“Hello. My relationship with my partner isn’t like it used to be. My partner hasn't hit me, but I'm confused about how I'm being treated. There are times when he tells me that I’m worthless or pathetic because whatever I might be doing at the moment isn’t up to his standard. I space out all the time in class because I’m exhausted. I don’t feel like eating most of the time. I’ve gained a lot of weight since we’ve met in college and started dating and he won’t let me forget that either. Seems like what I eat is the only thing I CAN control in my life right now. If I want to spend Friday evening with my friends, I usually catch heck when I get back to the apartment with loads of guilt-tripping and feeling like I have to choose him all the time. Sometimes it feels like it’s a trap if he’s supportive of me doing something without him. Yesterday, I got a little scared when he snatched my phone and keys from me after an argument. He said that I wasn’t leaving him and going to my mom’s because it would make things look bad. My friend told me that I need to leave him, but part of me wants to stay to help him through whatever he’s dealing with. How can I just leave someone I love so much?" - Anonymous
Your bravery in reaching out for help is admired. I know it can seem confusing and overwhelming to reach out for guidance right now. Signs of verbal and emotional abuse often occur in an unhealthy relationship before physical abuse occurs. Looking back, can you see a pattern where your partner’s words or actions began to affect your wellbeing? Was that often followed up by a time of apologies, gift-giving or increased time spent together? Actions meant to control, manipulate or harm you followed by apologies and you feeling like you have to watch what you say or do is called the cycle of abuse. This is not how relationships are designed to work. A healthy relationship is balanced, mutual, supporting and uplifting, and any actions that compromise the wellbeing of either partner creates opportunities for abuse to occur.
You mentioned in your email that you are dealing with verbal abuse in your relationship and that you’re confused about how you’re being treated. Developing a safety plan is a good idea at any point in a relationship with a person you love if you are questioning your wellbeing. If the intensity and frequency of the most recent abuse has been life-threatening, you may want to consider contacting an advocate to learn more about protection orders. Increasing your safety should become a priority and choosing to do so does not make you selfish or unloving. The ability to heal will be delayed after experiencing multiple threats to your wellbeing if your safety continue to remain an issue.
I also heard the deep love you have for your partner and how torn you must feel in deciding your next step. Ultimately, you are the expert of your situation and if you listen to the voice inside, you already know what your next step should be. The only thing we can control is how we speak and act toward others. If your partner says that they love you but their actions do not align with how you define love, that’s not love. Choosing to separate from a partner who isn’t committed to your safety doesn’t mean you no longer care about them. There may be supportive resources or community agencies in your area whose mission is to make sure you have everything you need to become safe and find hope along your way.
Remember, you are the expert of your situation and your safety matters... because you're worth it!
Discover how Care Lodge can help you plan your next steps here
Read an article on verbal abuse coping skills posted by Emily J. Sullivan here
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