive relationship today, I am shocked by how extremely trapped I felt in that relationship. I didn't know that I could have walked away from this relationship and saved myself years of abuse but I had such a low self esteem that I couldn't think for myself.

At the time I was in an abusive relationship I was in denial that I was being abused and in denial that the person I loved was really hurting me. I told lies to my family about my injuries and lied to everyone around me as I made up excuses for my partner's behaviour and for my injuries. Many years later as a counsellor, I have seen that same denial in the stories of many who are in abusive relationships.


Psychological and Emotional Abuse

A partner who is psychologically and emotionally abusive will use actions and speak words with the intent to hurt, belittle, weaken, manipulate, control and frighten you mentally and emotionally. It is the aim of the abuser to confuse and distort our way of thinking and in doing so destroys our feelings of self-esteem or self worth. One example of Non-physical abuse is when the abuser pretends to punch you and make you flinch but they do not actually punch you. This pretend behaviour is not funny and it is done with the intention to frighten you which it does. Any action or behaviour that causes you fear and distress but you are not physically harmed is psychological abuse.

Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse with name-calling, threats to hurt you or someone or something you love, manipulation, blaming you for the abuse you are receiving.

A psychological and physical abuser, after beating you might say things like, 'See what you have made me do!' which is putting the blame on you for their abusive actions and behaviours. This is a tactic that can affect your mental capacity to think clearly and can have a serious impact on your mental health and can result in depression and anxiety disorders.

Damage from psychological abuse feels traumatic to experience and can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD}

how-does-it-feel-to-be-in-a-domestic-abusive-relationship

Physical Abuse

The very first time my partner hit me I forgave him. I was shocked and scared but I forgave him. The next time he hit me, I was very shocked but he was crying and begging for forgiveness so I forgave him because I thought that in time he would learn to understand that I loved him. The third time I got a hit it came in the form of a severe beating. I felt his rage in his punches and I felt terrified because I believed he was going to kill me. Afterwards, he cried and begged me to forgive him and I gave him another chance and then came the fourth attack and to cut a long story short, I forgave and hoped that it was the last time I would be beaten. It was not the last time and for the next many years, I was punched, kicked, spat on, knocked unconscious too many times to count. I sustained serious head injuries a broken jaw, broken nose, broken ribs, fingers and other serious injuries.

Many women have given a very similar description of how they ended up in a physically abusive relationship. The story of the domestic abuse victim is the same as mine, we forgive time and time again and then we find we are trapped. This is because we have been manipulated to such a point that we become, or believe we are, dependent on our abuser. I know now that I was lucky to survive domestic abuse because too many domestic abuse situations end in death.

I encourage others to seek help if they are a victim of domestic abuse. If you are a victim, don't take the risk of staying in an abusive situation because you could be one of the situations that end in death. Remember, it only takes one punch to kill another.

Financial Abuse

My partner controlled all the money and I was not allowed to have money of my own. My partner would make me ask for money for grocery shopping and personal items I might have needed and it was embarrassing. If I earnt any money I had to hand over my wages to him or there would be an argument or a fight. I never had enough money of my own to have a haircut, buy clothing or even a coffee. I went along with all this controlling of my money to keep the peace and I regret doing it. This controlling of our money by another is financial abuse.

An abuser can make you feel like you cannot leave or escape because they control all of your money. They might control all your access to money or helpful resources. They might take money from your account without your permission or take out credit in your name and put you into debt.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a crime even if you were abused by your partner. If someone is manipulated or coerced into doing sexual acts that you are not comfortable about doing you are being abused. If you are coerced to do intimate things you don't want to do and that you only do out of fear, you are a victim of abuse. Anyone who tries to coerce or force you to do something you don't want to do is committing a criminal act.

Stalking Abuse

Stalking someone means following around when they have asked you not to. Stalking is also when they send repeated and unwanted messages through phone calls, text messages, emails, social media.

My partner followed me everywhere and constantly verbally abused me loud enough for people to hear. I was called slut, whore, ugly bitch and other names all the time and I constantly felt humiliated and ashamed. I eventually got to the point that I was too afraid to leave the house for fear of him screaming at me in the street.

