After writing about forced love last week, Maya approached me for more on the subject thinking she was in a similar situation. But when I heard her story, it was worse than that. Her boyfriend Jackson, whom she met at the Billy Ocean concert in April, last year, looks and sounds like an American which is everything she wanted in a man. But in November when she moved in with him after eight months of knowing each other, things changed. When she told of him of her intentions to go back to school and further her education this year, he said she was obviously not going to make it and that money would be wasted. He made her cut the hair and stop wearing makeup because according to him, she is ‘beautiful and perfect’ without it. Now he has started waiting for her outside work. If she doesn’t come out immediately, he gets angry and accuses her of cheating. Yes it makes sense to think this guy has just fallen out of love but for me, this is a classic example of emotional abuse. It’s sad that the victims like Maya don’t usually think about it since there are no punches thrown. But just because you aren’t getting smacked around doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering. So where do you draw the line between ordinary arguments and emotional abuse?
1.Your partner has jealousy issues
Emotionally abusive people usually have a low self-esteem that makes them mistrust their partners. That’s why they want to know who you’re with all the time and get angry if you don’t “report in”; exactly what Jackson does to Maya. Always suspecting her and thinking she flirts with other men, yet she doesn’t. If you are observant, you will notice that such a partner or spouse isn’t just jealous of the people you are hanging out with but also your dreams and goals because they want to control all aspects of your life especially the finances and how you spend money. That’s why when Maya wanted to go back to school, Jackson said no!
2.Your partner is controlling
Emotionally abusive relationships are imbalanced that it’s ok for your partner to rant and rave, but you can’t. With them, everything leads to an argument since they want to control you and treat you like a child. With such a person it is impossible to disagree without it quickly turning into a fight. If like Maya, you find yourself staying silent even when you’re angry just to keep the peace seek counselling, both joint and individual or get out of that abusive relationship.
3.Your partner scares you
Arguments are normal in relationships and are not always unhealthy. But if yours tend to escalate quickly and have no end point because your partner is always moody, not just every once in a while, but most of the time like Jackson who expects Maya on phone all day with updates on her where bouts, you are being abused. If you are walking on eggshells, always trying to avoid problems because you fear that anything will set your partner off, it is not only a clue that abuse is going on but also a sign that you no longer have a real relationship.
4. If your partner is moody
It was Maya Angelou, her name sake who said that “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” As long as you are never sure what mood they will be in, or what you did this time to upset them, but are always sure it’s your fault and any expression of emotion on your part becomes an attack, move. Because there is hitting involved but Maya can’t find a name for the behaviour that makes her feel “unwell” in Jackson’s presence. Those subtle put-downs thrown in the conversation about her going back to school created wounds on the heart and that is abuse.
5. You feel stuck.
If one minute your partner is charming especially in public and the next mean because it’s just the two of you, it is so confusing. Not only because none of your friends and family can believe what you’re experiencing but also because you think that with your love they will change, if only you can hang in long enough. Just like Maya, You aren’t happy, but you’re not sure of your alternatives so you now just try to see the world from their point of view. Don’t get fooled! That stress will eventually catch up with you in the form of illness, emotional trauma, depression, or anxiety. You simply can’t allow it to continue, even if it means ending the relationship.