October is Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence Awareness month. Domestic/intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is when one partner in an intimate relationship exhibits patterns of behavior to maintain power and control over the other partner.
The term “violence” may cause you to think of physical assault. But did you know that a woman can experience intimate partner violence (IPV) even if she’s never been physically hit by her partner? That’s because power and control over another person can happen through non-physical abuse.
In this article, we’ll discuss information to help you determine if you’re in an abusive relationship so that you can take steps to safety.
The Difference Between Healthy, Unhealthy, and Abusive Relationships
Even healthy relationships can be messy at times, so how can you know if your relationship healthy, or unhealthy, and simply needs some tools to improve — or if it’s crossed over into abuse (DV/IPV)? Next, we’ll discuss the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.
1. Signs that you’re in a healthy relationship.
- Mutual respect: Mutual respect in your relationship means you consider and value one another’s ideas, needs, and feelings. You keep one another in mind when making decisions.
- Trust: When trust exists in your relationship, you will feel emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe. Partners value truth, honesty, and can be counted on.
- Equality: With relationship equality, one partner doesn’t dominate over the other. Rather, each partner’s desires and interests are considered and respected. For example, both partners have access to finances and a voice about how money is spent.
- Open communication: A healthy relationship has open communication, meaning you can feel safe and heard when you communicate transparently with your partner. In a healthy relationship, you can communicate and not worry that what you say will get harshly criticized, trigger anger, or fuel an argument.
- Boundaries: A healthy relationship has boundaries. Boundaries define where you end and where someone else begins. You set boundaries for yourself but never for another person to control them in a healthy relationship.
- Consent:Consent is an ongoing mutual agreement between partners about what they do or don’t want to experience in the relationship.
Now that you’ve learned about several characteristics of healthy relationships, we’ll move on to examine traits of unhealthy relationships.
2. Signs that you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
- Disrespect: Your partner isn’t considerate of your needs, feelings, and opinions.
- Distrust: Distrust is cultivated when you don’t feel safe in your relationship. This often happens if your partner lies to you or doesn’t tell the whole truth by omitting information. You may also be unable to trust your partner if he is consistently unreliable.
- Inequality: Inequality in a relationship is when your partner feels that his position or needs are more important than yours. For example, your partner might believe he has the right to make financial decisions without discussing them with you.
- Poor communication: You are in an unhealthy relationship if you and your partner are in a pattern of arguing about problems or avoid discussing them at all.
- Not setting or honoring boundaries: Relationships without boundaries or that don’t honor boundaries are unhealthy. Examples include if you are unable to say no to your partner or if you feel you need to accept betrayals by your partner.
- Lack of consent: If your partner uses guilt or other tactics to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do, you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
Unhealthy relationships are usually difficult, but they can become healthy when both partners are committed to practicing new relationship skills.
Unhealthy relationships are not the same as abusive relationships. Remember that abusive relationships (DV/IPV) are characterized by power and control.
3. Signs that you’re in an abusive relationship.
- Mistreatment: Mistreatment includes being blatantly disrespectful towards you with actions or words intended to harm you. Rather than respect your thoughts, needs, and feelings, your partner disregards them.
- Extreme distrust: Your partner regularly accuses you of cheating and may stalk you on social media, track your location, or demand to know your passwords so he can check up on you.
- Control: Rather than feeling like an equal partner in your relationship, your partner wants to control you. He makes decisions without taking your needs or opinions into account. He may control all access to finances or prevent you from working. He might also control where you go, who you can spend time with, or speak to.
- Contemptuous communication: Your partner communicates with contempt, which may include mocking, demeaning, mimicking, and hostile humor (followed by a declaration that he was “just joking”). It also includes intimidating you with a look.
- Inability to have/enforce boundaries: If you’re unable to have boundaries at all in your relationship, or if you have them but they’re regularly violated, you may be in an abusive relationship? Does your partner violate your boundaries? For example, it’s a violation of your boundaries if you decide that you won’t stay in the room if he is yelling at you, but he won’t allow you to leave.
- Lack of consent: It’s a sign that your relationship is abusive if your partner forces you to do things you don’t want to do. This includes forcing you to have sexual interactions you don’t want.
Reproductive Abuse and Coercion
Examples of reproductive abuse and coercion may include behaviors such as:
- Sabotaging birth control without your knowledge, causing you to become pregnant.
- Pressuring you to become pregnant when you don’t want to.
- Threatening you if you become pregnant.
- Pressuring you to have an abortion or threatening you if you want to continue your pregnancy.
- Exposing you to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) intentionally.
What if I’m in an Abusive Relationship?
At Corbella Clinic, we understand that it can feel unsettling when you learn information that reveals you might be in an abusive relationship. As hard as it is to think about, you probably already knew it in your “gut.”
Your next step is to equip yourself with information from experts so that you can determine what next steps might be wise to keep you safe. Begin by reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and they can guide you to your local resources. You deserve to be treated with loving respect!
If you think you might be pregnant, we invite you to reach out to Corbella Clinic today and make an appointment for a confidential, no-cost pregnancy test. Our caring professionals will walk with you every step of the way.
Bigley, J. (2023, August 25). 12 signs you’re in a healthy relationship. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/signs-of-a-healthy-relationship/
Consent. The Hotline. (2021, October 15). https://www.thehotline.org/resources/consent/
Reproductive abuse and coercion. WomensLaw.org. (2020, April 8). https://www.womenslaw.org/about-abuse/forms-abuse/reproductive-abuse-and-coercion
Types of abuse. love is respect. (2022, March 21). https://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/types-of-abuse/