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July 7, 2013

Warning Signs of a Controlling Relationship (includes a story from my experience)

I was involved in a controlling and abusive relationship for almost 9 years. Just this past. March, I gathered my kids and we flew back to my hometown; Portland, Oregon. I had the perfect opportunity to leave and it was well past due. Throughout the years I spent in New Jersey, there has been many times when I wanted to just grab my kids and leave - hop on a plane back to Oregon. I knew that I could give my kids a better life if I could just make it back. So why didn't I leave before? You know, I actually did - when my oldest daughter was 10 months old (now she's 8). It didn't go as planned and before I could try to make it work myself; I ended up flying back to NJ. After that, I always felt scared about leaving. I knew that my kids and I would be left homeless and most likely on the street or in a shelter. I wouldn't even have a place for my kids and I to stay once I got off the plane. Hell, I wouldn't have been able to get us out of the airport. I always felt that I would never see Portland again. I would sit in the room by myself and cry, thinking that I was stuck in New Jersey and that I just needed to deal with it. I felt that I would never have the strength or knowledge that I needed to be able to take my 3 kids and myself across country and start over by myself. No home. No job. Hardly any family. No friends. 

I am still a bit surprised that I am actually home. It was a long, emotional journey, but I made it back.. with my kids.

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Before entering the abusive relationship, I didn't know any warning signs for dangerous relationships, nor did I even think about how dangerous relationships could really be. I’m actually surprised I didn't - my mother dealt with an abusive relationship for many, many years before finally deciding to leave. I never imagined that I would be living a life feeling severely depressed, stressed, constantly put down, and beat up several times by someone who claimed to love me.

It wasn't until I received a bookmark that I found out that I was in a type of relationship that was dangerous, unhealthy, and would most likely get worse. I found out that what I was going through was serious and I needed to get out before something even more serious happened.

Now that I have made it out and have a story to share, I figured I could help others (women and men)  reclaim their freedom or help them avoid dangerous and unhealthy relationships all together.  Below, you will find a list of known signs of a dangerous, unhealthy, controlling relationship. I am sharing these with you based on my own experience.

Before the Commitment
There are signs that you should be aware of even before entering a committed relationship. You should pay attention to certain aspects of another’s personality before deciding if they are worthy enough for a relationship.  If you notice any of these signs in someone you’re currently dating, you may want to take a step back and reconsider.

  • Quick Involvement (Initial Infatuation Period) - Does he seem overly infatuated about you?  Is he constantly calling, texting, or emailing? Does he excessively express his love or feelings for you? Has he pressured the relationship on you?  Has he brought up moving in together, having children, or getting married? Does he act overly jealous or even protective of you? Does he spoil you with gifts? Abuser’s tend to say what you want to hear at first. They reel you in and once they have you, it all changes. They may promote the relationship status without verifying or talking it over. {This is one of the things I wish I would have thought more about when it happened. I remember that he considered me his girlfriend and was telling his friends that I was even before I thought of anything like that about him. I thought we were just friends and yet he thinks I'm his girl already. I remember him asking, "well, you are my girlfriend, right?". My answer was a bit hesitant and it made him angry. He hung up on me. Of course he called back. Even though I enjoyed the first few conversations we had with each other, it quickly became annoying with him calling every hour or so, and even every few minutes if I didn't answer. There were a few times that he called me back to back for over 30 minutes straight. Thinking about it.. it didn't take long for him to tell me to call him when we were talking on messenger. It also didn't take long for him to tell me I should take the Greyhound to NJ to meet him.}

