how to deal with an abusive partner

How to Deal With an Abusive Partner

There are many forms of abuse that you or a loved one could be experiencing, some far more subtle than others. 

Recognizing when you are in an abusive relationship is the first step to dealing with it but this is one of the hardest parts, depending on the type of abuse you are going through.

What Counts as Abuse?

As we have mentioned already, abuse can come in many shapes and sizes.

Physical Abuse

This is by far the easiest to spot — by both the victim and their close friends and family — and is characterized by the intentional and potentially harmful contact with your body or an object near it.

Remember: it doesn’t have to leave a mark or hurt a lot for this behavior to be unhealthy.

Examples of this are:

  • Pushing you
  • Grabbing your clothes
  • Scratching
  • Punching
  • Strangling
  • Biting
  • Kicking
  • Slapping
  • Throwing something at you
  • Hair pulling
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Restraining you from leaving
  • Dragging you somewhere

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is really tricky to recognize, especially if you’re the one being abused. It includes all non-physical behaviors that routinely humiliate, threaten, upset, lower self-esteem and knock confidence.

Examples of this are:

  • Screaming at you
  • Stopping you from seeing your friends and family
  • Embarrassing you in public on purpose
  • Having sudden outbursts
  • Using your fears and morals to control you
  • Punishing you by denying affection
  • Exaggerating your imperfections to decrease your self-esteem
  • Telling you what to wear
  • Damaging your property
  • Accusing you of cheating and unwarranted jealousy of everyone
  • Stalking
  • Making you feel guilty/childish if you don’t want to have sex
  • Starting rumors about you
  • Threatening to tell your secrets
  • Calling you names
  • Blaming you for their abusive behavior
  • Saying they will commit suicide if you break up with them
  • Threatening to harm your pets, family or yourself

Sexual Abuse

This form of abuse encompasses all actions which coerce or force a person to perform sexual acts that they do not want to do. 

It is never, ever the victim’s fault — even if they did not categorically say “no” or did not physically resist, does not mean that the act was consensual!

Examples of this are:

  • Unwanted rough sexual activity
  • Rape
  • Nonconsensual touching
  • Any sexual act on a person who is in any way intoxicated
  • Pressuring you to do sexual acts
  • Saying sexual insults
  • Disallowing condom use

Digital Abuse

Most of the time, this relates to emotional abuse but just committed through online sites, text messages or emails. 

Examples of this are:

  • Publicly putting you down via social media
  • Sending you explicit images of themselves
  • Demanding you send them explicit images
  • Coercing or pressuring you into sexting (pictures, videos and words)
  • Forcing you to give them your passwords
  • Constantly looking through your phone
  • Monitoring you via technology such as ‘Find My iPhone’

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is extremely subtle. It refers to all things money-related, including controlling how you spend your earnings and demanding access to your personal bank account. 

Examples of this are:

  • Stopping you from working
  • Giving you “pocket money”
  • Demanding to see receipts
  • Limiting the hours you work
  • Disallowing you to see shared bank account statements
  • Using your savings without you knowing
  • Buying things for themselves but not allowing you to do it
  • Lording their money over you because they know you are not in a great financial situation

Stalking

If someone consistently watches, harasses or follows you, then you are experiencing stalking.

Examples of this are:

  • Repeatedly showing up at your workplace or house uninvited
  • Frequently calling you and hanging up
  • Ringing your boss or teachers
  • Wait at places that they know you will be
  • Damaging your property and belongings
  • Spreading rumors about you
  • Tracking you on social media

You may have found that after reading all these definitions and examples, you have discovered that you are in an abusive relationship of some type.

Take a breath, we have some tips for you to deal with the situation.

Tips For Dealing With An Abusive Relationship

1. Set-Up Boundaries

Communicate the things — insulting you, purposefully embarrassing you, limiting your work hours, etc. — they cannot do to you any longer and then state what you will do should they choose to act this way again. This may mean that you will leave the room or walk away. 

It is important to remember not to establish boundaries that you have no intention of following through on; this defeats the purpose.

2. Gather Support

Be very open and honest to a close family member or friend about the abusive relationship that you are in. 

Then, try and spend an increasing amount of time with the person or people you have told, in order to be away from the abuser. These confidantes who truly love and care for you will allow you to feel less isolated and can help you figure out what to do next.

3. Don’t Blame Yourself

No matter the length of time you have been in an abusive relationship, you could feel that it is you that is causing it. Please remember that this is not the case.

Someone who is abusing you is making a choice to do so — one which you have absolutely zero control over. You should never blame yourself for something that is not your fault at all.

4. Practice Self-Care

Surviving day-by-day is hard enough when you are in this situation and the stress that comes along can have a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health. 

You need to take care of yourself by focusing your attention on activities that will keep you strong, sharp and healthy. Try to exercise as much as possible, eat nutritious meals, attempt to meditate to minimize stress levels and take up a hobby that will interest you.

Your own wellbeing needs to take center stage now!

5. Don’t Engage

When the perpetrator starts to scream at you, threaten you, accuse you of cheating or whatever else, just walk away.

There is no point in attempting to reason with them, calm them down, explain anything or apologize for things that you know you haven’t done. In fact, by doing this, you are simply adding more fuel to the fire. 

6. Come to Terms With The Fact You Can’t Fix Them

All the love in the world couldn’t change the abusive person. You cannot be different or change something and expect them to be “fixed”, unfortunately.

They are choosing their actions and you are not responsible for them — all you can do is decide how you want to respond to them.

7. Make a Code Word

A code word, also known as a safety word, can be agreed between you, your friends, family members and neighbors so that you can discreetly alert them to your distress and needs.

8. Find a Safe Place

This could be at your confidant’s house or possibly your parent’s, depending on your personal situation. It should be somewhere you feel completely at home and content in, with everything you need should escape be required.

Once you have identified the fact that you are in an abusive relationship and worked through all these tips, the final step is to recognize… 

When You Should Get Out

If your partner shows no signs of changing or getting help and support for correcting their poor choices, you need to get yourself out of this relationship as it will impact your overall health and wellbeing (more than it already has). This is where the ninth step comes into play.

9. Have an Exit Strategy

Of course, we do not know your personal situation so we, unfortunately, can’t offer you specific instructions on how to come up with a plan of action for leaving the abusive relationship.

However, remember the trusted friend or family member you have already spoken to? You need to talk to this person (or these people) to figure out an exit plan that will work for you.

In the meantime, there are general steps you can take to make the final split easier for you:

  • Pack an emergency bag — include toiletries, clothes, money, medication, copies of keys, legal documents. Depending on your circumstances, hide this in your car or somewhere it definitely won’t be found by the abuser.
  • Have a separate money pot — save as much as you can and store it in your emergency bag so, if push comes to shove and you need to leave at three in the morning, you can easily do so. 
  • Make sure your car is always fueled — this allows for a quick getaway.

We are sure you know that none of this will be easy or stress-free, in fact, quite the opposite! But using these guidelines is a great start to breaking away from the chaos, trauma and panic that comes hand in hand with being in a relationship with an abuser.