On Abuse

Painting: KwangHo Shin

Paradoxically, abuses in relationships appear to occur almost exclusively in situations where trust has been established. 
In the early stages of relationships, people are still considering if to stay, complacency hasn’t set in so we strive to show our best sides. However, when we settle into the relationship, a bridge of trust is established, our truer colour begins to manifest; for some people, this includes an abusive behaviour. 
Before we launch into how terrible the act of abuse is, it has to be noted that those of us that don’t engage in either physical or emotional abuse aren’t as deserving of the merit we feel we are entitled to. The psychology behind abusive partners on analysis shows most of these people to be deeply troubled by issues going as far back as their childhood, especially having come from abusive households. Another Psychology is a deep-seated trait or want to be domineering. That notwithstanding, it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves first before we try to help someone else. As they say on airplanes—please secure your oxygen mask before helping infants you are travelling with. 

To understand abuse properly, first, the system it operates with has to be understood. An abuser is often emotionally weak and relies on abuse as a form of compensation to feel empowered or in control. The first step then is to gain the potential victim’s trust, after this, the abuser transitions to isolating his victim. At this point, on an emotional level, abuse has already begun. Abusers achieve this by destroying a person’s image about their friends and family, or moving to a place that makes maintaining such bonds difficult. Some people have a habit of drowning in one relationship and coerced to cut off their friends and family even for a potential abuser. The need for support systems of family and friends when we are in relationships cannot be stressed enough. After isolation, the actual abuse starts; first in small doses to test the waters, and then progressively, frequency and severity are increased. For so many victims, after a while, the cycle becomes a part of their steady state of existence and they form a habit of living with it. There is the option of leaving but with the social and emotional isolation they are already trapped in, they have nowhere to go. 
There is also the stigma of separation strongest on women, this societal expectation to be strong and persist makes it harder to leave. However, abuse isn't exclusive to women alone.
For emotional abuse, the verdict is still out there so we can’t tell.  While women are stigmatised for quitting their marriages and might struggle to re-marry,  men are stigmatised for even complaining they are being abused. Both ways of thought combine to create a culture of suffering in silence. 

It is advisable to exit abusive situations as early as it is detected. For most victims, early abuse is followed by apologies and appeasement for forgiveness. Every victim of abuse should realise habits are very hard to change and secondly, you are not responsible for saving them, or changing them. By nature of the relationship, abuse is directed intensely on you— because of fostered trust. If at all you feel empathic for them, get help on the outside, it is almost rare to show such sides to an outsider.
The abuser promises a change in behaviour but more often than not, these changes are never forthcoming because the problem is ingrained in the abuser. They are a deep-rooted psychological pattern that gives them little control over themselves. It isn’t uncommon for people to ask why victims of terrible abuses stay. This is because we lack an understanding of the mindset most of these victims operate with. For so many, it is having to face a social system that provides no support for their situation: why leave the frying pan when everywhere else seems to be on fire? With this in mind, we, as society, have a responsibility towards creating environments for people to express their relationship troubles. 

illustration: Red Dot Design 


A go-to rule for breaking out is talking to someone. Keeping a circle of trusted friend or even one can make all the difference. They spur you with confidence and always see in a perspective you are blind to. This is so important as talking about it alone releases baggage you were unaware of.
Unfortunately, the stigma on mental health remains high, reporting one’s self as an abuser is also a problem that might even attract criminal persecution in some countries. Economically, mental health care is also relatively expensive, which cuts out a sizeable demographic from access. Regardless of these, staying in an abusive relationship is NEVER an option. Again, speak up, help is always available when you do. Continuing to stay in such causes damage to your own being. It weakens you in many ways you can't imagine.
Also again: it is NEVER your place to change a person.

Read more on sighting emotional abuse.