There is no point hoping that your abusive partner will change

Your own behaviours may also indicate that you are being abused. Do you feel muzzled or fearful of expressing your opinions to your partner? Do you feel emotionally unsafe, insecure, and vulnerable? Do you doubt your own judgments and capabilities? Are you afraid to speak to others about your relationship? Do you make excuses for your partner’s behaviour? You long for the softer side of your partner. You fantasise about it, hoping that it will become a reality if you make every effort to show love and understanding. If you constantly feel down, experience little joy or excitement, or if you feel powerless, confused and trapped, you may be in an abusive relationship. Look at Linda’s experience as she struggled in a web of abuse, and notice how she swore her sister to secrecy
At this stage I began to feel TRAPPED! What was happening I had no idea! How had my life become like this? What had happened to us? Why was he being like this? We were his family; did he not care about us? I felt I was in so deep at this stage, that I couldn’t contemplate getting out! Yes, it ran through my mind sometimes, but it was a fantasy more than anything real. I had a son, marriage, house with a mortgage, and bills. I felt I was going nowhere. But, I knew I wasn’t happy, and that my life was passing by each day with work, chores, sadness, and worry. One day when it all got too much I confided in my sister, but swore her to secrecy. I remember standing in the corner of the kitchen telling her I feel trapped – ironically, I felt like I was in a corner in my life- one I couldn’t get out of, or see a solution to.
Another way to recognise if you are in a verbally abusive relationship is to evaluate if your basic rights and needs are being met. You have a basic right and need to be respected, to be listened to with courtesy, and to have emotional support. You are entitled to have a different opinion to your partner, to have your feelings acknowledged, and to receive an apology if you have been insulted. You should rightly expect kindliness and encouragement from your partner, and, of course, you are entitled to live free from fear, anger, threat, criticism, accusation, blame, or judgement. You are entitled to be an equal partner in the relationship, rather than an inferior subordinate.
Because victims are reduced to feeling helpless and worthless, many find it very difficult or impossible to confront verbal abuse. They must begin by acknowledging the abuse. Frequently they only realise that they are being abused when it is pointed out to them in counselling, or perhaps by a friend or family member. Until then it has been a normal way of living, but they come for counselling because they feel that something indefinable is wrong with them. They cannot make sense of how they feel, and many are shocked when I mention that they are being abused in a codependent relationship.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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