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  • Abuse is never the victim’s fault; however, the way that you respond to abusive behavior might signal to your partner that the abuse is okay.
  • First, if you allow your significant other to spew condescending comments at you, they’ll continue to do so; you should put your foot down and refuse to be talked to that way.
  • Also, if your partner starts to pry about every little thing you do, know that this is a red flag—it’s time to start asking your own questions, and if you don’t, your partner will continue to control you in this way.
  • Do you ignore angry outbursts? This will only encourage the abuser to regularly engage in these outbursts; you need to nip this behavior in the bud and demand a change.
  • Finally, if you believe your partner when they say you’re nothing without them, you’ll just add fuel to the fire and suffer as a consequence; know that nobody else completes you and that you’re worthy of a kind, true love.

Statistics show that people who have been abused in the past are more likely to be abused in the future. This begs an important question: do certain people attract abusive people or perhaps relationships?

It’s important to note that abuse is never the victim’s fault. In fact, more often than not, the abuser is one who seeks out this kind of relationship. He or she likes to be in control and looks for easy targets. That said, it is possible to respond to abuse in a way that enables the abuser to continue mistreating you. The big takeaway here is that we teach others how to treat us over time—which means it’s incredibly important to pay attention to what we’re communicating to the people in our life. Especially those closest to us. According to Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, licensed marriage and family therapist, if you’re engaging in the following behaviors, you might be inadvertently signaling to your partner that their abusive behavior is okay:

    1) You don’t object to condescending comments.
    Ibinye explains that the failure to defend yourself against cruel comments can empower your partner to continue making abusive comments of the like. You should instead refuse to be talked down to in that manner and make that clear to the abuser. “They are critical—they’ll make subtle comments to send out the message that they know it all, they have strong opinions, and they want their partner to fall in line. They might criticize the way the other person cooks, walks, talks, or eats. If the non-abusive partner isn’t stopping these comments in their tracks, then it gives the abusive person the idea that he or she is in control and that those comments are acceptable. So, when several condescending comments are directed toward you, go ahead and put your foot down. Let him or her know that you refuse to be talked to that way. Being passive is a surefire way to attract an abuser.”

    2) You don’t ask enough questions.
    Another pattern of abuse is being entirely too nosey about what one’s partner is doing and who they’re doing it with. If your significant other starts asking you too many questions (especially to the point of discomfort), you need to put an end to it early. “Because abusive partners are controlling by nature, they’ll ask entirely too many questions about your whereabouts, who you hang out with, where you went, why you came back so late, the list goes on and on,” Ibinye explains. “But when you constantly feel the need to explain every single move you make, then you’re slowly falling into the abuse trap. When you notice that he or she is beginning to ask you more questions than normal, it’s time to ask some questions of your own. Ask him or her why he or she is always asking you questions each day. Also, ask him or her about his day—where he went, who he hung out with, and why he’s so interested in the small details of your life. If he feels uncomfortable responding, then it’s a red flag.”

    3) You ignore unnecessary anger.
    Furthermore, allowing your partner to lash out at you with unwarranted anger makes for a breeding ground of continued abuse. “When you notice that your partner expresses anger frequently or he gets angry for little, petty things, it is a sure red flag,” says Ibinye. “Typically, the other partner just accepts that these outbursts are normal. They’ll keep quiet, justify the anger, or in extreme cases, they’ll become very passive. After the relationship has progressed for many months, when you begin to express that excessive outbursts of anger are not okay, the abusive partner takes offense and lashes out even stronger.” Therefore, you need to nip this behavior in the bud. In other words, confront them about their angry habits right when they begin and tell them they must change their behavior.

    4) You believe that you’re worthless without them.
    Finally, if you believe or validate your partner’s assertion that you’re “nothing without them” the abusive behavior will only continue and likely worsen. “Abusive people gravitate toward a person with low self-esteem like a moth to a flame,” Ibinye explains. “People with low self-esteem often have the irrational belief that they are lucky to have found someone to love. Once an abusive person knows that you struggle with feeling good enough, pretty enough, kind enough, they will capitalize on this. They’ll make statements to make you feel worse about yourself. They’ll say things like, ‘I made you. No one will ever date you if I leave you. You are nothing without me.’ Because the person’s self-esteem is so low, they’ll believe the statements and try to do everything in their power so that the abusive person can ‘complete them’ or make them better. This, of course, is all smoke and mirrors. No one can truly complete another person. We are all worthy of love, kindness, and affection and no one deserves abuse and control.” So, instead of believing your partner’s false statements about your self-worth, believe that you are worthy. And don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.

*If you are in a dangerous or life-threatening situation, get off this site. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or utilize another helpful resource on this page.*

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

We wrote a "choose your own adventure" style book about depression. To help as many people as possible, we're selling it for what it costs to print ($6.80) on Amazon.com. Check it out: Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book

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