  • Controlling Behavior - He gets upset when you go to see your friends and even your family. He gets upset when you are away from him and he wants to be around you every chance he gets. He tries changing certain charistics about you  - how you dress (possibly try to cover up certain areas of the body), how, when, or where you wear make up,  how you style your hair. May request that you remove piercings or cover up tattoos. Makes commands and expects you to follow them. Limits your alone time. Limits places you may go alone or with friends. Constantly checks up on you when you are not with him. Requesting you to check in with him at certain times. Gets angry when you’re late. Asks many questions about what you did, who you were with, where you went, etc. when you get home. As this behavior progresses he may start asking about phone calls or even listening in. He decides how you can spend your money. {Even before I went to NJ to meet him he was already showing controlling behavior but yet even though I would get pretty mad sometimes, I would always let it go. He got mad one night when I went out to the Cinco de Mayo festival with my dad's (now ex) girlfriend and my brother. He got mad because instead of him going out with his friends when he got home from work, he stayed home so he could talk to me on the phone. He got mad because my attention was on something else and people other than him. -- When I would go to the store he would give me time limit and tell me when he would expect me to be home. If I wasn't home at that time, he would flip out. He would always expect me to get on webcam and demand that I do certain things for him. If I didn't, he would yell at me, put me down, and hang up on me. He would eventually call back and sometimes the same thing would happen. If I went anywhere while he was at work (before I went to NJ), he would ask where I went and who I was with. He even demanded that I give him my messenger login info. Eventually he deleted everyone off my friends list except himself. He also messaged some of my good friends, pretended to be me, and told him I didn't want to talk to them anymore. He stole over $550 from one of my accounts when he was afraid I was going to pay my rent. He wanted me to lose my apartment so I would have no choice but to go back to NJ (this was after my first visit). When I moved to NJ in 2005 and started working at Wawa, I had to endorse all of my checks to him and I never saw a single penny from it. He told me that he's had girls get multiple jobs just to give him their money. Truth or not, I don't know. Most of the money between my job and his job went to bills or would just sit in his bank account. He only got to choose when and what it was spent on. However, sometime in 2011 or 2012, I wrote him a letter on the computer asking if he would let me get some stuff from e.l.f. because I really wanted some of the stuff that was on sale. I told him I never ask him for anything and hoped he would let me get the stuff I wanted.. when I got up, he said I could. By 2012, I was able to spend more of the money because I was the one who was driving everywhere. If I bought something for myself that I needed, he usually wouldn't care but sometimes he would get upset and yell at me a little.}

