It’s a common mantra: relationships are hard work. True as that may be, however, this can distract from legitimate causes for concern in one’s social and romantic life. Including signs that a relationship may have become, or always was, toxic. But when does ‘Toxic behaviour’ become domestic violence?
Domestic violence refers to violent behaviour between current or former intimate partners. Typically where one partner tries to exert power and control over the other, usually through fear.
What does domestic abuse look like?
Behaviour is considered abusive when it consists of any of the following:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Violent or threatening behaviour
- Controlling or coercive behaviour, even after separation
- Economic abuse – means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods or services
- Psychological, emotional, or other abuse
- Includes so called ‘honour-based’ violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and force marriage.
Domestic violence – also called dating violence, intimate partner abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), and domestic abuse – takes many forms. Maltreatment that takes place in the context of any romantic relationship is abuse as described by the above specific terms. It therefore affects men, women, or teen girls and boys, whether in a married or unmarried heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal assault to violence. And while physical injury may pose the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain. Your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your relationship is abusive.
There are many signs of an abusive relationship, and a fear of your partner is the most telling. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them. Constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive.
Other signs include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and having feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation. A healthy relationships involve honesty, trust, respect and open communication between partners and they take effort and compromise from both people. There is no imbalance of power. Partners respect each other’s independence, can make their own decisions without fear of retribution or retaliation, and share decisions.
Be aware that in some abusive relationships, trying to enforce boundaries, honest communication, trust, and other healthy behaviours could put your safety at risk. Remember, abuse is about power and control. Someone who is abusive might not want to give up their control over you.
How to deal with Domestic Violence.
It’s time to take action if any of those red flags sound familiar.
If you feel that you’re in physical danger, you may need to involve the authorities. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999. Alternatively there is a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf: Freephone 0808 2000 247
Respect is a male based advice line, offering advice and support for men being subjected to domestic violence or abuse: Freephone 0808 801 0327
For more information and how to get help visit refuge: www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ or the NHS website for what support is available: www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/getting-help-for-domestic-violence
If the harm is emotional or mental, you’ll have to decide if it’s possible to work through the issue. If underlying triggers such as depression or trauma are influencing one or both individuals’ behaviours, getting to the root of the problem is important, but the answer may be to walk away
Love should never cost you your peace. It should never cost you your joy. It should never cost you your happiness. If there’s more negative in the situation than positive, something has to change.