By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
No one gets married to see it dissolve. Two people are drawn to each other and make the decision to start a life together that they want to last forever; and yet, about 50% of those who walk down an aisle end up either divorced, separated, or having one mate gone forever. And sometimes domestic violence rears its ugly head.
Domestic violence doesn't just appear one day; there are certain signs that a relationship is unhealthy. Here are 10 behaviors that may lead to domestic violence.
Photo credit: ©Getty/Serghei-Turcanu
Respect is an important ingredient in a relationship—mutual respect. Without this, it's easy to fall into unhealthy behaviors like putting down your mate, or even name-calling.
If someone calls you a name, they are not seeing you as an equal. They see themselves as being above you and see you as being beneath them. The Bible tells us to honor one another. One way you could honor someone is by holding them in a high regard. Calling someone names, however, shows that you do not regard them highly.
If there is name-calling in a relationship, there is a need for outside help. Perhaps someone reverted to name-calling when they felt they were not being heard, which usually happens when there is little or poor communication.
2. Poor Communication
One of the most important parts of a healthy relationship is the ability to communicate. Without that, you have two people who are living separate lives. If there is a lack of communication, we have no idea how another person feels or what they think. A lack of communication makes it impossible to relate to that person.
When a person tries to explain their thoughts or feelings, they often make the mistake of assuming what they said was heard. This is not always the case. In counseling sessions, a counselor will frequently work with couples and demonstrate good communication skills.
We often forget that each person that comes into a relationship has a set of baggage. This baggage consists of their life experiences and their unique personality. When we say something to another person, we assume they understand what we are trying to convey. We make that mistake because we forget we all have filters.
3. Demanding Time with One Another
In the beginning of a relationship, a couple looks forward to being together. This is normal. They do things together, go places together, and just enjoy each other's company. But even so, it's healthy to spend some time apart.
When a couple spends all of their time together, and one partner begins demanding it, this is a red flag. There is a difference between a request and a demand.
With a request, you have a choice. You can choose to spend time with the person or not. Being demanding, on the other hand, is a control issue.
People sometimes don’t see themselves as demanding because they don’t use harsh tones. A good way to determine if someone is demanding is to refrain from doing what they are asking you to do. If they accept your decision with no attitude, it was a request. But if the person gets offended, sulks, or becomes angry, it was a demand.
5. Silent Treatment
When one party feels as if nothing they say is being heard, they will sometimes simply give up trying. Instead of trying to communicate, they refuse to use words. If you have ever been with someone who is giving the silent treatment, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Try as you might, the person is not communicating at all.
Often, it seems the person is unwilling to talk. But there are times that the person is just so frustrated and feels so helpless, they have convinced themselves it does no good at all. The person has become unable to talk at that point.
Learning proper communication skills can make all the difference in the world. We cannot feel valued if we don't feel heard. Silence is something that is peaceful and enjoyed by both parties, but silent treatments are very different. While they may appear peaceful, both parties are ill at ease; for no one is communicating when one is withholding their words. It is a punishing tactic. This punishment does not teach anything, but is a simply way to make someone pay.
4. Frequent Arguments
Everyone disagrees now and then. We're different people, so of course we think differently at times—it's what makes the world so interesting. But when most conversations lead to arguments, there may be more going on.
When there are power struggles, it's often evident in arguments where one is trying to prove the other wrong. In Romans 12:18, we are encouraged to get along with others. The truth is that some people are easier to get along with than others, but we are still encouraged to try our best.
If you find in your relationship that you are disagreeing on a regular basis, and your disagreements are escalating, it may be a sign you need to seek outside help. When we are not able to solve disputes in a peaceful manner, one of the parties will sometimes stop trying and close up.
He or she has convinced you that your friends really aren't your friends or your family doesn't really care about you. They can't be trusted.
It is a ploy to get you to spend time with him/her alone. The thing is, people have figured out that your relationship is not very healthy. Some of your friends have stepped back. The family doesn't even call as much as they used to, so it's almost easier to just isolate than it is to keep arguing about it.
After all, it's getting too hard to let the world in anyway … so you give in.
7. Jealousy and Accusations
While children like to see if they can make someone jealous, it is not something a mature adult does. If someone displays jealousy, it is a sign that there is a lack of trust. It can also be an indication of hurt that has not healed.
There was a man I knew who got married and used to accuse his wife of being unfaithful. It was something he repeatedly accused her of without justification. The background story is that this man had been engaged to another woman before he married his wife, and this other woman ran off with one of his friends. Sometimes, the areas we struggle with in life are unresolved issues from our past.
If someone continually expresses jealousy, it’s an indication that there is a lack of trust. For any healthy relationship, trust is needed—it is one of the main foundations.
8. Explosive Episodes
We've established that everyone has disagreements and arguments at one time or another, but sometimes there is another level this reaches that shows things are out of hand. One party will explode. He/she will do this by yelling at the top of his/her voice, or by throwing or even breaking something.
When things reach this level, it is destructive. In some cases, valuables are even destroyed. Whether it is intentional or not doesn't matter; feelings are hurt and sometimes people do not bounce back from explosive interactions. In most cases, it's one party that has the explosion as the other simply cringes, waiting for it to be over.
If both parties get involved, it escalates rapidly and there is a greater possibility of someone getting seriously hurt. There is often a need for time to be spent apart from each other. If the authorities are called, they typically suggest this very thing until people calm down.
9. Blaming or Taking Blame
One of two things can happen following an explosive episode:
1) The person who erupted will blame his partner for what happened.
2) the person will accept the blame and go into a monologue about how he/she is good for nothing, how no one will ever love him/her, and so on.
In this way, he/she hopes to get their partner to jump in, accepting part of the blame and assuring the person that they are really not bad at all.
Tears will often accompany this exchange and, before long, both parties are making up. For a while, it seems that things are better. Maybe that's all that needed to be done, you assure yourself; until, of course, it happens again. The time when things get better is often referred to as the "honeymoon phase."
Photo credit: © Getty Images/Prostock-Studio
10. Threatening and Crossing a Line
There have been disagreements, there has been name-calling. There have been times when things got broken, and even a time when someone got pushed into a wall. Tears and apologies followed, and things seemed better.
But then there was a time when a threat was made. One party cringed as they heard the words they never thought they would hear. Then, one night when the kids were asleep, he put a knife to her throat. And oh, do I wish I could tell you it wasn't true, but it was. She told me this herself.
Please, I implore you. If you are in a relationship and you are seeing behaviors that are listed here, please get help. If you love someone, you want to help them. If you let destructive behaviors continue, you are not loving them. Don't let fear stop you from doing what's right.
The woman I referred to? She was my sister, and I no longer have her because she waited too long to share what was happening.
Please don't let her story become yours.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Marjan Apostolovic