Signs your relationship has turned abusive
Text: Karen Khng
Photos: Getty Images
If there's one thing to take away from Rihanna's explosive interview with Oprah, where she admits to still caring for Chris Brown, it's that intense love can be addictive, scary and stupid. It can also blind us to behaviour that compromises our better judgement, vaporises our self-esteem and causes harm. Pathetic behaviour may be excused in the name of sacrificial love but we're actually denying ourselves of the basic love, respect and happiness that's fundamental.
Starts like this
Abuse is common in relationships. It's often undetected because our love masks the unhealthy relationship it's become. While abuse includes physical battering, it conventionally starts from a cycle of mental, verbal and emotional abuse that hides behind a range of demented behaviours - being highly derogatory, short fused, explosive, permanently unhappy and unilaterally stating all bad days are your fault. You're anxious, depressed, frustrated, feel alone and helpless. No one deserves veiled torture like this.
Clueless comments like these signal darker days to come: "I love her to death but she's curt and always puts me down,""He's accuses me of flirting with other guys but I don't," "Nothing I do is right," and "Getting stuck in traffic is my fault."
Anyone can be abusive
Abuse is gender neutral but it scars permanently. Therapists say abusers practice emotional distance from love and trusting people because they dislike feeling vulnerable. Betrayal by former partners, cynicism about life, relationships and a deep fear of being hurt again keep them on high alert against opening up. Many survived abuse, some played witness to relationships where one-sided control and inflexibility reigned and the other got sidelined. Their game console includes mind games (silent treatment, hot and cold behavior, mental cruelty), exhibition of anger, resentment and violence, withholding sex and emotional contact. An abusive person is hard to eye pick from the masses and a skilled one knows exactly how to give you dirty daily doses of living hell with a smirk on their face.
When it starts to become an issue
When bad behavior becomes a pattern, it's time to panic. If your partner has an imperfect personality but is dead bent on becoming a better person, be magnanimous, throw them a life line. But when your partner constantly berates you, the red flags should start to flap.
Contrary to popular belief, abuse is not about a lack of control, it's about a power imbalance weighted in their favor. Abuse can cause unintentional harm and accidental death but knowledge of where to draw the line is real power and could save your life.