I am surprised by how many people are in abusive relationships and don’t know it. If you grew up in a household where the line between love and abuse was blurry, you might learn that that is what love looks like. So you either love that way or accept love that is offered in that way.
Want a healthier relationship? Then you have to be able to spot abusive behaviors that look like love. Here are a seven abusive behaviors that look like love.
Unwanted Sexual Contact
Some partners think that sex is a way to show how much you love each other. They can feel entitled to sex when, where, and how they want it.
Any type of touching that is not consensual is abuse. Healthy boundaries means that all touch is always consensual. People aren’t property. Love doesn’t give someone the right to touch you in ways that you don’t like, when, or where you don’t want it. You have a right to your own body and can say no anytime. Calling rape love doesn’t make it okay.
“I can’t live without you” may sound romantic, but it’s manipulation. Using suicidal threats to control someone else’s actions is not love. If this is happening to you, call the suicide hotline and let them handle it. It’s not your responsibility.
We’ve all heard the love-at-first-sight stories. They are so romantic! Who doesn’t want to be swept off their feet by someone who looks into your eyes and just knows that you’re the one? It may feel awfully flattering to be showered with gifts, attention, and honeyed words that come at you at lightning speed, but this is often a caution sign. The intense passion is often followed by intense negative emotions, so be careful.
Isolation can look like not wanting you to work, not wanting you to spend time with your friends, or driving a wedge between you and your family. If you don’t have a social life outside of your relationship, you could be isolated.
Your partner could be give lots of reasons for isolation. Here are a few:
- Your partner doesn’t trust your family, friends or coworkers.
- The kids/your partner needs you at home.
- Your partner just wants what’s best for you.
- Moving away from your family and friends will be better for your partner’s career or your family.
- You can’t afford to go to school or go on a friends vacation.
- This job is beneath you or is too inconvenient.
- Your partner just wants to take care of you.
The bottom line is, we all need social and family support. Our partner can’t be the one and only thing that matters.
Telling You What to Do
I am surprised by how many people will let their partner tell them how to dress, who they can hang out with, what activities they can indulge in, or where they can work. It’s usually offered as helpful suggestions or judgments rather than threats, but it’s still a form of control.
In healthy relationships, both partners can make their own choices. Jealousy isn’t “cute.” It’s not a sign of how deeply someone cares. It’s a sign of insecurity. If you have to diminish yourself to make someone else happy, you’re giving up too much of yourself.
It might seem like people who never argue are happier than those who do. Conflict is normal. Nobody agrees all the time. If you are in a relationship where issues aren’t talked about and resolved, it can feel like you’ve found the perfect mate. … until you’re years down the road with a mountain of mess that has been swept underneath the rug.
Healthy people can talk about things in a calm way and stick with unpleasant issues until they are resolved. Couples who can’t do this won’t grow. So while we all want to be calm and agreeable, if that is achieved by avoiding conflict, that’s not loving. Sometimes love requires courage.
Defending Drama By Saying It’s Because S/he Cares
Intense anger, smashing things, crying, jealousy and those types of behaviors can feel like evidence that your partner is so passionate about you that s/he just loses control. This isn’t a sign of love, but a lack of self discipline.
These types of behaviors are usually abusive because they hurt and deny you safety and autonomy. Someone who truly cares for you wants you to feel safe and fulfilled- even if that means you choose something that they don’t particularly like or want.
1 Corinthians says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I think those are really useful guidelines for assessing whether or not your relationship is based in love or something else. While no relationship is ever perfect, when we are loving, we are better individuals and partners. So why not strive for that?