  • Blame-Shifting - Whenever something goes wrong, you get blamed for it; especially for their abusive actions (verbal, mental, physical, or emotional). He will never admit his mistakes; instead he blames them on you, it brings you down, and it gives him power. If something shows up missing, you’ll get blamed. If something bad happens at school or work, it is someone else’s fault. This is the same for their feelings - it will be your fault for making him feel the ways he does. {Anytime he would get mad, he would blame it on me. He would tell me it was my fault he got mad because "I just wouldn't shut up". He would accuse me of losing things he thinks he gave to me to put away, but he never did. If something didn't go the way he wanted, he would blame it on an argument from earlier and say it was my fault. He has never said he was wrong or that he had made a mistake - he would always deny it when I would try to confront him about it. He always had to try to make me feel stupid and that I was always doing something wrong.}
  • Verbal Abuse - Talks bad about you in front of your friends or family. Puts you down. Makes verbal threats. Performs name calling. Talks bad about your friends and family. May even talk bad about you to his friends and family. If you do something wrong, he may call you stupid or say you can’t do anything right. {A few years into our relationship is when the verbal abuse and name calling started to pick up. It became a regular thing of his. The more it happened, the more I expected it and the less it bothered me. It still hurt though. He would call me retarded or stupid. Tell me that I am useless or that I can't do something right. He would yell at me in front of his mom, dad, or sister and blame me for things I didn't do or for things that I couldn't prevent from happening. For example; when my oldest was about 10-11 months old and still learning to walk, she was taking little steps and when she lost her balance, her head hit the coffee table. She didn't hit it that hard and she wasn't hurt. He yelled at me saying that I wasn't paying attention and that I must not love or care about my daughter. He yelled at me in front of his mom and her boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend, and his niece. That is something that always happens with little ones when they are beginning to walk and every parent should expect it to happen eventually. --- He would also talk bad about my family sometimes. He would call my mom bad names and talk bad about certain things she had done in her life, then tell me I am being the same way. He would call my brother bad names too. -- There has been many times when he has told me I couldn't do anything right; that I'm stupid or must be too retarded.}
  • Short-Tempered - Abuser carries a short fuse and will explode with anger over little things. They will blow things out of proportion (make situations seem worse than they really are). Easily insulted or upset - you choosing one thing when they wanted something else, you don’t do something the way he likes it, you forgot something at the store, etc. They may take things personally, which will make them feel as if they are being attacked - which may cause them to strike back. {I've mentioned it before, but ex would get angry over such small things. For example, one time he got so mad at me because I wasn't popping the balloons right in the game Poppit on Pogo. He told me to play and then gets angry over how I popped balloons. Anytime he would get angry with me and I would attack back, it would fuel him even more and he would just get more angry. I am not the type of person who will just take verbal abuse and let it go. If I have something to say or if I feel the other person is wrong, I will say it. His goal is to try and hurt me, control me, make me feel useless and stupid - even though he gets angry when I attack back; it makes me feel good that he didn't feel in control. He didn't get what he wanted.}
  • Sees You as a Slave or Servant - He requests you to get everything for him and do everything for him. He feels like a King. He enjoys being served - he enjoys having the control over another human-being. He enjoys being pampered but very rarely returns the favor. {This was one of the biggest problems in our relationship. I was told to do everything and if I didn't do it when he wanted, how he wanted, or as fast as he wanted, he would get angry and take it out on me - verbally and emotionally abusing me. I always made dinner (which is fine), but not only would I make his plate and serve it to him, but less then 10 minutes after he'd finish his food, he would want something else rather then finishing what I had already made for dinner. He became very lazy and started spending all of his time playing games on the computer and leaving me to do everything. Once I started driving, I took over that too. I did absolutely everything while he was either playing games on Facebook or sleeping. He never paid attention to the kids anymore. It was my responsibility to make sure he took his pills and if I didn't remind him, I would get yelled at. I was always told to rub/scratch his back, clip his toenails, make him something to eat or get him something to drink, he would give me his important papers to put away and if they weren't where I put them when he needed them, he would blame it being missing on me. Sometimes he would even say he gave me something to put away, but I know he didn't - so when it came up missing because HE misplaced it; it was my fault. I love doing things for people and helping them.. but not when it is expected of me and I never get anything in return.}
  • Tries “Playful” Force in the Bedroom - Enjoys choking the woman during intercourse. Enjoys handcuffing the woman to bed. Wakes you up in the middle of the night requesting sex. Demanding sex even though you don’t want it or when you’re sick.  May even attempt to start while you are still sleeping. May take anger out on you during intercourse - will act in a more aggressive manner. {My ex did exactly what the first sentence says. He had a thing for choking me during sex and sometimes he would do it so hard I couldn't breathe. If I made him move his hand, sometimes he would get mad at me. He would get angry with me and start verbally and emotionally abusing me if I didn't want to do something he wanted me to do. He was one who liked to give it rough; sometimes too rough and it would hurt. He enjoyed it when he knew he was hurting me. I'm sure I was woken up many of times by him wanting to have sex. If I didn't want to, he would usually get upset and sometimes say mean things.}
  • Drugs or Alcohol -  When drugs and/or alcohol is involved, it raises the risk of violence happening. Abusers often blame the drink or drug on their negative actions. Many people who drink and become drunk will get hostile. If you are drinking also or are aware your partner is drinking - be prepared. The Abuser does not have to be “high” on drugs for a negative situation to start - they could be coming down, wanting more, or going to withdraw. These are all valid reasons that will trigger anger and violence. {My ex was a big drug user before I met him. I didn't see what he was like on them and I am thankful for that. When I met him, he would always drink beer - weekend or not and he would drink a lot of it. I never really saw a hostile behavior after he had been drinking; which is a good thing. As years passed, he started to take pain pills. This caused problems between us because it was costing too much money and if he didn't get what he needed, he would freak out and go through withdrawals.}
  • History of Violence - If your partner has a history of violence or sexual abuse, they may be willing to do it again. This is the biggest red flag possible. Also, those who act out violence or sexual abuse, blame their actions on others. They will never take responsibility for their abuse. {He has had a little bit of violence in his history. I didn't find out about it until it was too late. When he was younger, he hit his sister in the head with a frying pan. I heard stories from his (ex)-wife about him beating her up bad too. He would always blame his anger issues on me. Telling me that I made him mad because I just don't know when to shut up or because I didn't remind him to do something. When he would get angry with me, he would slap or repeatedly punch me in the head. He would spit on me a lot too. He would pull my hair, drag me by my hair down the hall way, pin me to the floor or wall and choke me. If I tried to hide in a room and lock the door he would kick the door down or demand that I let him in or he would do something. }
  • Breaking or Throwing of Objects - Those who tend to throw stuff while they are angry, should be watched closely and you should be careful when you're around when this takes place. Many people who get anger problems resort to breaking things or throwing stuff. If you are the reason for the abuser's anger problem, there is no saying if they will throw something at you. {He was a big thrower. Almost every time we got into a bad fight/argument, he would end up throwing something. Most of the time it was aimed at me - he threw things like; dinner plates, garbage cans, condiment bottles, beer bottles, etc. He also punched my laptop screen one time when he got upset. He even threw the kids' table and chairs at the wall and broke it. He would punch his keyboard or pick it up and slam it down and throw his mouse down all the time. There were times he threw a container of dirty dishes (and water) on me because he was mad that I didn't finish them. He also threw a trash can at me in front of my girls. It hit my knee. He has thrown at least 2 dinner plates at me, which both broke. He threw a BBQ sauce bottle at me but he missed and hit the wall. The bottle broke and it left a big hole in the wall.}
  • Any Form of Restraint or Force - I've heard many stories about how girls completely trusted their boyfriends and thought their boyfriend would never hurt them. When they least expect it, they get beat up by the person they thought loved them so much. Even if all they've ever done was a small shove, grab of the wrist, yelling in the face, etc ; It is still a strong sign for physical violence. {I should have seen what type of person he was before I even went to NJ to meet him in person. The way he acted over the phone and how he would get so angry if I wasn't talking to him when he wanted me to be, was a sign. Obvious ones at that. I wish I wouldn't have ignored them or let them go every time. I don't think I ever thought if he would hurt me - I guess I didn't feel like I had to. Boy was I wrong.. and blind. My eyes are definitely open now. -- When the abuse started, it started with the shoving and yelling in the face. As the years passed, it got worse; punched in the head, slapped in the face, thrown onto the floor or into the wall, choked, etc.}
  • Stalking - Even after you escape the relationship, your abuser may feel a strong attachment towards you. They will do whatever they have to, to stay close to you, to get to you, and may even take extreme measures to “have” you. This could include excessive calls/texts, following you every where you go either on foot or in a vehicle, they may even harass your family and/or friends. If you feel you are being stalked please call 911. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Walk with friends or family and let them know whats going on so they will be able to help. {Even after I clearly told him I was not coming back and that we were done, he has continued to contact me. I have already had a restraining order on him which he never obeyed. I've had to change numbers, yet he still manages to get them. I've changed emails, and thanks to DHS, he now has my new email. He has made fake Facebook accounts and sent me friend requests. Even though I do not answer his texts, he continues to send messages. Because I am not answering him and it's making him mad, he is starting to talk bad about me and telling me I'm a bad mother. I know it's his way of trying to make me mad and get me to say something back to him. It's gotten much easier to let it go and ignore him. Even though he is clear across the country in NJ, he has said multiple times that he plans on coming here to Oregon so he can see the kids. If he does, there is no doubt he will try to find me and if he does, he won't leave me alone.

