As beautiful as this famous song is there are times within a relationship that love is not enough and there are other aspects to consider. You may be thinking “of course I love the person so why is there a reason to leave?” However, there are times when love can become toxic and abusive and then love is not enough to stay in a relationship. Spotting this can be extremely challenging at times because abuse is more than physical, and toxicity can fly under the radar.
We are going to dive into the different types of abusive relationships as well as what can cause people to stay in them.
According to the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness Education and Action there are 11 main types of abuse. Click here for more info about each of these http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/types-of-abuse/. Some may seem common and others you may not have even realized they were a form of abuse.
- Economic Abuse: This can encompass keeping you out of financial decisions or knowing where money is going within the house. Other parts of this include: not allowing a person to hold a job, withholding money, destroying your credit on purpose, and more.
- Sexual Abuse: Forcing a person to have sex, videotaping without your knowledge or consent (see last week’s bog for what consent needs to look like), preventing you to use birth control, assuming sex, etc.
- Physical Abuse: Harming a person physically in anyway shape or form. Examples: punching, driving recklessly for intimidation, preventing you from getting medical care when needed, and stalking.
- Verbal Abuse: Degrading a person, name calling, insulting humiliating, and questioning your sanity. Verbal abuse incorporates using words in a demeaning way to hurt you intentionally.
- Emotional Abuse: While many times this can be combined with verbal abuse there is a difference. Emotional abuse can appear when you have a feeling there is something wrong with your relationship but cannot quite articulate what it is. For example these might be some questions that come up for you: Do you have to let your partner know where you are at every moment, Are children ever used against you in arguments, Do you feel that your partner has control over you, and Is your partner blaming you for things out of your control or that are not your fault?
- Academic Abuse: This is one area people do not always think of in terms of abuse but it is very serious as well and includes your partner preventing you from studying on purpose, belittling you when you have a lower grade, and calling you in the middle of the night before exams and important academic days.
- Psychological Abuse: Again, this can be clumped at times with emotional abuse but there is a distinction. This includes: isolating you from friends and family, threatening you, playing mind games, and empty threatening to leave if they do not get their way.
- Use of Technology: This is a category that tends to get overlooked. This includes monitoring where you are with devices, harassing you via social media or texting, posting false information about you, and monitoring your online activity.
Some vulnerable populations can include immigrant women, same gender relationship abuse, and dynamics for Women/people with Disabilities.
So while a person may love another person please challenge yourself to see if you are dealing with any of these types of abuse or if something just doesn’t feel right in your relationship. Seek support from other which can include trusted family/friends and a therapist. Sometimes people who are not directly in a relationship can see clearer than those in the current relationship.
Below The National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/why-do-people-stay-in-abusive-relationships/ outlines what causes people to stay in abusive relationships.
- “Fear: A person may be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship.
- Believing Abuse is Normal: A person may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, perhaps from growing up in an environment where abuse was common, and they may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.
- Fear of Being Outed: If someone is in an LGBTQ relationship and has not yet come out to everyone, their partner may threaten to reveal this secret.
- Embarrassment or Shame: It’s often difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. They may also worry that their friends and family will judge them.
- Low Self-Esteem: When an abusive partner constantly puts someone down and blames them for the abuse, it can be easy for the victim to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.
- Love: So often, the victim feels love for their abusive partner. They may have children with them and want to maintain their family. Abusive people can often be charming, especially at the beginning of a relationship, and the victim may hope that their partner will go back to being that person. They may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely.
- Cultural/Religious Reasons: Traditional gender roles supported by someone’s culture or religion may influence them to stay rather than end the relationship for fear of bringing shame upon their family.
- Language Barriers/Immigration Status: If a person is undocumented, they may fear that reporting the abuse will affect their immigration status. Also, if their first language isn’t English, it can be difficult to express the depth of their situation to others.
- Lack of Money/Resources: Financial abuse is common, and a victim may be financially dependent on their abusive partner. Without money, access to resources or even a place to go, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship. This feeling of helplessness can be especially strong if the person lives with their abusive partner.
- Disability: When someone is physically dependent on their abusive partner, they can feel that their well-being is connected to the relationship. This dependency could heavily influence their decision to stay in an abusive relationship.”
While it may feel scary to leave and to acknowledge that the relationship you are in is abusive there is help available. Please feel welcome to reach out to one of our counselors and to check out our events page for a new group, Violence is More Than Physical: A Support Group for Survivors of Abusive Relationships.
References and Resources:
Sarah Richards, MA is a registered psychotherapist working towards becoming a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She studied international disaster psychology at the University of Denver and holds a master’s degree. Sarah’s clinical training has primarily been with children who have experienced trauma and childhood adversity. Much of her work has focused on childhood bereavement and how to support grieving children. She uses a trauma-informed care lens to support her clients and meets them where they are. She has experience working with children as young as three years old through young adulthood. She utilizes individual therapy, play therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.