I Need Out of This Relationship, NOW! Part 1: Healthy vs. Unhealthy and Abusive Relationships

Every person living is in a relationship. This relationship could be romantic, a friendship, an acquaintance, or work-related. Humans need connections to live. Correction, we need healthy connections to live fully and happily. However, not all relationships are healthy. Some partnerships are full of selfishness, neglect, and sometimes abuse.

Healthy Relationships. While not all relationships look the same, there are commonalities all of them share, good or bad. Healthy relationships will have the following traits: honesty, support, appropriate communication, equality, trust, respect, playfulness, and the ability to have separate identities.[1] Being in a healthy relationship takes much work on all parties involved. The connection must encompass all of the traits listed above, not just a couple of them. If one quality is unhealthy, the chances of the relationship lasting long term start to decrease. Even with the work that a healthy relationship takes, it should produce more happiness than stress and anxiety.

Unhealthy Relationships. Unhealthy relationships exhibit the opposite traits as healthy ones: lying, lack of support, poor communication, untrustworthiness, disrespect, inequality, rigidity, and being clingy with the other person. Each of these qualities can take on various appearances.

Lying. Being untrue about thoughts, feelings, money, and other relationships are detrimental to any form of contact. Also, it is a problem if you find yourself lying to others about your partner because you are ashamed or embarrassed by them. Honesty is at the heart of any relationship, and if it is missing, there is not much of a chance of it surviving very long.

Lack of support. When your partner does not support you or the things you do, your relationship will struggle. If you feel pressure to quit something you enjoy doing, or doing something that you would rather not, issues will arise for you and your partner. Feeling lonely, even when you are with your partner, is also a sign of not feeling supported by them.

Communication. Lack of discussion or a negative tone to your conversation will cause problems in any relationship. When you cannot communicate effectively with your partner, it becomes difficult to express your wants and needs. Being angry or upsetting your partner is also an example of a severe communication issue. When you are worried about how they will react (yelling, becoming physically aggressive, shutting down), it will make you more likely to change what and how you communicate with them.

Trust. Partners need to feel secure and comfortable in their relationships. They need to feel valued and supported, as well. These things all come with a certain level of trust between partners. When trust is strained or broken, the relationship will reflect this, and it will often be challenging to move forward or maintain the relationship.

If you fear for your safety, such that if your partner became angry enough that he or she might harm you in any way, the trust in your relationship is impaired. When your partner gets overly jealous of you talking to or being around others, they may not trust you to be faithful to them. Depending on the nature of your relationship, the offending partner may also fear that you will reveal information that would make others see them in a negative light.

Disrespect. Being disrespectful in a relationship can encompass a great many things. Your partner could demand that you change something about yourself to suit their needs and achieve their perfect vision of whom they want you to be. Disrespect can include bribing, threatening, and controlling the ‘flawed’ partner.

One can identify disrespect by how one partner treats the other’s friends and family. In unhealthy relationships, the disrespectful partner might try to isolate the other from their friends and family and only allow them to be around his or her friends and family.

Disrespect can also come in the form of lowering the other’s self-esteem by name-calling, nit-picking, being overly critical, and shaming them.

“No,” is an essential word in any relationship. When you tell someone, “no,” and that person does not listen to you and proceed with what they were doing, they are disrespecting you. They are telling you that what you want does not matter, and what they want is more important. When your partner dismisses your emotions and boundaries (whether they be personal [including taking ownership of your thoughts, feelings, and actions], professional, or sexual), they are disrespectful.

Inequality. At times during any relationship, one partner is going to need a little more attention than the other, for whatever reason that may be. However, if this is a constant everyday occurrence in the relationship, where one person demands all of the attention and therefore is neglecting their partner, that is when it becomes detrimental to the relationship as a whole. Partnerships are meant to be built by two equals, and when one perceives themselves to be more important, the relationship will struggle to survive in a healthy manner long-term.

