How to Know if You Are Being Abused in a Relationship

Four years ago, I  lay in bed and googled: ‘am I being abused?’

The first article that I stumbled upon said this:

‘If you are googling this question, then the answer is probably yes.’ 

I wouldn’t be able to find that same article again now. I have no idea who wrote it or on what platform it was shared. But I will never forget those words, because they hit me like a painful slap in the face. 

You see, it wasn’t the answer that I was hoping for. 

I was hoping that Google would tell me ‘don’t worry love, everything’s OK, carry on full steam ahead.’ 

So despite the niggling feeling that the article was on to something, I put my phone back on my bedside table and continued going through the motions of a relationship that made me feel afraid. 

Why don’t women just walk away from an abusive relationship?

It is very difficult to accept that your relationship is toxic or abusive. Because once you do this, you have to accept that you have shared your precious time and energy with somebody that doesn’t treat you how you deserve to be treated.This feels like a type of failure. It is easier to make yourself believe that you are overreacting, or you just need to be a better partner in order to sort things out.  

It is also easier to convince yourself that the relationship isn’t that bad than to separate from a violent person, especially if you are afraid for the safety of yourself or your family. 

I am so glad that I was able to break free from that relationship. Of course, the damage done in that short time was very deep and it took years to heal from it. But the wounds did heal, and I have just married a man who treats me with more respect, patience and love than I thought was possible. 

And you know what else? I feel completely worthy of that love. 

When I met him 2 years ago, he had been living in a tent and hitchhiking around Europe for years. We are both free spirits who would have laughed our heads off if you told us we were going to be married soon back then.

Having gone from an abusive and toxic relationship to a healthy and safe marriage, I would like to share a few things that might be helpful to any people going through what I did. 

1. Someone can abuse you without being evil

It is hard to believe that someone you love and who has very many good qualities might be abusing you. We tend to think that there are goodies and baddies in the world; evil abusers and loving partner material. 

The truth is, we are all just doing our incompetent best to get through life with the experiences we have been through and the lessons we have learned. 

So, some people might not be a good match for you. They might be mentally unbalanced, angry with the world, or maybe just self involved. That does not mean they are evil bastards. It does mean that you have a right to walk away from violence and towards a direction of peace. 

Newsflash: You deserve the kind of love that doesn’t frighten you. 

It doesn’t mean that the person you have spent time with is evil, or that the time was wasted. But deep down, I think we all know whether a relationship lifts us up or drags us down. 

Listen to that intuition, and act on it. 

It is up to you whether ‘acting on it’ means walking away or seeking professional help. But things probably won’t get any better if you just bury your head in the sand and carry on as normal.

2. Ask the right questions

Part of the reason that I allowed this abusive relationship to go on, was because I was not asking the right questions. 

I was asking myself:

  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • How can I make our relationship better?
  • How will he react if I leave?
  • Are my family in danger?

These are not always the right questions. These questions assume that we can change other people (ha!) or that there are circumstances where accepting abuse is the best choice. They assume that the way people treat us is about our behaviour, when in fact it is only related to their own issues. 

The best way to break out of cycles of violence, is to ask yourself these questions instead:

  • Do I feel afraid of my partner?
  • Are there ways in which I am condoning this abuse?
  • Does this relationship support me to be a kind, happy and healthy person?
  • Is a fear of violence or revenge keeping me here?
  • What do I need in order to be safe?

Sometimes we stay with people because we are afraid that leaving would be more dangerous than staying. It is sad to accept this, so we then convince ourselves that we are happy enough really, and push the answers to more pertinent questions aside.  It is absolutely necessary to look out for your security, but you deserve complete safety, not ‘safer than leaving.’ 

Of course nobody but yourself is responsible for your health and happiness. That is down to you. But there are relationships which make the job of looking after your physical and emotional wellbeing a hell of a lot more difficult, as we all know. 

Noone is responsible for your happiness and health but you. Some people make the job a lot easier though.

3. There is an abundance of love in the world 

My final piece of advice is to remember that there is an abundance of love in the world. 

There are billions of people alive today and hundreds of millions of them would be a good romantic match for you.

I have found true love is less about hitting the jackpot and finding ‘the only one for you’ and rather, finding the one who is enough for you. That does not mean that you should ever settle for a toxic relationship that doesn’t make you both feel good.  

But sometimes we don’t leave relationships that are toxic and damaging because we are afraid we won’t find anything better. Perhaps this current relationship is painful, but we feel like we’d rather try and transform that into something healthy than take the risk of ending up on our own. 

Sure, it’s possible you’ll never love again. It’s technically possible that the sun won’t rise again, that rain won’t fall again and that nobody will plant any flowers again. But it does seem rather unlikely, doesn’t it? 

Besides, I’ve learned that I’d rather spend my life loving and respecting myself too much to allow somebody to mistreat me, than accept a toxic relationship because I am afraid that’s as good as it gets. 

I hope that these words were helpful to someone, especially if you found this article in a tearful google search in your bedroom. You are worthy of love that doesn’t make you feel afraid. May you find it, and may you believe that you deserve it. 

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You might also like to check out the Highly Sensitive Nomad book. You can find out more about it here. 

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