Each relationship is different, which can make it difficult to judge the relationship from an outside perspective. While some couples rarely argue, others bicker frequently. However, all healthy relationships have similar traits. Partners are trusting and supportive of one another, and each partner respects the other person’s right to have activities outside the relationship. An abuse victim may try to mask or downplay the violence in her relationship to avoid having to confront her abuser.
Dating abuse can be physical, emotional or a combination of the two. Helpguide.org notes that while the signs of physical and emotional abuse in a relationship can vary, one of the most obvious signs that you are in an abusive relationship is that you live in fear of your partner or what she may do. If your friend or family member begins isolating himself or is nervous about discussing his relationship for fear of what his partner will think, he may be in an abusive relationship.
An abuser will use manipulation to control his partner and maintain control over every aspect of the relationship. The Anne Arundel Community College Women's Institute dating abuse booklet notes that an abuser may call you names, become jealous when you are with others, control who you see or physical injure you. In an attempt to maintain control of the relationship, he may blame you for making him abuse you.
There are many misconceptions about dating abuse. Many people assume that dating abuse only occurs in couples who are financially unstable, use drugs or among minority groups, when the reality is that dating abuse can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, socioeconomic status or lifestyle. The Boston University Police Department website notes that another great misconception is that the victim provokes his abuser to harm him, when the abuser is not likely to admit her own fault in the situation.
The immediate and long-term effects of dating abuse are significant in determining how the victim will act in future relationships. An abusive relationship can make it difficult for a victim to trust future partners and may effect her sense of self-worth. In a 2006 Morbidity and Mortality weekly report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent note findings from 2003 on dating violence in high school students that in addition to the risks within an abusive relationship, dating abuse victims are “more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, unhealthy dieting behaviors, substance abuse and suicidal ideation/attempts.” If you are in an abusive relationship, getting help will not only help you escape your current relationship, but help you to prevent abuse in the future.
Taking care of yourself is a great start in ensuring your relationships will remain healthy. From the beginning of your relationship, you should make your boundaries clear and make an effort to discuss your feelings openly with your partner. Encourage your partner to share his feelings as well. Open communication can help to eliminate frustration and cause fewer misunderstandings. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with how the relationship is progressing, end it without hesitation to show your partner that you are not going to tolerate inappropriate behavior.