Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spotting Abusive Tactics

Every individual in an intimate partnership has different needs, interests and personality traits.  It’s unrealistic for one partner to assume the other partner will consistently meet expectations.  A normal, healthy relationship between two adults may include a difference of opinion, arguments or making statements later regretted.  However, it’s not normal – or healthy - when one partner always has to be right and lacks consideration for the desires, feelings and well-being of the other partner.**  Here are some typical types of intimate partner abuse:

Neglect:  Seldom being available for quality time together.  Making plans and then canceling them at the last minute or not meeting promises.    

Extreme selfishness:  Making decisions exclusively based on his own needs and desires.  Not including the welfare, wants and desires of the partner or children. 

Being secret as to whereabouts: Staying out until late at night or overnight and refusing to disclose where he has been or getting angry when questioned.  

Blaming:  Refusing to accept responsibility for his or her behavior.  Whatever happens is always the fault of the other partner.       

Rage attacks and criticism:  Making personal attacks against his partner, such as her way of doing things or criticizing her body.  

Bullying and controlling behavior:  Controlling what his partner does, who her friends are, what she spends, where she works, where she goes.  There may be excessive questioning, angry accusations, harassment and badgering. 

Public humiliation:  Embarrassing his partner in public by criticizing her or bringing up personal matters. Making jokes about subjects he knows make his partner feel vulnerable.

Destruction of personal or family property:  Throwing items, smashing glasses or dishes, punching holes in the wall, breaking his partner’s possessions. 

Shifting sands:  Sending out conflicting and contradictory messages or changing moods and emotional positions frequently and unpredictably.  The partner has no clear idea of what is coming next or what she has done to evoke such behaviors.  

Gaslighting:  This is a term coined in the classic 1944 film Gaslight, in which the lead character comes to doubt her sanity as her husband deliberately manipulates her reality. 

Extramarital Affairs: Covertly or openly having affairs or inappropriate relationships.


Inducing fear:  Intentionally frightening his partner, such as driving at high speeds when she is in the car or making threats. 

Physical abuse:  This can range from unwanted touching to pushing and shoving to hitting or choking.  Sexual abuse includes demanding sex, forced sex, and sexual humiliation. 

Parental alienation:  Criticizing his partner in front of their children, lying to the children to turn them against their other parent.

These typical types of abuse are by no means the full extent of ways that abusers can hurt their partners.  People who are abusive can get creative in their methods of harm.  Regardless of the means, a hallmark of people who commit abuse toward others is that they refuse to take responsibility and often claim the partner deserved it.    

If you or someone you know has experienced emotional or physical abuse, I encourage you to seek help.  No one deserves to be abused.  

** Intimate partner abuse can happen in any couple whether they are opposite sex, same-sex, unmarried, married or in a civil union, and regardless of gender, age, religious or spiritual orientation, disability, or racial, ethnic or cultural identity.  People who abuse their partners can be male or female.           

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