Toxic Relationships: Why it’s not always physical abuse
How to recognize the signs and understand what a healthy relationship doesn't look like
You are in love. You believe your heart belongs to this person. You care for them and feel that warm-tingling feeling whenever you hear their voice or see their name pop-up on your screen. You have found the one you want to be with — but love isn’t the only thing that creates a healthy relationship. I had to learn this the hard way.
To put it simply, your partner should make you feel uplifted, light, and supported. These are qualities that most would agree on, as it’s not hard to recognize the positives. What gets scary is when you can’t recognize a negative — and they come disguised in many forms.
Physical abuse, defined as an “ intentional act causing injury or trauma”, often comes to mind when people think of abuse in a relationship. Though this type of abuse is very real, many other forms of toxicity don’t appear so clearly and can cause wounds that take much longer to heal.
Mental/Emotional Abuse: This type of abuse wreaks havoc on your emotions, sense of stability, and can eat you alive from the inside-out. Emotional abuse can look like:
- Shaming, Humiliation, over-exertion of Control, Gas-lighting, intense Jealousy, Belittling, and one proved most destructive to me personally — Manipulation. Many perpetrators of abuse are master-manipulators. The cycle often goes as follows:
If the abuse goes on long enough you will start to question your sanity. Asking yourself if they are really causing the pain, or are you just over-thinking it? This is called Gas-Lighting.
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them, cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem.”
Verbal Abuse: The affects of Verbal abuse are de-humanizing, degrading, and self-esteem destroyers. Examples include:
- Name-calling, Yelling, Discounting, Countering, Diversion, Blaming, Criticizing, and Threatening. The person may also try to cover-up their offensive words with statements such as, “I was just kidding!”. Not okay.
Sexual Abuse: The destroyer of one’s identity. Thief of pleasure in intimacy. The wrecking-ball to Trust — Sexual abuse is a sick combination of mental, emotional, and physical induced trauma. This can take on the form of:
- Rape, unwanted intimate touching, disregard of physical boundaries, the use of sex as a weapon, and emotional blackmail, to name a few.
When I use the term “emotional blackmail”, I am referring to when an intimate partner intentionally withdraws love, affection, or respect if their sexual request is not fulfilled.
Physical Abuse: The use of physical violence towards another person in an intention to harm or injure. Physical violence can range from subliminal to severe. Signs include:
- Hitting, Kicking, Punching, Pushing, Slapping, Beating, Hair-pulling, Throwing objects, Shaking, Burning, or Cutting.
Physical abuse usually starts small, something as light as a grab of the arm as you go to walk away, or getting aggressive in your face.
Financial Abuse: The goal of a Financial abuser is to create situations for the victim were they can’t become self-sufficient. Monetary abuse includes:
- the revocation of necessary funds, blocking access to the victims’ bank account, the intentional ruin of credit history, or prevention of getting a job.
I’d like to note that these are not the only forms of abuse out there, but the types listed are among the most common. If you find yourself in a potentially toxic relationship or are a victim of Domestic Violence, know that your feelings are valid and your story is worth hearing. You do not deserve to be mistreated, nor does your pain and trauma define you. You get to choose what defines you, and nobody can take that away from you.
“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt.” — Liam Neeson
-A Personal Note-
I feel like songs sound like they’re supposed to. I can feel the wind on my skin — and I like it. I don’t feel nervous to like what I like. I feel a sense of peace that has rightfully taken the spot of a clouded, put-on sense of self. I feel beautiful and important. I started drawing again, and hours slipped from my hands in the best way possible. I take my time, and I hear myself talking — not some suppressed version of foreign sounds. I can breathe, and I feel released from the tightest grip of a man who didn’t know how lucky he was.
I feel like myself again.
And that’s how I know I left a toxic relationship.