Violence in intimate relationships develops gradually. This is a learned behavior. There are signs to determine if a relationship will be violent in future. If these signs are repeated, be aware you have stepped into an abusive relationship that can be dangerous in future.
The abuser’s aim is to keep the victim subjugated by the use of force. This force can be emotional, mental, economic, physical and sexual. In some cases body language, facial expression and eyes (stares) are used to control the victim. Relationship abuse is executed in a planned manner.
The abuser makes unreasonable demands on the victim for attention. The abuser can never be pleased to know matter how much time and attention victim gives them, it is never enough. Hence victim is subjected to constant criticism and berating because they did not fulfil all of the abuser’s needs. Example, “I just asked you to keep the house clean, you can’t even do that,” “You are using those expressions to gain sympathy from others” etc. In the end victims end up doubting their competency. Usually victims of this type of abuse “pleasers” by nature. They are so bent on pleasing others that they ignore their own needs and anger. Such victims can benefit from assertiveness training, which helps them to learn to say no and to stand up for themselves when others put pressure on them.
Abusers are not violent in all relationships; often they are very popular with other people. They praise you to others thus making you doubt your feelings. They may tell everybody “I love her so much that I can’t even imagine life without her.” But when you two are alone they may say “I just can’t stand being in your comapany.” They have two sets of expressions, one for public and the other is reserved for you in the privacy. Every body likes him so you doubt how come you have problems with him. Most of all how will you put it in words because no one is going to believe you.
They avoid discussing their past relationships. On probing they give elusive responses. “I don’t believe in discussing the past. I want to make my today better.” “She dumpped me what can I say about that.” If you ask “why” ? The response is like she found someone else or she agreed to marry someone of her parent’s choice.
It is one of the powerful ways of manipulation by consciously or unconsciously playing on a personal fears, guilt or compassion they are coerced to do things that abuser wants them to do. Abusers either distance themselves or threaten to end the relationship until victim gives into doing what they want. Do not go to visit your friends or family, be with me or if you don’t it means you don’t love me. I’ll not talk to you. They wont return your phone calls or emails. If nothing elese they start hurting themselves like drinking, punching walls or breaking the stuff around them.
They use fear tactics to get the victim under control. They play on victim fears, sense of obligation and guilt to achieve their goals. If you have been dating in secret because you are not very sure of the relationship so your family and friends are not aware of this relationship. He’ll threaten to expose this relationship to all and try to spread rumors. Do X or I’ll commit suicide. The threat of suicide is the ultimate form of control. Usually they do not make serious attempts, it is just a mechanism to keep you in the relationship. But if they are successful then they’ll burden you with this horrible fact for rest of your life. When he threatens suicide for the first time GET OUT OF THERE ASAP.
They’ll also recruit allies to convert you to their side. Some well wishing aunty or didi will tell you he is good at heart doesn’t have any malecious intent. The idea is to make you feel what you are thinking is dubious and does not have any basis.
Victims are usually “codependent” having an excessive need for approval, an intense fear of anger, a need for a peace at any price, a tendency to tilt too much responsibility for other people’s lives and a high level of self-doubt. Victims need to understand it is not their job to fix and take care of other people all the time. They are responsible for their own feelings, they should work towards addressing their fears, guilts and need for being love and cared for. They need to rescue themselves than others.
It is difficult for an abuser to keep up with good behavior for a long time so they try to rush the relationship from one stage to another. After few meetings they start talking about marriage and spending life together. It is understandable that in Indian context young people of different genders usually meet for the purpose of getting married so they are already in a rush. But watch for clues where the other person is forcing you to have undesired physical contatct, kissing, fondling, non-penetrative sex etc. What ever is non-consensual and is making you uncomfortable is abusive. “Now that we have decided to get married lets have sex and seal this relationship.” Presurring the person to do something against their comfort level is a mind game. It is abusive.
Abusers avoid taking any responsibility for their behavior. They blame others for all their problems generally the world at large. Like, “so and so instigated me,” “I just came into his talks,” etc. “If the world hadn’t treated me bad I would have been a different person.” “I am this way because X did this to me or X happened to me.” They cannot express their frustration in a constructive manner.
The abuser uses drastic mood swings, sudden emotional out bursts for no sensible reason or gives inconsistent responses to same phenomena every time it occurs. This keeps the victim in uncertainity of the abuser’s reaction. It is like walking all eggshells as victim is never sure how the abuser will respond. Such as, the abuser liked you in the red dress. You wore the same dress next time expecting his favorable reaction but he claims he hates it. So next time you’ll not know what to do and what to expect. This type of behaviour is proved demanding, anxiety provoking, frightening unsettling to victim’s emotional health.
Usually, pleasers and co-dependants are victims of this type abuse. Their fear of their own anger and that of the abuser’s is so over powering that they try to buy peace at any cost. They seek approval for everything they do, to meet the abuser’s unpredictable responses. They lose self-esteem and ability to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable demands. They need to take an inventory of their own needs and concepts of what is reasonable or not. They should work on their own self-esteem and go for assertiveness training, where they can learn to say no.
In an abusive relationship the victim is systematically isolated from all those people who can help her. Her movements are tracked, who she meets, where she goes, what she says, etc. Her personal belongings are searched and too many questions are asked. To escape constant scrutiny she finally cuts herself off from her supporters. Another example is, if you two are at a public event he’ll constantly monitor your every action what you said, how you said etc. Then either he’ll take you to a corner and tell you what you are doing wrong or when you return back he’ll tell you how disgusting you are. Under such circumstances you’ll start cutting yourself off from people. You’ll start feeling like a child once again living with a parent.
Abuse is systematic in nature. The abused is emotionally manipulated by making them feel guilty for denying the abuser happiness. The abusers portray their dependence on the abused thus making them feel obligated if it doesn’t work then they play on abandonment fears, “or else I’ll leave. ” The abused is purposively confused and isolated from all possible support. A soon as the abused starts questioning these behaviors, the emotional abuse turns into physical assault.