Inequality can also be seen in the form of ‘scorekeeping’ When one partner brings up past indiscretions, no matter what they might be, it is harmful over time in the relationship because the issue is not getting solved or forgiven, and it will be used as ammunition.

Rigidity. When your partner has to know where you are at all times, who you are with, and what you are doing, often it is because they crave a sense of control. If you are always ‘walking on eggshells’ because of your partner’s ‘rules,’ it can be challenging to want to be around them, and you might find yourself making excuses to not be with them. Relationships should have some sense of playfulness and fun about them. When this is gone, it is hard to find joy in being with the other person.

Clinging. If you or your partner find yourselves at each others side a majority of the time, this can cause problems. Time apart is essential. Pursuing your interests is vital. Having a lack of privacy and feeling like you are forced by one partner to share anything and everything with the other is not a healthy relationship trait. When one partner feels or seems like they are being smothered by the other, issues will likely arise. Such problems can be caused by being insecure, or they want to manipulate the other into doing anything and everything their way. When you feel like your individuality in a relationship is ceasing to exist, it is time to look at the relationship and figure out if this is something you want to continue.

Abusive Relationships. A partner who makes you feel worse about yourself as a person than you did when the relationship started could be a sign of an abusive partner. If this is the case, it is time to make a decision, try to repair the partnership, or get out of it. If your partner is bribing, blackmailing, or threatening you or someone you love to stay in the relationship, you need to try to repair it or get out. Getting out of an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship may seem like it would be a simple task While it can be simple in many cases, other times it is the hardest thing you will ever do, especially if your partner is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), or if they exhibit traits of either of these disorders. Before diving into the dynamics of someone diagnosed with NPD, an abusive relationship will first be defined, including a  brief review of the reasons it happens.  At the heart of any abusive relationship lies insecurity. The abuser is insecure about themselves and therefore feels a need to dominate and control their partner. They have a fear of not being loved and appearing weak to anyone and everyone around them. The contradiction, though, is that the abuser is the vulnerable party. The fact that the abuser is insecure is why they abuse in the first place to keep some sense of control. At the beginning of the relationship, they can appear charming, kind, and attentive. Lisa Ferentz, a licensed clinical social worker who has her private practice in Maryland and specializes in trauma, explained to the Huffington Post that perpetrators would ‘groom’ the person they want to abuse. “In doing so, they win over the trust and confidence of their victims, which makes the victims vulnerable to subsequent abuse.”[2]

Defined in simplest terms, ‘grooming’  means the abuser is intentionally manipulating the other. They are finding ways to get ‘the victim’ (for lack of a better term) to trust them to keep the abused tied to them however possible. The abuser might buy their new partner lavish gifts, take them on vacations, compliment them regularly, and give them an abundance of attention. What the partner fails to realize that these gifts come with strings attached. Once the relationship is established, the abuser will expect some ‘payment’ for all of these gifts.

Physical and sexual abuse are fairly blatant. There is ‘proof’ to both of these types of damage. If your partner hits, kicks, or throws things at you, you can see and feel confirmation of it. There will likely be bruises or broken objects. If your partner forces sex of any kind on you, that is abuse. Furthermore, any unwanted touching, hugs, kisses, or groping of any sort is considered sexual assault, which could potentially lead to harm. Other blatant forms include financial and cultural exploitation.

Emotional/verbal abuse and mental/psychological abuse (indicated in for the remainder of this series as emotional abuse) are more subtle. Emotional abuse is a tool that abusers with traits of or diagnosed with NPD commonly use against their victims and are harder to ‘see.’ Emotional abuse can take on many different forms, including: “insulting, criticizing, threatening, gaslighting, ridiculing, shaming, intimidating, swearing, name-calling, stonewalling, lying, belittling, and ignoring.”[3] These behaviors are not a comprehensive list of the various ways someone might be emotionally abused, as there are countless other ways. However, these are the most common manifestations. As with unhealthy relationships, each form can appear somewhat different, depending on the relationship.