At first, I was not allowed to work because my partner believed that I would be chatting men up and having sex with them. Eventually he allowed me to have a job but he followed me to work every day and watched to see if I smiled at male customers and then I would get punched and slapped and abused in other ways. He took a job with the same company so that he could watch me and controlled who I could speak to.

The law has been changed since then and stalking is now a criminal offence. If you feel like you are being stalked by an abusive partner or an ex and you feel frightened, contact the police immediately for your own safety. You have a rights to live without feelings of fear and stress.

Technology Abuse

Technology abuse is a type of controlling behaviour that uses technology to stalk, harass, coerce or intimidate another person.

An abusive person might send excessive or abusive texts, demand access to your devices, track you with spyware, or share images of you that he once lovingly promised were for his eyes only on social media. With technology getting smaller and being more accessible they could hide hidden camera's in your home to spy on you.

Controlling Behaviour Of Abusers

An abusers controlling behaviour can be subtle or extreme. Sometimes we end up being controlled and feel trapped in our relationship and we cannot explain why.

My ex partner controlled me with jealousy. He was extremely jealous and constantly accused me of being unfaithful even accusing me of having relationships with my own family members. I often got beaten or abused because he believed that I was unfaithful to him even though I was not unfaithful. He was jealous of all my relationships and I was not allowed to see my family or have friends. Like many victims of abuse I felt very isolated, cut off from loved ones who might have been able to reason with me to help me see that I was being abused.

On one occasion I asked if I could visit my father who lived 200 miles away and was told no. I begged my partner to let me go visit my dad because my instincts were screaming for me to go and see him. I was refused permission and refused money for the journey. My ex punched, slapped, spat on me all day and kept me trapped in a room, refusing to let me leave the house because he was jealous of my dad and didn't want me to go visit him. That ordeal ended when he left me on the bedroom floor, gasping for breathe with broken ribs. We did not have house or mobile phones back then which meant that my abuser had to leave the house to find a phone. I made a run to safety whilst he was looking for someone with a phone to ring emergency services. I ran into my sister who was just coming to my home to tell me that my father had died earlier that day and that I was too late to visit him now. My dad was aged 49 when he died suddenly of a massive heart attack.

My need for self development was a trouble causing situation in my relationship as my ex needed to control me and was disturbed by my wanting to better myself. I had no self esteem and he was very controlling. I was not allowed to read, write, keep a diary or go to college in case I started thinking for myself. He believed that women who sit and think are dangerous women.

I was not allowed to go out of the house without him and I was not allowed to wear makeup or clothes that were in anyway revealing, like a bikini or a tee shirt that showed too much of my chest area. I had to wear clothes that revealed nothing of my body or be punished. If someone is telling you what you can or cannot wear they are trying to control you.

I was not allowed to watch romantic films or he would get jealous and violent. I have been beaten senseless for watching movies with actors like Clint Eastwood and Richard Gere because my ex thought that I fantasised about these actors. I remember I was too afraid to fantasise much back then.

How It Feels To Live With An Abuser

Living life with an abuser is difficult because you have to walk on eggshells out of fear of upsetting your abusive partner. You adapt who you truly are and you modify your behaviour in an attempt to please and keep things nice but it never works. There is no pleasing an abuser who just seems to get more abusive the more you try to please them. For years I walked on eggshells for fear of triggering a violent response from him. All my ways of thinking and my behaviour had to be adapted to keep him happy.

I went through my life in a daze and even though society defined me as a 'battered wife,' the knowing of how I was viewed did not wake me up from my dazed fog and make me run for the hills. Why? Because like other domestic abuse victims, I felt isolated, trapped, traumatised and I couldn't find my way out. Almost daily I would be belittled, humiliated, called bitch, whore and other horrible names that hurt me and I did not know how to defend myself.

During my relationship I felt totally disrespected and unloved but I didn't know how to make the abuse stop. I didn't have enough self love to stop allowing myself to be constantly and repeatedly abused. I thought that what I felt for him was love and I was wrong. In reality and with hindsight, I know that all I ever felt in that relationship was fear and everything I did in life was a reaction to my abusers behaviour. For years I neglected my own needs for the sake of my partners needs and I always put my partners needs first.

