I have really used the last year and a half or so to heal myself from within. This is a necessity to move forward. Not only did I have to understand the abuse, but I also had to understand the mistakes I made as it happened. My biggest realization was that I never understood what abuse is, because of my childhood. There are many types of abuse. Here are some common examples:
Emotional Abuse – Teasing, invalidating feelings, using guilt, blaming, jealousy, threatening, withholding affection, and the silent treatment. This type of abuse can lead a person to doubt reality, fear doing anything wrong, fear of expressing feelings and low self esteem. In life we will all make mistakes. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. If you find yourself walking on eggshells and trying to be perfect you might suffer from emotional abuse. I remember telling my therapist numerous time “if I could just be perfect, maybe things could be okay.” Well guess what, no one is perfect and no one should feel they have to be.
Intellectual Abuse – Having to prove things, mind games, demanding perfection, making one feel stupid, attacking ideas and opinions, manipulations of information and calling someone crazy. Very similar to emotional abuse and really can make one completely doubt oneself.
Financial Abuse – limiting access to money, making someone account for every penny, controlling the money, closing back accounts, wasting money, creating debt, not paying child support. We all know this is wrong, but understanding how these actions create an environment of control and need is how the abuse manifests.
Pets and Property Abuse – Killing or threatening pets, punching walls and doors, throwing things, damaging vehicles, smashing and breaking things. This abuse creates fear and confusion. This very much puts the victim in a constant state of fight or flight which drains our adrenal system creating adrenal fatigue which can wreck our autoimmune system and start a domino effect on our health. Beyond anything else, this is why I regret staying the most. Not only have I wasted so many good years of life, and set a poor example for my children, but my health has suffered immensely.
Psychological Abuse – Intimidating gestures and actions, threatening suicide, threatening to kill me, displaying weapons, denying he said things, making light of the abuse. This goes hand in hand with pets and property abuse, but is a step higher. Keeping you in a state of fight or flight, you get sicker and sicker.
Physical Abuse – blocking exits, driving too fast, locking you out of the house, intimidating, punching or kicking, spitting, strangling, hitting, restraining. This is often the only abuse we truly understand as abuse. We know hitting is wrong. Some of this was eyeopening to me though. I never understood how fearing the car and his reckless driving correlated with abuse. If I’m completely honest I remember how he set the cornerstone for this while we were dating by telling me we will always argue about his driving. Of course he said it in a joking manner, but this is manipulation at its finest.
Verbal Abuse – Name calling, searing, yelling, insulting, being condescending and sarcastic. Now where I’m from I do appreciate a good bit of sarcasm, but this isn’t witty or designed to make us laugh. This is down right insulting and mean. I can remember trying to escape the yelling so many times until I had no fight left in me. Then he was pissed off that I was too calm. The only way to truly make it stop is to leave and have as little contact as possible or no contact.
Sexual Abuse – Threatening to or having an affair, forcing or manipulating sex, sexual put-downs, criticizing how I dress, withholding sex, comparing me to others, using pornography, demanding sex. This was also eyeopening for me as well. I mean how many times have I heard that I should expect him to cheat on me, if I’m not willing to basically be readily available for sex at any given moment. I’ve never dressed correctly, but being the strong willed person I am, I didn’t change this about me. Which brings me to another point. Narcissists don’t select the weak or the meager. They pick targets that make them look good. Successful, beautiful, intelligent people. He once said this to me about an accomplishment of mine “of course you did. I wouldn’t marry someone who’s average.” All my accomplishments were about him. He would use my abilities as party tricks to woo his new friends.
Spiritual Abuse – Putting down faith, cutting one off from church, soul destroying behavior, using scripture to their advantage. When I remarried this man, he had found God again. This was just a ploy. He used this to acquire more supply and make people think he was a good man. They will use anything they can to suck you in, just to destroy you again.
Using Children – Abusing children, threatening to harm or take children away, refusing to make support payments, belittling in front of children, using visitation as leverage. The belittling usually happens before you leave and threatening harm or abusing children can keep us in the relationship, because we think we can protect them better if we are there. There is no easy fix to this one. In my opinion this alone is one of the hardest parts of abuse to navigate. Narcissists often try to get women pregnant, just to lock you down and for more control. This was one of the first steps in the cycle of abuse for me.
Social Abuse – Isolating from friends and family, monitoring phone call and car milage, dictating who you can see and preventing you from working. Abusers want you to feel helpless, so go get a job. Get out from under his or her thumb. Go see your family. These are stepping stones in your escape.
Using Culture – Using cultural excuses for abuse, putting down your culture, forcing you to adopt his cultural, no longer allowing you to participate in mainstream culture. Every bit of abuse is about control, brainwashing, and making you lose sight of who you are. The quicker we lose our identity the easier it is for them to confuse us and make us believe what they want us to believe. This is a slow process that we can’t usually see or understand while it is happening.
Do not believe you are weak because you fell into the clutches of a narcissist or abusive relationship. Almost all the women I know who have been or are victims of abuse are amazing women. They are the women you would never think could be abused. Be strong and remember that education is the first step to surviving and surviving leads to thriving.