The Relationship From Hell-How to Recognize It

The Relationship From Hell-How to Recognize It 1

You’d think it would be a no-brainer. A relationship from hell should be easy to recognize. However, many women (and men) get into abusive relationships and stay in them because they don’t understand what constitutes abuse. I know this from personal experience. It took me nearly 12 years to leave a marriage that I later understood was abusive.

We’re attracted to someone because we need something from them. In a healthy relationship that something is love, security, respect. In an unhealthy, abusive relationship from Hell, you have the same basic needs, but the difference is, you really, really need them. Usually, if this is the case, you didn’t get your basic needs for love, security, and respect met when you were a little kid. Consequently, because you still need those things that you didn’t get, you tend to go looking for them as an adult in relationships. The problem is, you unconsciously look for people like the parents who didn’t satisfy your needs early on. You might not think your partner is like one or both of your parents, but if you really think about it, you might remember, for example, that your mother wasn’t available to you emotionally, and neither is your partner. Or your father had a short fuse and so does your partner.

Many people think that abuse means that he beats you up, and your partner doesn’t do that! The truth is, there are many other subtle forms of abuse. With or without violence, here’s what an abusive relationship looks like:

Your partner controls how you live. He tells you what to wear, when to wash the dishes, what to cook for dinner, etc. He makes you account for every minute of your time, maybe even checks the time on the receipt when you went to the store, to make sure that’s where you really were.

Your partner devalues your opinions and feelings. If you express your own opinion he puts you down and makes fun of you when you don’t agree with him, telling you how stupid you are.

Your partner switches from charm to rage without warning. You have to walk on eggshells so as not to upset him. You can never predict what’s going to set him off, which keeps you feeling off-balance all the time.

Your partner intimidates you by yelling at or threatening you. Or he refuses to talk to you.

Your partner is jealous and possessive. You have to be super-careful not to look at someone else or compliment them, even same-sex people, or he’ll accuse you of sleeping with them.

Your partner blames you for everything. According to your partner, if something went wrong, you caused it.

You give up relationships and activities that are important to you. Either he demands that you separate yourself from friends and family, or he makes it so unpleasant and embarrassing to be around them that you finally let them go.

You often feel confused, inadequate. You ask yourself if it’s something you’ve done, if it really is your fault, even though in your heart you know it’s not.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, what you need to know is this: It’s not going to get any better and the longer you allow it to continue, it’s likely to get worse. Getting out of an abusive relationship won’t be easy, especially when children are involved, but it’s the only way to get your life back and create some happiness for yourself. Twenty-five or thirty years ago there were few resources for women in abusive relationships–when I sought help in 1982 I was told that I was lucky to have a car to sleep in. Now there are many resources available to you. Some are listed here:

This is a topic I’m passionate about because my 27 year-old daughter Jennifer was murdered by her boyfriend. He was in law enforcement, and before he killed her had never hit her. But everything described above was true of their relationship, and is typical of virtually all abusive relationships. My daughter’s killer committed suicide next to her body. Someone who plans suicide has nothing to lose, and it’s becoming increasingly common for abusers to take their partner and children with them.

Jennifer and Tom knew each other for only ten months. The night of her death she had decided to leave him. She waited too long. Please don’t wait. Get help now.

The Relationship From Hell-How to Recognize It 2Sheila Lowe is a forensic handwriting expert and author. She provides continuing education to marriage and family therapists.

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  1. This is a great post and I know a lot of those signs were present from my marriage and not just from my husband. I did a lot of it as well. It took us 5 years to realize this and we work everyday to not be those lost in translation kids that we were when we got married.

    I know before I get that abuse was more than him (or I) beating the mess out of the other. I know my case would be a very rare situation and I hope that those that may be in a situation like this.

  2. I’m so sorry for the lose of your daughter. What a horrible thing that happened. I worked with a nurse that was murdered by the guy she had broken off the relationship with. He hide and waited by her apartment when she got off the 3-11 shift. Poor thing she never had a chance. She was a really kind person and the guy was very controlling. He was constantly calling at work to make sure she was there and not somewhere else.

  3. I’m so sorry for the lose of your daughter that is so sad. I have always said that mental and emotional abuse is sometimes worse then physical. I’m really glad I read this, it opened my eyes to a few things !

  4. Thanks for the kind words from all of you. There’s a tremendous amount of abuse around us, and just being able to identify what it is can be a first step to turning the situation around.

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