I suppressed my true feelings in order to keep the peace and prevent my partner from any thing that might upset him. I could not trust my own feelings and felt in a state of emotional chaos.

I put up with being lectured, belittled, insulted and traumatised because the abuse affected my mental health and I couldn't think clearly to put an end to the abuse and the suffering. At one point, and after years of abuse, I finally reported him to the police. It was another serious assault and he was arrested and charged with domestic violence and remanded until he appeared at the court. As soon as my partner was released from the police cells he came straight home and beat me again for having the nerve to report him to the police. I did not report him again but did take steps to get out of the relationship.

Like many abusive partners my abuser would use the threat of suicide to force me to stay with him. One time when I was determined to end the relationship and I was staying strong and trying to cut contact, he broke into my home and I came home to find him hanging from my balcony. I could see the rope around his neck and his feet swinging and was just about to scream when he opened his eyes and laughed at me. He had wrapped ropes around doors and under his arms to make it look like he was hanging to frighten me and I was traumatised again.

Love does not hurt, love does not create pain and if you are feeling hurt and not feeling loved then you are not in the right loving relationship you deserve to be in.

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

Ask yourself for the following questions and be honest with yourself.

Do you walk on eggshells around your loved one in the hopes that you do not trigger them off and make them angry?

Do you feel controlled and isolated by a jealous possessive partner who accuses you of sleeping with every one you have to come in contact with?

Do you adapt your behaviours because you are frightened of your partners response?

Do I feel loved?

Do I feel respected?

Do I feel safe with my partner?

Does my partner encourage me to reach out for my dreams?

Do I feel appreciated?

Do I feel afraid of my partner?

Seek refuge if you are in a domestically abusive environment.

Can I Change My Abusers Behaviour With Love?

It is natural to hope that your partner will change, or that the abuse will stop. Often, an abusive partner will be very sorry after an incident of abuse. He may beg for forgiveness. If you have left him, he may become very charming and convince you to return. He may be on his best behaviour for weeks, or even months, before he becomes abusive again.

The truth is that domestic abuse usually gets worse over time. There are perpetrator programmes for men who want to take responsibility for their abuse and change their behaviour for good. However, it is important that you prioritise your safety and wellbeing, and that of your children. Often an abuser will use a child in order to control you and the child will witness it and be traumatised. The cycle will continue on until you make a choice not to accept abuse in your life.


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What Can I Do If I Am Being Abused?

The first thing you can do is, trust your instincts and know that any kind of abuse is wrong. Know that you deserve to feel good about life and you don't have to live with abuse. You can say no to abuse and disrespect.

Accept that you are not the cause of abuse and you are not to blame. You cannot explain this to your abuser and you cannot reason with your abuser to get them to understand that it's not your role in life or your responsibility to accept abuse.

Set clear boundaries about behaviour's you will not accept and make sure you make a clear decision that you are not going to get sucked into guilt trips which your abuser will use when they feel that they are losing control of you.

If possible, leave the abusive relationship and cut all ties. At first you might feel that you cannot live without your ex and want to return to the relationship. Almost every abused person I ever met have said that they went back to their abuser because living without them was difficult. I am not going to lie, even when you are fully aware that you are being abused, it's not always so easy to walk away.

Reach out to friends and family for support and admit what has happened to you. If you have no friends and family you can reach out to, consider finding a therapist who can help you in your recovery.

Never blame yourself for the abuse you have experienced and give yourself time to heal.

Learn To Love Yourself

With the benefit of hindsight it's easy to see that my partner was abusive and abusing me. My lack of self-love and self-respect is evident as I look back to my past. I had to learn to love myself enough not to allow abuse from anyone. Learning to love myself was not easy and I will admit that for a long time I felt learning to love myself was too difficult because I had many negative beliefs about myself. I know that I needed to get seriously honest with myself and find the courage, of which I was lacking, to make changes in my life. Learning to love myself by not allowing disrespect or any kind of abuse from anyone, not even myself.

