You’ve probably heard it before: your partner telling you that you’re the abusive one. That’s a tough thing to hear, especially if you’re wrestling with the thoughts of them being abusive. Are they telling the truth? Am I the abusive one?
There are only two possible answers to this question, and by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly if you’re the abusive one.
It can be really jarring to hear the person you love tell you that you’re abusive, so that’s why we will get to the bottom of what’s really happening here.
You can also download your FREE Abusive Relationships Ebook, which will teach you which red flags to look out for, and how to heal!
By the end of this post, you will know:
Signs that show you that you’re the victim, not the abuser
Signs that you’re showing abusive tendencies
How to stop being abusive, if you have such tendencies
Let’s get to it!
Am I the Abusive One? Signs that You Aren’t.
The issue with your partner accusing you of being abusive is that it could all be a big, fat lie. A common pattern with abusers is to accuse you of something that isn’t true, simply to get you to stop calling them out on their own shortcomings.
This blame shifting can totally mess with your mind, and your sense of self.
However, simply telling you that you’re not abusive is not enough to convince you, I know that. You need concrete examples!
If you can see yourself in the following scenarios, you are not abusive:
You’re not abusive if… You fight back.
If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, your partner will try to hurt you or pin you down to exert control. There’s really no easy way to react to being put in this situation, because your safety is compromised!
I’m willing to bet that you have a pretty sturdy self-defense law where you live. Think about that for a second.
Why would they make a law for something like that? Because you have every right to protect yourself in an abusive situation.
By fighting back, your intentions are to:
Get away from the situation
Protect someone else, like your child
You didn’t throw the first punch. You are not the abusive one if you want to feel safe.
Being violent or aggressive is abusive if it’s done to exert power. In an abusive relationship, the power dynamics are messed up. One partner has control over the other, and in a physically abusive relationship, they show that power with their body.
If that doesn’t sound like you, you’re not being abusive.
You’re the victim if… You raise your voice.
We’re human. We all lose our cool sometimes. While yelling can be a trademark of verbal abuse, it’s the circumstances that can show if it’s a toxic pattern, or just a one-off thing.
When I was in an abusive relationship, I raised my voice once. I’m not a yeller, but I was absolutely sick of not being understood, and him doing everything in his power to get under my skin.
The example above shows that it’s not a common occurrence. Still, I struggled with the idea that I was abusive for a while.
Let’s make sure that you don’t go the same thing.
Look at how often and why you yell.
Do you yell to get them to shut up? Abusive.
Do you yell because you feel hopeless? Not abusive.
If you never resort to yelling as your way to communicate with your partner, that’s not abusive. Most likely, you’re feeling hopeless in your situation and usually know how to communicate in a healthy way.
If you yell not to belittle your partner or tell them to shut up, that’s not abusive. A toxic way of yelling would be to exert power over your partner. If you’re not doing that, you may be in the clear.
It’s okay if you feel guilty for yelling. That means you’ve got a conscience, and you probably don’t yell very often. As long as it isn’t a pattern, you’re not veering into toxicity.
You’re not abusive if…You get mad when they pick at you.
Even the calmest people get annoyed when someone keeps picking at them. However, this could be used as an excuse for abusive behaviour.
Here’s how to tell the difference.
Not abuse: If you’ve already explained to your partner that you don’t like their behaviour and they keep doing it, and then you lose your cool, that is not abusive. It’s an annoyed reaction to them not respecting your boundaries.
Abuse: You snap at them for the smallest things. You have not told them that you don’t like their behaviour. You also resort to personal insults to get them to shut up.
Do you see the difference? Again, one is purely defensive while the other one goes way overboard with trying to overpower their partner. If you look at it with that logic, you can tell where you stand.
You’re the victim if… You break up with them but end up coming back
This one is a doozy, and you might be scratching your head if you haven’t experienced this.
Your partner might accuse you of being abusive if you get the courage to leave them, but end up coming back to them for whatever reason.
Their usual logic? Playing with their feelings.
Here’s why that’s not abusive, in almost every scenario. If you’re in an abusive relationship, it takes a lot of courage to end the relationship. However, it takes even more courage to continue on without them, especially if you were dependent on them.
A lot of victims end up going back to that relationship because it provides comfort and it’s something familiar.
You’re abusive if… You control their social media.
I always find it really weird when couples share a Facebook account. However, that’s not always controlling behaviour.
