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The Whisper of Subtle Abuse – How to Recognize the Signs

Domestic Abuse. When you hear those words what do you think? Beating? Brutality? Being thrown across the room? Black eyes and broken bones? GPS system added on your vehicle so spouse can keep tabs on you, or a spouse keeping track of your mileage? The words domestic abuse conjure different visions for each of us.

Abuse isn’t always what meets the eye. It is often subtle, so subtle the victim may not even realize they are being abused. It is a silent killer – not of the human body, but of the human soul, heart, and mind. It strips one down to nothing, a little piece at a time. It is a mind game, and if we are not aware and do not stop it, it destroys.

All relationships have rough patches. There is nothing wrong with your partner checking on you if you are an hour late. In fact, that is often sweet because it shows concern. It is important to share trust in a relationship; therefore, calling to say, “Hey, I’m going out for awhile and I will be late,” is essential. When a friendship causes a partner concern, whether concerns about cheating, bad influences, or making poor decisions, your partner has the right to discuss those with you, and you have the responsibility to listen. This is not abuse, but the ups and downs nuances of relationships. Abuse goes much deeper.

The subtle abuse often starts as concern and in the beginning, we may be flattered. When my husband and I began getting serious, I loved that he cared enough about me to want to know where I was all the time and wanted to spend all our free time together. I had come through a rough marriage and had been lonely and felt abandoned, so for a man to want my attention was a high. I loved that he sent me texts all day, and called at least once an hour. I was wanted and that was all that mattered. It never occurred to me I was being controlled. In fact, I felt more like myself than ever, because I was important to someone.

Over the last year, I have opened my eyes and see the obvious. I was abused. Some will shake their head and think I am overreacting. That’s okay. They aren’t involved in my daily, personal life and have a right to their own opinion. Some, however, will say it is about time I see things clearly. Their opinions no longer matter, either way. My opinion, my safety, my well-being, my emotional status, and my children’s comfort is what is important and what I will fight for.

Below are some signs of abuse. You may recognize a few in your own life, or have more to add. All our situations are different, just as no relationship is written in black and white.

  • Calling repeatedly – There have been days I could not get my house clean for answering phone calls and texts. A call or two through the day to say hello is great. Consistent calling is not.
  • Getting upset when a text or call isn’t answered immediately – If I left my phone in the other room and did not answer immediately, I received the third degree. “Who were you talking to?” “What were you doing?” “Why didn’t you answer?” There is nothing wrong with needing a little space or being busy. Do not accept this behavior.
  • Calling or texting within fifteen minutes of you leaving – I went to WalMart one night with my kids. I had barely started shopping when I received a call asking what aisle I was on, what I was looking at, etc. This, my friends, is control!
  • Not wanting you to go out with friends – Even if they do not say no, their body language, expressions, and questions says it loud enough to be clear. Ladies, you have a right, and a need, to go out from time to time. Your partner should and must understand this basic need.
  • Constantly telling you what you do wrong – “Don’t put salt in that.” “Why are you using that pan?” “Why did you park here? There is a space over there?” The list goes on and on. And yes, I have been asked all these questions, which is why for the last five years I have not cooked!
  • Being prevented from doing what you need to do– My ex never once told me I could NOT do something, but he sure pushed me about it without coming right out and saying it. For example, if I was cleaning, he would turn on the television and ask me to watch a movie. I could have said no, but his commanding demeanor had me controlled and I did as he requested. This is wrong! It was a mind game, even if he didn’t see he was doing it.