If you are living in an abusive situation and want help getting out , you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline -1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) For US residents only.

Please do not ever feel as if you are stuck forever - because you’re not. There are people who can and will help you. Do not give up. Don’t let them (the abusers) knock you down so much you can’t get back up. I personally know the feeling of knowing that leaving the relationship is the best and smartest thing to do, but your heart won’t always come through. This is what got me every time. If you need to, sit down by yourself, think about your relationship and how it makes you feel. Think about good things that make you happy, if any, and think about what hurts you or makes you angry. Think about how dangerous (and wrong) it is to stay in a relationship if your partner is abusing you. If you are in an abusive relationship, it will get worse. Get out while you can.

Even though I am a victim of domestic violence, I can't say every thing about the relationship was horrible. There were times when we had a normal relationship and times when I actually felt happy. It just wasn't enough. The bad times outweighed the good by far and there was no coming back. The way he was to me hurt me so bad because I really loved him and it tore me apart seeing how someone who says they love me, could cause me so much pain, and feel good about it.

I feel so much better being back in Portland, Oregon. It is such a relief to finally be out of NJ. It was a hard road, but I made it out. I can now focus on taking care of my kids and making a better life for all of us. It's time to be happy.


Beeb Ashcroft said...

Huge hugs to you and I'm glad you are safe now. Domestic violence is a huge, silent epidemic and it needs to be discussed openly as often as possible so that awareness can be spread and those that need help can be given it. Thank you for sharing your story and resources for help. And welcome back to Portland from a fellow Oregonian! :)

Mel S said...

Glad to hear you're in a happier and healthier relationship now!

mapam30 said...

glad you moves away...good list of signs,

Jenn said...

A good list to watch!

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