My Abusive Partner Promises They’ll Change. Will They?

Woman on bed with head in her hands

“I promise I’ll change.”

These are four words most people in a relationship with an abusive partner have probably heard. Longed-for yet dreaded, the words can offer both hope and disappointment. Hope that things really will get better this time, and disappointment when, inevitably, the abusive behavior—whether emotional, physical, or verbal—begins all over again.

We’ve all heard that a leopard can’t change its spots. But what about an abusive partner?

Continue reading My Abusive Partner Promises They’ll Change. Will They?

Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

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Even the most dynamic of duos has the occasional fight. Whether it begins with “Who forgot to take the dog out?” or “Do I really have to go to your brother’s birthday party?”, having arguments is a common — and healthy — part of any relationship.

But in some cases, what we call an “argument” is actually something worse. Ever had a partner who criticizes everything you do? Who shouts and uses cruel language when they get angry (and they may fly off the handle a lot)? Who makes you feel like you’re wrong or “too sensitive” when you try to speak up?

Continue reading Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship (+ How to Get Out of It)

Fashionable man looking sad

Online, our relationship was great. We had a lot in common. We couldn’t get enough of each other’s “texting company.” It may seem crazy to you, but it seemed like a good idea at the time: I invited a person I’d never met to fly halfway across the world — not only to meet me in person, but also to stay in my apartment for the two weeks she was visiting. I hoped the relationship would turn into something rich and real, distance be damned. Bad decision.

Just two days into her stay, the red flags started going up. She manipulated me, created a hostile atmosphere in my home, initiated never-ending drama, made ridiculous demands of me, criticized me often, talked poorly about me behind my back, forbade me from talking to friends about our relationship. Can you say toxic? I can, and thankfully, I got this person out of my life. But it wasn’t easy.

How To Tell If You’re In A Toxic Relationship

While there are plenty of signs you may be in a toxic relationship, it’s not always clear when you’re deep in the dynamic itself. Often times, a toxic partnership starts out well enough, but then slowly (and subtly) starts to erode your sense of self. One of the first warning signs of a potential toxic relationship is that the other person is consistently violating your boundaries.

Continue reading Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship (+ How to Get Out of It)

What Is Gaslighting?

man holding gaslight dark background

The details are still a little hazy. A girl was staying at my apartment for two weeks. I had initially met her online, and we talked everyday for months before I agreed to let her stay with me while she was visiting my city. I volunteered to be her tour guide. This turned out to be a mistake.

The visit got off to a rocky start when she constantly told me I was too quiet and I needed to talk more. She started blaming me for other things too. Her allergy to my cats. That she couldn’t find the apartment keys I had left with her. That I wasn’t taking her to see enough of the sites. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think all of this was my fault, but I kept apologizing and trying my hardest to accommodate anyway. I wanted her to like me.

Waking up one day, I’d definitely had too much to drink the night before. But not so much I couldn’t remember what happened. Right? This is when the girl told me I had supposedly locked her in the bathroom the night before, not letting her out and terrorizing her. What? Continue reading What Is Gaslighting?

How Therapy Helps You Recover from Childhood Trauma and Abuse

woman client therapist talking

If you experienced trauma or abuse during childhood, you might wonder if you should seek therapy. But maybe you are too busy to commute to appointments. You don’t even have any time to feel everything, much less talk about it.

Then there are the plethora of worries people sometimes have when they consider working with a therapist. You might think, “What if I end up feeling worse? What if the therapist thinks I don’t have any problems? Am I exaggerating my experiences?”

Then you start wondering why everyone else seems so happy, while your head swims with worries and you slog through each day. You are not alone, and there are ways to feel better. Continue reading How Therapy Helps You Recover from Childhood Trauma and Abuse

How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

gay man in corner abused

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m lying awake listening to the sound of my boyfriend’s light snoring. The box fan is humming softly in the corner. Cool night air blows through the window.

Although I’m happy, I’m also torn. In the dark I debate whether the fan is making enough noise to keep him asleep if I get up to go put away the clean dishes. Half of me is kicking myself for forgetting to do so. The other half is wondering if it’s a good opportunity to also clean the bathroom overnight as a surprise.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have found a good guy. I wonder whether this is business as usual for domestic violence survivors everywhere. I tell myself I’m most likely not as alone and abnormal as I feel. I force myself to fall asleep.

This all sounds weird, but these little debates play out in my head all day, every day. When I shop, I try to find little gifts for him to keep him happy, like a new pair of shoes. Every time I make it home before he does, I try to use those spare moments to clean something. Getting into his car also means clearing out a few bits of trash as I exit. I always make sure he has everything he needs before he leaves for work and his alarm is set before we go to bed.

Sometimes scars make you sweet. Continue reading How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

kerry washington red carpet

About 20 people are victims of domestic violence every minute in the United States. Domestic violence is an enormous issue, and we need powerful voices to address it.

We wanted to salute those in the spotlight who have spoken about their personal experiences with domestic and intimate partner violence. Because survivors often suffer in silence, we hope these public voices offer inspiration and courage to those who might need support.

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall, a host for NBC’s “Today” show, has been an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse for many years. Hall’s sister died as a result of her abusive relationship. This was the catalyst for Hall’s advocacy. Her sister’s death is still unsolved.

Hall has been open about her struggles with guilt about her sister Renate’s death. Her feelings echo those of family members across the world who have struggled with having a loved one in an abusive relationship. She started the Tamron Renate Hall Fund with her sons to help survivors of domestic abuse. Continue reading 5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

How to Recognize Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships

How to Recognize Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships

One of my clinical specialties is relationships (and abuse within them). So naturally, many of my clients come to me because they are struggling in their marriage or partnership.

Of all the reasons for a relationship to be in trouble, one that consistently leaves people the most confused and causes the most damage is an invisible form of domestic violence called emotional abuse. Continue reading How to Recognize Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships