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EMOTIONAL SCARS

Nicole Jonas

A guy I dated was abusive, although I didn’t realize it at the time. He never raised a hand to me. All the abuse was emotional and verbal, yet the scars were just as deep. For years afterward, I feared people who were aggressive. Sometimes I overreacted when a guy, in all innocence, did something that reminded me of the previous relationship. At other times, I surrounded myself with guys who were laid-back and passive. I was bored, but at least they were safe.

 

Then God brought a different man into my life. He had a strong personality; but he was patient with me and gentle, and I slowly realized he wasn’t going to hurt me. I started to understand that God was using this relationship to break down my fears. Not all extroverted and aggressive people are bad. I needed to be able to tell the difference and to recognize abusive behavior.

Now that I am healing, I am learning more about this form of abuse. Most people recognize hitting and sexual assault as abuse. But emotional abuse usually starts subtly and gets worse as time passes.

 

What are the signs?

  • devozine Stop TS 92663798Control or Manipulation. I pay attention if a guy is trying to get me to do what he wants or to keep me from doing what I want. My ex initially got his way by claiming that he was protecting me, but he was checking up on me throughout the day to see where I was or what I was doing. Later, he became jealous if I spent time or energy on anyone or anything besides him. Control is an early warning sign of abusive behavior; so in a new relationship, I see how a guy reacts when something upsets his plans.
  • Criticism or Blame. Does your date ridicule your hobbies, beliefs, family, friends, choices, talents? An abusive guy gets upset if things aren’t done his way; my ways are never good enough. He criticizes in public, spreads rumors, or tells disparaging jokes about women. He also may continually bring up my past mistakes or blame me for his bad behavior.
  • Threats or Intimidation. When I did something he didn’t like, my ex threatened to leave me. If I considered breaking up, he talked about suicide. Some guys will also threaten your family members or friends. Other forms of intimidation may include driving recklessly, destroying possessions, or name-calling.
  • Taking No Responsibility. No matter what he did wrong, my ex always had an excuse. Sometimes, the reason was circumstances. Sometimes, it was me. Sometimes, he offered no explanation at all.
  • No Respect of Boundaries. When I said something was off-limits physically, he kept trying. When I needed to get off the phone or to stop instant messaging so I could sleep, he started a new conversation. Abusive people tend to disrespect boundaries in all areas of a relationship.
  • Isolation. How does a guy handle relationships with his friends and mine? Abusive people tend to isolate their significant other, so I find out how willing he is to meet my family and friends.

I don’t need to be paranoid. Sometimes a good guy will slip up and make a mistake. With a lot of time and hard work, I am starting to see the difference between people who are abusive and those who are honest but occasionally miss the mark.

 

DIG DEEPER

devozine Abused Guy2 TS 121206157

 

Make your own list. What scars do you bear from an abusive relationship—with a guy or girl? How do they make you more willing to accept abuse or to abuse other people? to distrust other people? Read Philippians 4:8–9. Pray for God’s peace and guidance in all your relationships.

 

Educate Yourself. Become familiar with this list of abusive behaviors to watch for in your relationships.

Nicole Jonas is a writer and photographer who enjoys serving God all over the world.

—from devozine (May/June 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room. All rights reserved.

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