Every once in a while I’ll read a letter to an advice columnist that says something like this: “My husband/wife is a wonderful partner in every way, except he/she constantly puts me down even though I have asked him/her to stop.”
The most recent one I read involved a husband who would drive aggressively until his wife agreed to whatever demand he made. He would wait to bring up issues until they were in the car and he was in control.
His “road rage” scared her so much, she would agree to anything and now is afraid to drive anywhere with him, including to marriage counseling.
A relationship in which one person is demeaned, humiliated, put down, disgraced or physically harmed is not wonderful. It may “have its moments,” but it is not healthy.
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to become aware of the signs of unhealthy relationships and the damage they can do.
Abusive relationships do not just involve physical abuse. Verbal, emotional and mental abuse are just as damaging.
The signs of an abusive relationship aren’t always easily recognized by either partner. Sometimes wives or husbands write off the behavior as moodiness or just having a bad day. The abuser’s personality often is described as being high strung or difficult. And the abuser may or may not apologize.
The warning signs of abuse often are evident while dating, but they might not appear until after marriage. When you notice them, pay attention. Only through recognition will you be able to take the steps needed to protect yourself and your children.
One warning sign of an abusive relationship is criticism of physical appearances. This type of abuse begins with seemingly innocent suggestions and progresses to demands or ridicule.
This type of abuse escalates over time. Disrespect and dishonor often lead to other forms of abuse.
Other warning signs of abusive relationships include:
- Destroying personal belongings
- Touching in ways that hurt or scare you
- Forbidding seeking medical attention
- Dominating or controlling behavior
- Threatening violence or acting in a violent manner
- Isolation from friends and family
- Controlling access to money
- Listening in on phone calls or constantly asking about whereabouts
- Name-calling, criticism or private/public humiliation
- Justifying jealously as a sign of love
If any of these situations is present in your relationship, it is abusive and will only escalate. Seek professional help from a mental health counselor or call Turning Point Domestic Violence Services at 800-221-6311.
It’s not always possible to predict that a relationship will become abusive, but one way is to know your partner, their family and their history.
Abuse is usually hidden from people outside the family. If your partner doesn’t voluntarily reveal details, observe family relationships and ask questions to learn the whole story.
Answers to questions about parents’ personalities, how parents resolved conflict, if one parent always gives in or how parents disciplined the children will give clues to how respect is handled in the family.
Usually, violent people can’t let go of their anger. They have a deep need to control their environment. And the rules of their control of their environment can change within minutes.
For instance, the abuser may have certain rules about behavior, but these rules can change instantly if the change allows him or her to release their anger on the person being abused.
Don’t pass off the behavior because they had a hard day, are high strung or were sorry later. There are dangerous consequences of continuing the relationship.
Bea Northcott is a columnist for the Daily Journal, writing about marriages, relationships and family.