If you are having to censor what you are saying or having to avoid specific topics while conversing with your partner, it could be a sign that your relationship is emotionally abusive. As with the unhealthy relationships,  you should not have to ‘walk on eggshells’ around your partner, boss, friends, or family.

When you recall a specific event, and your partner tries to get you to remember it a different way, this is called gaslighting, and it is something abusers use quite often with their victims. They want you to remember things their way, not how they happened. The more this happens, the more the abuser is likely to get you to go along with what they are saying, making it easier for them to manipulate and control you. For example, you recall your first interactions one way, and they say, “no dear, remember it happened this way.” They are trying to discredit you and make you feel ‘less.’ Less confident, less reliable, less truthful, and so on. Chances are, your partner is trying to get you to remember it a certain way, so they don’t look like they were lying for remembering it their way.

It is emotionally abusive if your partner wants to know how you are spending all of your time, whom you are spending it with, or even mandating that you spend all of your time with them. The abuser might play it off like they are concerned for you or want to make sure you are safe, but they actually want to have more control over you and what you do. Along with this is dictating whom you can spend your time. If your partner says that you can only be around them and their friends, there is a problem. If you are not allowed to talk to your family or people who you are close to, it is a good indication that your partner is emotionally abusive.

When your partner jokes about you or claims that you shouldn’t take what they say so seriously after they belittle or embarrass you, there is a chance that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, especially if it happens often. Jokes can include: you’re stupid, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re crazy, and so on. The abusive partner wants you to feel less than you are to elevate themselves higher. In the world of social media, it is somewhat easier to get away with this, but it is also complicated to get rid of it once it’s out there.

Emotionally abusive individuals often tell their partners that they are selfish, stupid, or inconsiderate, which leads the partner to feel like they have to always apologize for what they do or say. For example, if you ‘like’ something on social media and your emotionally abusive partner doesn’t like it, you apologize or make excuses for why this ‘like’ happened. Again, things on social media are hard to get rid of, and those who follow you will begin to question the nature of you and your partner’s relationship.

A partner who vacillates from ‘hot’ to ‘cold’ is also a sign of someone who is emotionally abusive. Their ultimate goal is to have you please them no matter what mood they are exhibiting. The abuser wants you so confused about why they are acting the way they are that you give in to what they want you to do at a moment’s notice. In a romantic relationship, your abuser could kiss you one moment, and then yell, kick, or put you down the next. You never know what they are going to do next. If your partner is not consistent, it can also include getting together and breaking up multiple times.

An emotionally abusive partner will target your strengths and accomplishments, and use those against you or not acknowledge them at all. Your partner is threatened by your successes and will do what they can to tear you down. Let’s say you work in IT, and you have been dealing with a virus all day long, and you finally get it all cleared up. An emotionally abusive boss might come up to you and say, “What took you all day long? If I hadn’t been in meetings I could have had it done in at least half the time if not sooner.” Instead of praising you for getting the virus cleaned up, your boss yells and belittles you. It could be likely that your boss didn’t know what to do and wanted it to look like they could have done better. They see you as a threat to their job.

When your partner threatens to harm or even kill themselves if you leave them or break up with them, they are emotionally abusive. Self-harm and suicide are big motivators for people, and the emotionally abusive partner is very aware of this fact. They are wanting to manipulate you into staying with them, and this is one more way that they can do that.

The abuser is responsible for nothing they’ve done wrong, ever. If something goes wrong, it is the partner’s fault. If a bill doesn’t get paid on time, or a shirt doesn’t get washed, or the wrong meal is cooked for supper, it is the partner’s mistake, regardless of who is in charge of what. An abuser always has an excuse or a way to explain away what has happened, especially if they were the one in the wrong.

