No relationship is perfect. Every different relationship is different but most come with arguments and disagreements. The question is when does one know when the arguing becomes too much or too unhealthy? Though mentally abusive relationships are often difficult to initially detect, it is clear that they can be just as harmful as physically abusive relationships.
Mentally abusive relationships typically do not have clear signs or red flags, and more often than not, mental abuse goes undetected because of the nature of the relationship. Often times, a mentally abusive relationship may start out with the abuser criticizing their partner’s appearances, or keeping their partner away from friends and relatives, or pressuring the partner to turn over passwords to personal accounts, or even accusing their partner of cheating.
As a victim of mental abuse, I strongly agree that there can be long-lasting effects after leaving that type relationship. To this day, I still have unwanted flashbacks of my abuse and have triggering moments of the countless mind games and manipulation that I endured. There was a point when my partner had accused me of stealing the research he claimed he had culled for me when I was writing my senior thesis. He went so far as to threaten to expose if I did not stay with him. And then he told me that these threats were made because he loved me and wanted me to stay in the relationship. Even though I didn’t use his information, it made no difference. He made me believe that that was love- living in fear that he would destroy my academic career.
According to a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three teen girls and one in four teen boys who have been in a relationship have experienced dating abuse. For teens especially, being exposed to abuse at an early age isn’t good for their mental health and can have a detrimental long-term outcome.
Cameka Crawford, a worker from Loveisrespect, explained how emotional abuse is occasionally difficult to pick up because of the strong emotions that adolescents can feel for the first time, “Sometimes intensity, extreme jealousy—it can feel like that’s love,” she wrote. With these conflicting feelings, the distinct line between what is healthy and unhealthy might become skewed.
As far as adolescent relationships are concerned, many teens are experiencing extreme feelings for another person for the first time, and are new to the entire experience of dating. Loveisrespect is an organization dedicated to helping confused adolescents and adults decipher whether their relationship is healthy or not.
Many foundations have been created for young men and woman who are caught in abusive relationships in order to make them feel comfortable and reach out for help if they think they are in danger. Each foundation is designed to inform men and women about different types of relationships and whether or not they might be in danger. The foundations can be reached anonymously and have plenty of phone numbers that are reachable at all hours of the day and night.
If anyone feels that they are a victim of abuse and wants to seek more information about their situation, they can call the Loveisrespect phone number at 1(866) 331-9474 or TTY 1(866) 331-8453. As a victim of abuse, myself, I know it is extremely important to have information about your situation and to feel that you are not completely alone. There are people there who are ready and able to help.
The One Love Foundation started the #ThatsNotLove campaign to help define the gray areas between love and control. After collegiate athlete Yeardley Love was murdered by her boyfriend as a result of an abusive relationship, the foundation was formed in 2010 to educate college age students about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Studies show that any sort of abuse is equally as traumatizing and can have lasting effects on the victim throughout their life. If you or anyone you know are in a mentally abusive relationship, know that there are resources out there willing and able to help. Mentally abusive relationships are not your fault, and it takes someone who is extremely immature to try and manipulate others for the sake of a relationship. Victims of mentally abusive relationships must do what is best for them and remove themselves from the relationship.