After getting out of an extremely abusive relationship, I was dumbfounded by how I even got mixed up with the guy. Mind you, it wasn’t physically abusive. Which, makes it so much harder for anyone to recognize. That’s the abuse I am talking about in this post… the silent kind.. that often goes unidentified, until it’s too late.
Though I can now look back and see red flags, I didn’t then. The man wasn’t consistent with his medication for multiple diagnosed mental illnesses and he also had a very serious undiagnosed mental disorder. So keep in mind there were a lot of calculated tactics and numerous lies strategically placed to keep me from the truth. Regardless, things stand out now that didn’t then.
Had I been given a checklist of what qualifies as abuse – beyond physical violence – what I was enduring would’ve checked all of those boxes. That checklist would’ve looked something like this.
If you are in a relationship and find yourself up against these issues, please take it seriously and meet with a counselor or trusted friend who can help support you.
For onlookers who haven’t been in this situation, it might be easy to see some of these things and think “Duh! How naive are you?” But my list was written with hindsight. Abusers don’t walk up and punch you on the first date. It’s an extremely slow, manipulative process where the wolf is wearing the sheeps skin, almost seamlessly. I encourage you to put any judgment aside and take what you can from the post. Who knows, it might save someone’s life.
1.) You’re always making excuses for his behavior
He was rude to a family member so you’re on damage control, trying to smooth things over in his favor. He doesn’t show up to something he previously committed to, so you have to make an excuse as to why he isn’t there. He kicked you and the kids out, so you go groveling to your parents and ask to stay for the night. You cover with “we just got in a fight and I chose to leave with the kids in order to clear my head.” Your subconscious usually knows what he is doing is wrong, but your conscious mind isn’t always ready to accept it. You’re still holding out hope that he will change and the relationship will work. So you don’t want your friends and family to hate him. To prevent that, you’re always covering for him.
2.) You no longer see friends and family members
Maybe because he has outright forbade it. Maybe it’s because you’re so depressed and emotionally drained from constantly dealing with his never-ending mood swings, that you don’t have the energy. Maybe it’s because he keeps emotional distance from everyone, so that nobody figures out who he really is. Regardless of the reason, you often feel isolated.
3.) You fear for your life
The last night before leaving him, he didn’t come to bed. Earlier in the day, our counselor told me in private that my (then) fiancé, was as close to physical violence as it gets. He urgently charged me to take my kids and get out while I “still could.” Then he called my fiancé back into the room and gently told us both it sounded like things were pretty bad and encouraged us to separate. We went home that night and I was so shaken up over what I was told privately. When my fiancé knew I was actually considering separating, he was outraged and slept on the couch. I remember not being able to sleep that night — looking at the doorway every few minutes anticipating him… wondering if this was the night he was going to snap… if this night would be my last. You might know that feeling too. The feeling of watching over your shoulder, eerily trying to gauge how angry he is and if these could be your last breaths.
4.) You find yourself paranoid
As you’re washing dishes, you start questioning if he has cameras in the house watching you. Driving the kids to soccer, you wonder if he has some sort of tracking device on your vehicle to monitor you. “He wouldn’t do that…would he? No… I am just being ridiculous. I can’t believe I even thought that” you say. If you’re even thinking it could possibly happen, there is a problem. And it’s with him. If his behavior is so erratic, that you even have to question something like that, something is wrong.
5.) You worry you or the kids will stumble upon his dead body
He regularly has massive meltdowns where he is crying and vehemently expressing self-hate and saying his life isn’t worth it. You start making sure the kids wait in the garage when you get home so you can go in first… in case you walk in to find his dead body. It’s sick to even have these concerns. But it’s so real in your world.
6.) You aren’t able to voice your needs
If you do, no matter how nicely and respectfully you go about it, he gets upset… like, unreasonably upset. Then he flips everything on you – telling you how you are such an awful, ungrateful person who must hate him and how you don’t think he is good enough because you dared express he wasn’t meeting a need of yours. Eventually, you stop expressing needs and start suppressing them.
7.) He does wrong; you apologize
Wait…what? Yeah, you read that right. He screws up and does something erratic again, like smashing your custom frame from your first Mother’s Day. Then he comes back bawling – telling you again how he hates himself and how he knows he’s so broken. He presents this awful sob-story about how growing up his mom beat him or how he watched his best friend die and that’s why he now has so many emotional issues. He did wrong to you then all the sudden you find yourself apologizing and trying to comfort HIM. How does it even make sense? It doesn’t.
8) Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde Personality
You never know what side of him you’ll get. One day he’s in a great mood and wants to treat the family to dinner. The next, he is cussing you out in front of the kids and you can’t calm him down to even determined what suddenly triggered him. PTSD? Depression? Anxiety? Borderline? DID? Schizophrenia? You know something is off, but you just don’t know what.
9.) It’s almost impossible to plan
You want to try to keep “normalcy” for you or your kids. You plan outings, movies, park dates with friends, etc. But you either end up having to cancel because he is having a meltdown and needs your attention, or because he just had a meltdown and you are so worn out from it.
10.) He makes threats when you try to end things
He will kill himself, kill you, “make you pay”, call the police and frame you for something you didn’t do, take the kids, tell everyone what an awful person you really are and make up lies about you and blah, blah, blah. Regardless of the threat, you feel trapped.
11.) He has zero respect for your personal space
He’s yelling at you again and you know the drill – there’s no calming him down. So you try to go into another room until he settles. He follows you around, continually baiting you and trying to bully you into engaging on his level. If you lock the door, he breaks it open. Or if you try to leave the house, he takes your car keys and tries to block you. If you miraculously get to the car with enough time to lock the doors, he stands in front of your car, leaving you anxiously pondering “Do I accelerate and try to get to safety, potentially running him over… in which case he will try to have me imprisoned and frame me as the mentally ill one… or do I sit here… hoping he doesn’t hurt or kill me…” If you are able to drive away, he hops in his car and stalks you all over town. Whatever the circumstance, he doesn’t respect your boundaries.
12) He breaks your things
You get into a fight and later come back into your room to find your dishes have been shattered and he’s thrown furniture at the wall. Whatever the object, if he’s breaking things, the relationship has gotten to a level that’s abusive.
13.) He deprives you or your family of what you need financially
He encouraged me to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. I was thrilled to have more time with my kids! He was a business owner and from what he had *told me*, he wasn’t hurting for money. But whenever I tried to discuss budgeting and things the kids or I needed, he refused. The few times he did adequately provide for us, he had to personally make all the purchases. We were eating meals on the floor with the ants for a few months before he finally bought a table. Numerous occasions we stopped by my parent’s house for food because we rarely had any at ours. I never once saw a bank statement, had access to any of his accounts or any other financial documentation. I didn’t know if we had debt or if we were millionaires, like he claimed. If you’re lied to, kept in the dark when it comes to how much money you have, if needs in the home are not being met and he controls all purchases, that is legally considered financial abuse.
14.) Name calling
Sadly, this happens so much even in “regular” relationships that most would never even consider to be “abusive.” Sure, we all say things we don’t mean at times and need to ask for forgiveness later on. Maybe name calling alone isn’t enough for some to say they’re in an abusive relationship. That’s for the individual to decide. But name calling with any amount of frequency paired with any of these other points, is abuse.
15.) The bad outweighs the good
When you step back and look at your life with him, you’re holding out hope that the good times will start to become more frequent. Because surprisingly, there are really good moments – even with an abuser. But with some perspective, you can see that the good times are far outweighed by the bad. For every few positive memories you have with him, you have several more negative ones.