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Guest Post by Stacy Baggett:
Abuse isn't always obvious. Sometimes victims aren't even fully aware that the abuse is occurring, or if the behavior they're experiencing from their partner even qualifies as abuse. Verbal abuse can often be mistaken for joking or sarcasm, a bad temper can be brushed off as an unpleasant aspect of your partner's personality, and possessive behavior can be masked as protectiveness out of love. Recognizing the abuse is the first step to getting help. The following five questions can help you determine whether you are the victim or abuse or not.

Does Your Partner Yell or Belittle You?

If you answered yes to this question, this is a sign that you are being subjected to abuse. In a healthy relationship, partners do not yell at each other or make each other feel bad. Everyone loses their cool every now and then, but if you're being subjected to yelling and belittling on a regular basis, you are being verbally abused. Abusers often rant and rave over minor things, such as dinner not being ready on time or over what they deem to be inappropriate behavior. Yelling and belittling is a way for your abuser to beat you down, chipping away at your self-esteem so that you question every little choice you make. It is not a normal or healthy behavior.

Do You Feel Afraid All The Time and Have to Walk on Eggshells?

A healthy relationship does not consist of fear of your spouse. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells all the time in order to keep the peace, that may be a sign that something is amiss. You should never have to live in constant fear, especially of someone who is supposed to care about you.

Do You Feel You Can't Do Anything Right For Your Partner?

Abusers often criticize and shame their victim, which eats away at the victim's self-esteem. If your partner is criticizing you to the point where you feel like you cannot do anything right for him without invoking his wrath, that is a major sign that something is not right in the relationship. Abusers use this tactic as a form of power play – they chip away your confidence until you are unable to do anything or make any decision without fearing that your partner will disapprove.

Does Your Partner Have a Bad, Unpredictable Temper?

We all have tempers. Some are able to control theirs better than others. However, a bad, unpredictable temper is not normal behavior that a mentally healthy adult displays. If you never know what is going to set your partner off and he is prone to huge, sudden outbursts, then this is a major sign that you are in a verbally or emotionally abusive relationship. An outburst can consist of yelling, ranting and raving, throwing or breaking objects, or physical violence. If your partner physically causes you harm, either by shoving, pushing, or actual hitting, then you need to seek help in getting out. This behavior is meant to invoke fear in the victim, keeping you under his control, and the abuser will almost always blame you for making him lose his cool. Even if your partner is apologetic afterwards, this type of behavior is never OK.

Does Your Partner Act Overly Jealous or Possessive?

Does your partner get jealous when you visit with family or friends? Does he attempt to isolate you, throwing temper tantrums and making false accusations when you socialize with people other than him? This is a classic sign of abuse, one that's sole purpose is to isolate the victim. It's a matter of control – your abuser wants to exert full ownership over you. You may think your partner behaves this way out of love or protectiveness, but you are not an item that can be owned or controlled – and if this type of behavior is going on, you seriously need to rethink your relationship.

These are just a few signs of abuse. Ultimately, only you can determine whether you are being abused or not. Even if your partner doesn't physically cause you harm, you may still be experiencing abuse – verbal abuse and emotional abuse are every bit as real aspects of domestic abuse as domestic violence is. If you suspect that you are being abused, please do not hesitate in getting help.

Photo Credit: Brenda Voytek

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