5 signs you're being blinded by an abusive relationship

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Hellen Keller

I had just got off the phone with the domestic abuse hotline...and was at a loss for words. After an hour of conversation, years of unanswered questions, and zero closure, it dawned on me that I felt this uneasy way because I was in an abusive relationship. Abusive. What does that mean? And how did I, witnessing the abuse my mother faced also at the hands of my father, fall prey to the same tactics?

Were there signs that I had missed? Were there blatant potholes that I chose to drive over at full speed while refusing to brace for impact? The answer is both yes, and no. Yes because the signs were there as always. But no, because I couldn’t see them, and I don’t blame myself for this in retrospect. It took 4 years of convincing, googling, and looking to articles such as this one for comparison to my situation. What I learned from processing my abuse is that even if we first are blinded by abusive “love,” it’s never too late or too early to change our perspective on the abuse. There are things we can examine, take an introspective look on, and deeply question in order to better understand our situation and seek help to escape the abuse. Here are five of them.

  1. You constantly question your self worth as a person because of your relationship.

There are certain feelings that should come to mind when we look at the mirror. Feelings of strength, courage, high value, and most importantly worthiness. Without these, we struggle to grasp and realize what we deserve, settling for less. But ask yourself, where did these feelings come from? If you find yourself looking negatively on your being because of the subtle attacks a manipulator and abuser takes at you, it’s best to start questioning ways to distance yourself from this negativity and begin to improve self worth.

Positive affirmations, exercise, meditation, therapy and even writing can all be great ways to get you on the path to feeling your best again. But, if the person you are with hinders your ability to see past your negative beliefs, and even reinforces them, know that this is in fact abuse. In order to love who you are, you must open your eyes to this reality and begin working on yourself immediately.

2. You find yourself questioning your sanity

Gaslighting is a favorite tactic used by abusive people in order to mentally scar and debilitate their victims. Gaslighting is a form of abuse in which abusers plant seeds of doubt into their victims, making them question their own memory, cognitive abilities, perception, and sanity. If you find yourself constantly wondering “did I really feel that way or was it all in my head?” Or “I don’t remember promising him money, but I guess I did,” DO NOT question your sanity. Your gut and emotions will lead you to realize the truth, and it is best to listen to your instincts.

I remember once feeling guilty after an argument with my abuser after he left me stranded in a hotel room in the middle of L.A. I had no money and had to take the bus home. The crazy part was that I found myself apologizing at the end of that conversation, and later questioned what my actual thoughts were at the time. Situations like this can lead you to the number 3 sign you might not be aware of:

3. You find yourself feeling sorry and blaming yourself for every problem in your relationship.

A healthy relationship is not a perfect relationship. It will have ups and downs and be subject to arguments and decision making, but it will always be two sided. If you find that your partner constantly makes himself or herself the victim in the relationship, it may be time to see the pattern as abusive. Being unable and unwilling to take responsibility during arguments is one thing, but shifting all blame onto you with the intent of falsifying your beliefs in yourself as a good and deserving partner is abusive and a sign of a narcissistic partner.

Sometimes the guilt is followed by punishment, such as ignoring you or even verbal or physical abuse. As someone who has endured all 3, I found it difficult to break out of the mindset that all the problems of my relationship were mine. After years of this treatment, I started to look at the number 4 sign of my abusive relationship:

4. You find yourself constantly finding reasons to stay in your relationship.

During my phone conversation with the domestic abuse hotline, I will never forget the powerful message that the counselor gave me. “If it were bad 100% of the time, it'd be easy to leave.” This hit home hard, and was the reason I made the call in the first place. I always imagined abuse as being a bruised face, a broken nose or broken ribs. Luckily it never escalated to that extent, but it could have.

Abuse can manifest as “wrestling” and being put in a chokehold. Abuse can be being ignored for 2 weeks then bombarded with texts, calls and love for another 2, then rinse and repeat. It's an ugly monster with many faces and spirits. When we are blinded by it, it's not that we don't see it, but rather choose to ignore it in hopes that someone will change and be the charming influence they once were. In other words, we are in denial of the abuse, and make weekly, daily, hourly pros and cons lists to keep the relationship alive.

If you find yourself in this vicious cycle of questioning, forgiving, and staying, know that you have the strength to leave. Life will be better in the long run without this toxic person in your life. Which brings me to my last and most important sign of abuse:

5. You’ve lost sight of your goals and who you are as a person.

The depression is worse. The anxiety is worse. The outlook that you once had on life and how thriving it could be, has now gone out of your mind and is replaced with fears and worries about your relationship. This is a huge sign of abuse, where your abusive partner now has you vulnerable and waiting hand and foot for their next move. It's a sick checkmate and capture of you, the King.

I had friends tell me that I was not the same person, and family that I had pushed away. The isolation and put down tactics left me miserable and unable to formulate a plan for myself. I just wanted to run away but didn't know where to. Luckily, I had the strength to join the Navy, and when my abuser heard this he said “you always say that but you never mean it, so I don't care.”

For me, the Navy was a saving grace and gave me a new perspective on my potential and strength in life. Though this might not be your route, know that at the end of this, you WILL have the strength and capability to see life anew and gain back those goals you have lost.

He who has hope has everything.”

If you are reading this article for you or for a loved one, know that there is help and support out there for you to escape the abuse you are experiencing. Whether it is the police, a teacher, or even your own family, it is important to seek the help you can in order to leave your abuser and ensure they do not come back into your life.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love can blind us, and it can also show us the way to a better life. It is plentiful in the world, and I hope you gather the strength and take these signs and implement them to help recognize your situation.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233), available 24/7.