Now I have self-love and I love myself enough to care how I feel and I love and respect myself enough not to allow others to abuse, hurt or disrespect me and I love myself enough to know I am worthy of love and respect. I am true to myself and I trust myself to be more aware of my needs and only be in the presence of those I feel love me.

Remember, being in an abusive relationship is soul destroying place to be but you don't have to stay there. You can make a decision to make better choices and your own decisions in life. You can decide whether you want a life of abuse or one of self love and respect and everything, every experience in life that comes from loving ourselves and giving ourselves the love we need.

When you learn to love yourself there is no abuse so learn to love and respect yourself and say no to abuse.

Finally

If you are experiencing domestic abuse reach out to your local 'Domestic Abuse' or 'Refuge Centre' and their will be someone to help you. Reach out to someone because you don't need to suffer in silence. No form of abuse is acceptable.

Remember, you are worthy of better, whoever you are.


Comments

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 25, 2021:

Thank you Devika Primic. I hope my experience will help others be more aware of what is abusive behaviour and how to identify those 'red flags' and save themselves years of suffering. Thanks for reading.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 25, 2021:

Domestic violence is sad and has to be stopped. You have written an important hub for all involved in such situations. Many genders are affected and you state valuable points here.

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 24, 2021:

dashingscorpio I agree that low self-esteem is definitely a big but necessary obstacle to overcome. When I was in an abusive relationship I thought thinking about my needs or self love was wrong. I was abused as a child and was desperate to be loved and did not understand 'red flags'. I believed I was worthless and unlovable and walked on eggshells around everyone and every relationship because I felt unworthy of love and acceptance. Now I understand we are all worthy of love and I have learnt to love myself. I agree with "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary." Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on July 23, 2021:

"Domestic abuse can occur at all levels of society and in all population groups around the world. Men, women, the elderly and children can be victims of domestic abuse but women form the largest group of victims." - Very true!

I believe in many instances what we call "domestic abuse" actually began for a lot of young women back in Jr. high and high school with their "boyfriends" and other guys sexually harassing them or yelling/threatening them, and coercing them into having sex.

Our society doesn't call it that. Most teenagers along with their parents tend to live in a "parallel universe" which only intersects when a problem becomes too big for the teen to hide.

There are always going to be abusers, liars, cheaters, manipulators, users, and those seeking to control others. Looking out for ourselves is our responsibility. Each of us gets to (choose) who we spend our time with.

"Don't blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why do you keep going to the circus." - Unknown

When (we) change our circumstances change. You can only control yourself.

From what I have observed some of the biggest obstacles that keep people from avoiding or leaving abusive relationships are: (having low self-esteem), (empathizing with their abuser), (a belief that things can go back to how they were when they first started dating) and (feeling like they have no other options).

Learning to identify "red flags" in (your relationship) is the key. People have a knack for recognizing abuse when it comes to their friends, sisters, and others but they wear blinders when it is happening to them.

Generally speaking verbal abuse is 'the foreplay" before physical abuse. Oftentimes the earliest "red flag" is observing your partner yell/curse, throw things, threaten, or hit (someone else) they are mad at!

One should know {it's only a matter of time} before they are (the one) who is on {the receiving end} of his/her rage. A partner who mistreats other people will likely mistreat you as well. It's only a matter of time.

Forgiving the first offense is a major mistake many abused victims make. I've seen some people willing to accept verbal/physical abuse and the only reason they finally left is they found out their partner/spouse was cheating on them!

Each of us has our own boundaries and "deal breakers". However you'd think abuse and cheating should (both qualify) as "deal breakers".

The best weapon you can use in abusive relationships is to get out early on.

If you can't relax and be yourself or find yourself jumping through hoops and walking on eggshells to avoid major fights that's a major "red flag".

"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

- Oscar Wilde

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 19, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. I wanted to raise awareness of domestic violence as it appears that domestic abuse cases are rising, and that is sad. No one deserves to feel hurt or unsafe in a relationship and if anyone is feeling abused, I hope they reach out for help.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 17, 2021:

This is a very good article that will should help people who are in an abusive relationship. I am sorry to hear you went through such an awful time, Louise. You explain all types of abuse very well. Thank you for sharing your difficult time.

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