For an overall example of what I consider to be an overlooked type of abusive relationships, look at some happenings in Hollywood. I know, we can’t trust everything we see, but when enough celebrities come out with similar stories, we need to start paying better attention to what is going on with the individuals we see on our televisions, movie screens, or hear on the radio. Actors/actresses/singers are being advised to ‘stay in the closet’[4][5][6][7] by their management teams and agents or are not ‘coming out’ for fear of what it will do to their careers.[8] The assumption is that as ‘straight’ actors/actresses/singers, they will make more money, which will, in turn, make their team more money. Also, there is still such prejudice and hatred toward the LGBTQ community that some Hollywood execs might fear alienation by hiring ‘out’ actors. Teams that keep their clients in the closet for money are abusing them.

The team is using their power to dominate their clients into what they want them to do and what will make them, as a team, more money. Teams will make their closeted clients be in relationships that are not of their choosing or preference. It might not even matter if the ‘beard’ they choose stays faithful to you, as long as they are by your side at essential and high-profile events or when photographers are around. The team will seem like they are on your side at first, getting you the jobs you want, while not letting you be who you are. Someone who is controlling any of these aspects your life is abusing you. Period!

When the abuser has learned their partner’s insecurities, they will play on them. They will use them in any way they can to keep that person in the relationship. Again using the above example, if an abusive management team knows that their client is not ‘straight,’ they will use whatever means possible to keep them in the closet. Hiding one’s sexuality can come in the form of contracts, threatening, and bearding, mainly if the one being controlled and manipulated is not playing by the abuser’s rules. These things can both mentally and emotionally destroy the person being abused. The abused person could develop PTSD, anxiety, depression, or substance abuse issues. In some extreme cases, the abused individual has committed suicide after being in these types of relationships.

In the United States alone, 20 people experience domestic violence of some sort from their romantic partner every minute.[9] As we will see in the next part of this series, individuals diagnosed with NPD exhibit similar characteristics to those displayed in unhealthy and abusive relationships. Does this mean that all individuals diagnosed with or have traits of NPD will abuse their partners? No, it does not. It is good, however, to know what to look for and how to manage it should you ever find yourself in such a relationship.

 

REFERENCES:

Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J. & Stevens, M. (2011). The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

Borresen, K., & Borresen, K. (2018, November 16). 11 Subtle Signs You Might Be In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/signs-of-emotional-abuse-relationship_n_5a999fbee4b0a0ba4ad31a4d

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships. (2014, January). Retrieved March 26, 2019, from http://depts.washington.edu/hhpccweb/health-resource/healthy-vs-unhealthy-relationships/

Jacobs, M., & Jacobs, M. (2017, June 14). Colton Haynes, Once Told To Stay In The Closet, Returns With A Sparkling Outlook. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/colton-haynes-rough-night_n_59400b32e4b0b13f2c6e278e

Murphy, D. (2018, March 29). Ricky Martin Reveals Why He Kept His Sexuality a Secret for Decades. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.etonline.com/ricky-martin-reveals-why-he-kept-his-sexuality-a-secret-for-decades-99342

Pride_site. (2019, February 07). ‘Kyle XY’ Star Was Told to Stay in the Closet to Protect His Career. Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://www.pride.com/celebrities/2019/2/07/kyle-xy-star-was-told-stay-closet-protect-his-career

Towle, A. (2015, June 09). Did Glee’s Chris Colfer Go Back into the Closet? Retrieved April 19, 2019, from http://www.towleroad.com/2009/11/did-glees-chris-colfer-go-back-into-the-closet/

Villarreal, D. (2018, October 26). Garrett Clayton spills major tea on the career advisor who told him to stay closeted. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.queerty.com/garrett-clayton-spills-major-tea-career-advisor-told-stay-closeted-20181026

[1]Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

[2]Borrensen, K.

[3]Borrensen, K.

[4] Villarreal, D.

[5] Jacobs, M.

[6] Towle, A.

[7] Pride_site.

[8] Murphy, D.

[9] Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J. & Stevens, M.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *