By Amy* (name changed to protect her identity)
There are many signs of an abusive partner. They don’t always hurt you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it could happen once a week, or once a month, but when you do get hurt, it isn’t a matter of how often it occurs, but rather, how it has affected you.
Mental abuse is just one of its many forms of abuse, it changes you internally, leaving you in utter fear, it affects the way you think, behave, speak and act. A very serious and complicated process which leaves you questioning your self worth, shattering your self-esteem and confidence.
An abusive partner takes away your friends, leaving you alone, with no one to turn to but your partner. Preventing you from speaking to your friends or meeting them. Wanting to consistently know and read the conversations which you had with others. They alter the way you dress, constantly telling you that your favourite dress or jeans looks ugly, insisting you never wear it again. Critising the way you look, noticing the little bit of weight you’ve put on or the way you style your hair or wear your make-up, insisting you alter yourself to their desires. As a good partner yourself, you believe that your abusive partner is merely keeping you in line, “its the culture,” you may think. But these are beyond culture, these are the steps to wrapping their finger around you, and you hadn’t even noticed.
A mentally abusive partner affirms you that everything you do is wrong, he was angry at you because you made him mad. He’d flirt with the opposite sex, because you had an innocent conversation with the opposite sex. He didn’t come home the last two nights, because you defied him. You constantly believe that whatever had happened was your fault, so you keep mum about these events, because you believe that everyone else thinks the same about you.
More often than not, being in a mentally abusive relationship requires you to sit and think about what and who you have become. Losing yourself is one of the many signs of being in an abusive relationship. When you no longer dress the way you want to dress, no longer speak the way you speak, lose close friends because of your partner, or no longer recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror.
Mental abuse is a slow creeping process which ultimately changes who you are, how you behave in situations, being afraid to speak to others, being scared of your partner, constantly ensuring you do not do anything to upset him, or keeping urges of wanting to defy your partner in secret.
But when you do get the chance to speak to a friend or family member, you worry about the things you say to them, because despite loved ones telling you that your partner is unhealthy for you, you’d find yourself making excuses for his behaviour.
These unfortunately signify a mentally abusive partner. And sometimes, it feels impossible to get out of an abusive relationship. There are support systems out there to help, but in order to receive help means to accept the help.
Don’t let yourself believe that there would be no one else out there for you other than your abusive partner. Never feel alone because you aren’t alone.
What you go through happens a lot more than you’d imagine, but it doesn’t mean that you deserve to be mistreated. Nobody deserves to be abused, and that includes you.
If you or someone you know has experienced similar situations, reach out for support through the AWARE Helpline at 1800 774 5935. The AWARE Helpline is run by women, for women. Find out more information here.
About the author: Amy is a survivor of intimate-partner violence. After going through 8 years of mental, physical and verbal abuse, she has managed to live peacefully for the past 4 years and has since moved on with her life. She now hopes to make a difference by raising awareness and sharing her experiences.