6th November 2023
Opinion pieces are the view of the author and in no way reflect the views of the Liverpool Guild Student Media or Liverpool Guild of Students.
Verywell Mind characterises domestic abuse as “a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviours that wear down a person’s self-esteem and undermine their mental health.” This definition accurately depicts the chaos and fear that is inevitable in domestic abuse. Unfortunately, abuse is often elusive before the physical stages. People outside of these dynamics are usually oblivious when they know the parties involved. Realising abuse is happening can be difficult for individuals since society encourages forgiveness and second chances.
Domestic abusers range in age, gender, and race. Abusive people are often intensely complicated, alluring, and dangerous. Individuals experiencing abuse often feel a heightened sense of responsibility towards their abusive partner because of tactics imbued into the abused by the abuser to keep them trapped within the relationship. An abuser will make you feel responsible for their feelings and will punish you through their emotional projections. For instance, if they are feeling worthless, they will tell you that you are worthless. It has nothing to do with you, your looks, past, personality, or actions. Abusers will only change, if and when they are ready.
Becoming a survivor of an exploitative attachment is not a character flaw or evidence of personal failings. Many abusers are narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths meaning that they simply lack empathy and operate in a Machiavellian mode resulting in aggressively deceitful, spiteful, and manipulative Behaviour. Abusers are hyper-vigilant for empathetic prospective victims. You might have found that when you first met them, they seemed ‘perfect’ as they were respectful, open, and even excited to meet your friends and family. Most of all they portrayed themselves as loving and charismatic. Nevertheless, once you were both invested in the relationship, their sinister side reared its ugly head.
Abusers do this to keep you reminiscing a time and version of them that does not exist, leaving you feeling like you’re the reason for their extreme character changes. They will belittle, threaten and attack you when they feel like they are losing power in the relationship. An abuser may tell you that you need them or that no one can love you the way they do. These are manipulative tactics to keep you from putting up boundaries or leaving. A healthy attachment includes compromise, boundaries, apologies and understanding. The word ‘no’ should never be a dirty word in any relationship, and if it is then that is a red flag.
Abuse should not be elusive. It is very clear. Name-calling, controlling behaviors, intimidation, threats, boundary-breaking, and ultimately physical violence is all romantic warfare. And it is not acceptable. Relationships should be safe spaces in which both parties grow and explore their love, not dens of insecurity and judgment. If your partner is constantly hot and cold with you, you may be experiencing what Dr. Ramani calls ‘Narcissistic abuse’.
Narcissists are never satisfied and will breed commitment through the deployment of love-bombing. Their affection will be punctuated by devaluation, in the form of insults and abandonment. Often, narcissists will treat you terribly to test your loyalty to them. They will see your commitment to the relationship as permission to continue abusing you.
If you disagree with their cruel critiques/actions they will gaslight you (make you question your reality) or worse, become enraged. This internal cycle will continue until you are brave enough to leave. You cannot change them or love them into being healthy. You are not a rehabilitation centre. At the fundamental level abusers are broken, and it is NOT your job to fix them.
27,375. That’s how many days the average person lives; about 74 years. Not long right? How many of those days are you prepared to waste on wishing someone changed? If they are capable of belittling you, they are capable of physical violence. Abuse escalates and no one, including you deserves such treatment. Leaving is never easy and it’s okay if you have to plan before you do, you are not weak for staying in the past, you were attached. Love requires attachment but you need to reconcile what you are and are not willing to accept.
Your life is your story, you get to boot out characters and change the plot to craft a life that fulfills you. Everyday it will get easier. At first it will hurt like hell but hope is the currency of life and self-love is sustenance. Be wary of anyone that conflates love with abuse. Toxic relationships are not cute and control is NOT romantic. Abuse should never be idolized and there are no excuses – including trauma for hurting anyone. In fact, more often than not abuse leads to emotional scars and in the saddest cases, death.
So, what are you going to do with the rest of your 27,375 days?
If you, or someone you care about, is facing domestic abuse, you can dial The National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 to receive support. Digital resources are also available at refuge.org.uk and nationaldahelpline.org.uk.