8 Ways to Identify Toxic Behavior And Avoid Abusive Relationships
Intimate partner violence continues to be a growing health issue around the world, and yet still so many women do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse, particularly emotional and psychological abuse. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one-third of women (35%) who have been in an intimate relationship have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual abuse by their intimate partner in their lifetime.
According to the CDC, intimate partner violence "describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse."
It includes, sexual violence which includes, rape, unwanted penetration of the victim or forcing the victim to penetrate someone else, non-physically pressured penetration, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences. Other incidences of IPV include, stalking, physical violence and psychological aggression.
As women, fostering healthy and loving intimate relationships is key to our overall well-being, and even more so as mothers. For the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on the more non-visible forms of abuse namely emotional and psychological abuse because I feel strongly that this is a category of abuse that is overlooked and underscored mainly because people don't understand it and many victims find it very difficult to explain. It is also a form of abuse that I have had experience with. Despite its invisible scars however, emotional and psychological abuse is just as dangerous and can leave deep scars that linger for years.
As we celebrate International Women's Day, this is the perfect time to touch on this global issue because as mothers we cannot protect our children, if we don't know how to protect ourselves. Arming ourselves with knowledge, spreading awareness and practicing healthy dating and life habits can help us chose positive partners that we can trust and build strong and healthy families with. If you are already in a long term relationship, this post will be useful to you too. It is not too late.
The terms "psychological aggression", "emotional abuse", "psychological violence" and "mental abuse" have all been used interchangeably to describe "verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or to exert control over another person. Psychological aggression can include expressive aggression (e.g. name calling, humiliating); coercive control (e.g. limiting access to transportation, money, friends and family; excessive monitoring of whereabouts); threats of physical or sexual violence; control of reproductive or sexual health (e.g. refusal to use birth control, coerced pregnancy termination); exploitation of victim's vulnerability (e.g. immigration status, disability); exploitation of perpetrator's vulnerability; and presenting false information to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory or perception (e.g. mind games)"
When dealing with an emotional and psychological abuser, it can be very difficult to see through their false persona. Most of these types of abusers appear to be the perfect mate at first, but that saying nothing hides forever rings very true with psychological aggressors because their abuse though methodical eventually reveals itself. The issue is that because so many of us have no real understanding of what this type of abuse really is, instead of taking note of the tell-tale signs and toxic behavior, we overlook them as one-off situations when in fact they are the signs that are telling us to run. So how do you prevent this from happening to you? Being able to identify toxic behavior is key to avoiding abusive relationships. Here are 8 ways you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
1. Take Your Time
This is the best way to scope out a possible intimate partner. Emotional and psychological abusers are known for "love bombing" in the beginning. So what is "love bombing"? Well it is bombarding someone with acts of love and adoration. You will find yourself in love in a matter of days, maybe even weeks. He or she will make you feel as though you are the best thing that has ever happened to them. You will not get a chance to think or breathe. Once you realize that things are moving way too fast with someone and way too soon, this is the first sign of a possible emotional and psychological abuser. This is NOT love, this is toxic behavior. Remember, normal relationships have a natural progression over time. Persons go on dates, talk on the phone and take the time to get to know each other. You can't fall in love overnight, no matter what the storybooks and Hollywood may try to sell us. Real relationships take time and dating should be taken very slowly. You should also avoid, any sexual contact with the person you are dating until you are sure, that this is someone you really are ready to take seriously, because over time he has shown you that he can be trusted.
2. Ask Lots of Personal Questions
Being consistently inconsistent is another tell-tale and very toxic sign of a possible emotional and psychological abuser. The best way to see if their stories stick, is to keep asking the same questions over and over. Ask about their childhood and upbringing, their family several times and if you keep getting shrugged off, or he turns the questions to you or gives you a completely different story, or nothing he says ads up or makes sense, then you are dealing with a potential abuser.
3. Don't Reveal Anything Personal About Yourself Too Soon
In order to be certain that you are not dealing with an emotional and psychological abuser, it is very important that you do not reveal personal and private information too soon. These types of abusers crave this type of information for two reasons. 1. They need it so that they can appear to be the "perfect" man. By knowing every detail about you, they can pretend to be your leading man. 2. They will gladly use this information against you and use it as leverage to hurt, coerce and humiliate you.So be very careful when meeting someone for the first time and not giving them too much information too soon.
4. Don't Be Desperate
Basically, don't to be too eager to please. Emotional and psychological abusers are looking for the "needy" types. They are looking for someone that they know is willing to be emotionally available and will be willing to go the extra mile for them. They are hoping that you will be desperate enough to be willing to fight for a relationship, even if it is not presented in the best way. For example, if he tells you that his family would not approve of his relationship with you but is still coming on strong, expecting a commitment, then that is a very toxic sign that this relationship is going to be very bad for you.
5. Speaks Badly About All His Past Relationships
If all of his past relationships ended badly with him saying, that they were ALL "crazy" then that's a sign that something is very wrong with him most likely. Everyone can't be "crazy". He is most likely hiding something or as they tend to do, always put the blame on everyone else except themselves. These types of abusers have a very difficult time taking responsibility for their actions. This also means, that you are quite possibly next on his "crazy" list. RUN!
6. Maintain Your Space and Privacy
When you first start dating someone, things can get exciting, but it is very important not to get caught up too soon. Maintaining your relationships with friends and family is key to ensuring that there is balance in your life. Continue to pursue your passions and interests. Anyone who tries to isolate you from your family and friends, or who wants to possess every ounce of your time is displaying toxic and unhealthy behavior. He is only showing you, that he will continue to perpetuate this behavior as you get further into the relationship. Isolation is a HUGE tell-tale sign of abusers in general. A person who is truly and genuinely interested in you, will also be interested in seeing you succeed in life and would want you to have other pursuits.
7. Watch What He Does, Not What He Says
As I mentioned earlier, emotional and psychological abusers are very inconsistent. One of their popular traits, is saying one thing (usually the right thing) but then doing the complete opposite. These types of abusers are empty shells. They only say what needs to be said, but actually have no intentions of doing them. Judge a persons true character based on what they do, not what they say. When words and actions don't match you are dealing with a possible emotional and psychological abuser.
8. Trust Your Gut
This is huge! Especially for us women. For some reason we are not taught to trust our gut. This God-given gift is instinctual, yet so many women ignore it. We ignore that inner voice for many reasons. Some of us are afraid to say "no", afraid to hurt others' feelings, we are afraid of what others may think of us and we try to please everyone we come into contact with. As a result of this, we have been robbed of our ability to sense when we are in danger or when something is not right. Whenever you get that deep tingling in your stomach or that nagging voice in your head telling you not to do something from here on I want you to promise that you will listen. If it does not feel right, then it's just not right. Learning to trust yourself can be the first step to warding off possible abusers.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by logging on to www.thehotline.org. Call 1-800-799-7233. There is also a live chat available.
If you are outside of the United States ask a coworker, family member or friend that you can trust to help you locate a center in your area.
Happy International Women's Day!
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