We have all, at times, completely lost our mellow in the face of conflict. We’ve all said things we shouldn’t have said, or done things we shouldn’t have done. We’ve all hurt the ones we love. It’s human. So what’s the difference between that and abuse?
There are a lot of ways to classify abuse. One red flag is intent. I grew up with narcissistic people who wanted to punish me for any behavior that indicated I wasn’t fawning over them. I was punished for tiny, bizarre things, like not answering a question at the dinner table fast enough because I had food in my mouth. The difference between an abuser and a normal person is that they want to hurt you. They look for ways to hurt you. They do not apologize for hurting you, and if they do, it’s a manipulation tactic in order to hurt you again. An abuser lacks true remorse, and is unmotivated to change. An abuser will say, “I didn’t mean to,” but unless there is actual evidence over time of remorse and changed behavior to back up the words, it’s abuse.
Distorted thinking and lack of boundaries are other red flags. One time I asked my mother not to have a known child molester over to the house when my one year old daughter was around. Not only would a normal person find this request reasonable, they would not be inviting child molesters over to begin with. My mother got upset with me for being so cold-hearted and cruel for calling the child molester a child molester, even though she was the one who had originally confirmed it. She not only refused to have a boundary, she doubled down and had the child molester over more often. Subsequently, I went no contact with her soon after.
Control is the central issue behind abuse. Abusers must control the thoughts and actions of others at all times. It is impossible for an abuser to accept people for who they are. Abusers make demands that force others to conform to their will. If they don’t, they will be punished, blamed, ridiculed, and sometimes, destroyed. Abusers will make sure that everyone around them is striving to please them, but they cannot be pleased.
If you are wondering if you are in an abusive relationship, ask yourself this one question. Does this person love you in a way that makes you feel free to truly be yourself? If the answer is no, or sometimes, it’s time to walk away.