If you have a tendency to want to know your partner’s phone and social media passwords, or even track them on their phone, that’s abusive.
Why is that abusive? In a healthy relationship, there’s a certain level of trust that’s needed. Both parties are equal, and they trust each other’s loyalty.
Being cheated on is an excuse I hear often when people have their partner’s passwords. To that, I say: it’s still controlling and it’s not a healthy way to handle what you’ve been through.
People have a right to privacy.
You’re abusive if… You use the silent treatment to get your way.
If you’re not 13, you should not be giving the silent treatment as a form of punishment. If the goal of not speaking to your partner is to get your way, that’s controlling.
Giving someone the silent treatment is not a healthy form of communication. If you keep using it in fights, your relationship will deteriorate.
Keep in mind that needing time to cool off is totally different than giving someone the silent treatment. This is because the intention is different: cooling off has the intention of calming yourself down, while giving the silent treatment is a manipulation tactic.
You’re abusive if… You cheated on them and lied about it.
The honourable thing to do after cheating on someone is to tell them. Trust is the most important thing in a relationship, right?
However, if they come to you with concerns that you’re cheating on them and you have the audacity to tell them that it’s not true, you’re being abusive.
To those who disagree with that being abusive, let me tell you why it is. You know the score. You’re intentionally manipulating your partner to get your way (which is to stay in the relationship), and to control their reactions. That’s not healthy.
You messed up, bud. You owe it to them to be truthful about what happened, because in a healthy relationship, you two are equals. By lying about it, you’re keeping them under your thumb.
You’re abusive if… You think they owe you sex.
In a lot of relationships, intimacy is a huge priority. However, in a lot of dynamics, some partners start to believe that sex must happen when they want it to, even though their partners don’t want to.
If you guilt your partner into having sex or having any kind of intimacy with the following excuses, you’re abusive:
Asking them if they still love you
Telling them that you two “haven’t done it in a while”
Telling them that it’s their responsibility to make you happy
Asking if they’re cheating on you or causing any other unnecessary drama
Pretty much any response that isn’t “Ok, sure” has some tinge of control in it. Again, you two are equals, so one person shouldn’t be pressuring the other to have sex. That’s not a super romantic way to set the scene.
Let me shout it from the rooftops: No one owes you anything. If they tell you that they’re in pain and you keep going, that’s controlling and abusive. Please be respectful.
You’re abusive if… You’ve threatened to kill yourself.
It’s one thing to be in a depressed state and want the support of your partner, but it’s quite another to guilt them into staying with you.
Threatening to kill yourself if your partner breaks up with you is actually a common situation in a lot of abusive relationships.
There’s a common theme here: it’s all about control. If they stay in the relationship, you still have them. They don’t leave because they would feel guilty.
In normal relationships, the suicidal partner would not rely on his or her partner to get through life. They would seek professional help and work on bettering themselves.
Ok, So I’m Abusive. How Do I Stop?
Do you see the common theme in all of the examples above? Being abusive is exerting control to keep your power in a relationship. By realizing that you have abusive tendencies, you’re already on the right track to healing.
There are lots of ways you can start healing, but a big thing you have to learn is that healthy relationships are equal. There is a mutual respect there, and a level of trust that exists. A healthy relationship looks like:
A respect of their boundaries, and they respect yours
Something that progresses a slowly and in a healthy way
Fair fighting, with no yelling or physically hurting the other person.
It can be difficult to visualize what a healthy relationship looks like, especially if you haven’t been surrounded by them. However, by doing your research and trying to find good relationship mentors around you, you’re on the right track.
Another way to stop being abusive is to finally seek professional help. Therapists are judgment-free zones. Not only will you get the tools you need to manage your emotions and seek healthy relationships, but you can also talk through the events in your life that caused these abusive tendencies.
You might hate this next trick, but it will help you if you stayed single for a while. You need to do some personal growth to become a healthier human, and that’s harder to do when you’re fixing an abusive relationship. By being single, you’re using your energy for self improvement, and you know that your next relationship will be healthy.
Asking yourself “Am I the abusive one?” shows that you’re able to do self-reflection. This is great! Usually, a lot of seriously abusive people aren’t able to reflect like that.
Even if you do end up having abusive tendencies, you have the ability to evolve. Forgive yourself for your past, and move on to a healthier future.
You owe it to yourself to begin a healthier chapter in your life.
If you want to learn more, download my FREE abusive relationships ebook to have all of your bases covered.