In my last blog, I wrote a piece addressing the differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. And, while I discussed the dynamics between the two types of relationships, some people were confused as to why I talked about abusive relationships when I addressed unhealthy relationships. So, in this blog I want to clarify any misunderstandings from the last post, and thus show you how to recognize an abusive relationship.

In spite of what some people may believe, abuse of any kind in a relationship is UNACCEPTABLE. It is not loving, healthy or happy. If you’re in a relationship with someone who gets triggered by little things such as setting the dinner table incorrectly or forgetting to take out the trash, your partner might be abusive.

However, before you can make a clear distinction there are some things that you need to understand when it comes to what abuse is and what abuse is not.

One of the first signs that you should pay attention to when determining whether you are in an abusive relationship is your feelings. In some cases, your feelings can be a guide to let you know if something is not right. For instance, if you feel afraid all the time, do not feel like you can freely express yourself, or perhaps feel like you have to walk around on eggshells around your partner for fear of setting him/her off, you might be in an abusive relationship.

No one should have to live in fear, and certainly not with someone who claims to love you. On the other hand, if the feelings you have are telling you that you’re a horrible person and that you somehow deserve the abuse being inflicted upon you, then stop listening to the voices in your head, and seek help, to deal with your low self-esteem.

The Different Types of Abuse

Abuse comes in many forms, and it’s important to recognize the different types. The most visible form of abuse is physical abuse, when your partner hits you. The other types of abuse: mental, emotional and verbal abuse are forms of abuse, however not as overt as physical violence.

Although mental, emotional and verbal abuses may not seem as harsh, they can be just as severe, and in some cases, more serious than physical abuse, and here is why: When a person is emotionally, mentally or verbally abused the scars may not be physically visible. However, when people are mentally, emotionally or verbally abused the damage can affect you throughout your entire life.

For example, being told over and over again how worthless you are and how you can’t do anything right may not appear to be that serious. Until however, you start to believe that the terrible things you hear about yourself are true. Often the abuser uses verbal and emotional intimidation to convince their partners that if they leave the things they fear the most will happen to them. And, while mental, emotional or verbal abuse don’t leave physical scars, they are just as dangerous to the quality of your life, and often the first kinds of abuse an abusive person will use in a relationship.

The Characteristics of An Abusive Person

Simply, people who claim to love someone, but then physically, emotionally or mentally abuse them are monsters. These individuals are weak, petty, insecure, and cowardly people that feel power and control over the person they exert fear over. In most cases, the only way abusive individuals can maintain a relationship with someone is by exercising power and control over them by any means necessary.

People who stay in an abusive relationship may only do so out of fear. Of course, the abuser believes that this is a wonderful way to conduct a relationship. Mostly, because abusive people believe that exerting force is the only way to get someone to love them. But this kind of thinking stems from the abusers fear of rejection, not being accepted and insecurities.

How to Avoid Getting Into An Abusive Relationship

There are a few rules of thumb that you should keep in mind in order to avoid getting into an abusive relationship. First, NO ONE under any circumstances has the right to beat you into submission. You should never feel afraid of the one who claims to love you, and if you are, it’s time to get out of that relationship, and seek help to figure out what lead you to get into that abusive relationship in the first place; and moreover learn what you can do in the future to avoid entering into another one. An abusive relationship is never better than being alone. If you’re on your own, you’ve got a better chance of leading a happy, healthy life, whereas, in an abusive relationship, you’ll never have that.

And, lastly, remember that abuse is not love and that it never will be. Abuse is about power and control. If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or if you know someone who is, there are people out there that can help and protect you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 number to learn more or call 911 if you believe you or someone you love may be a victim of domestic, interpersonal or sexual abuse.

This article was originally published on Huffington Post and is republished here with permission from the author.

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