Am I Abusive?

It seems to me that Americans and people in some other countries do a great job of telling others they are in an abusive relationship and should get out. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Relationships should not be damaging to you. People who are in abusive relationships often do not realize how inappropriate things are. They have either become used to the situation or they never expected to be treated with respect in the first place, or both.

The problem I see is that we do an absolutely horrible job at telling abusive people that what they are doing is abusive. We do a terrible job at letting people know where the boundaries are in a relationship, where the lines are that they should not cross.

I am not an expert, but I don’t see this being done anywhere else. So, until something better comes along, here are some questions that you might ask yourself about your relationship:

  1. Do you think it’s hard being with someone who’s so sensitive?
  2. Have you ever felt like you had to make a decision–that they would care about–without consulting with them?
  3. Have you ever felt like you had to conceal information, exaggerate or lie to get them to make the right decision?
  4. Do you think you did them a favor by entering the relationship?
  5. Do you think they do the things they need to do, or accomplish more during the day or are more successful only because you are there to lean on them?
  6. Do you think you have taught them to do a basic task in a better way?

Again, I am no expert, but thoughts like the ones above do not belong in a healthy relationship.  My comments on these questions are next.

  1. Yes, some people are more sensitive than others, but it’s never a burden to respect someone’s feelings—if you genuinely care about them as a person. If their feelings seem like a burden to you, you are the one who has work to do, not them.
  2. Yes, some people do make bad decisions, but they have that right. Your decisions aren’t perfect, either, and you aren’t smart enough to take that right away from them. If it’s something they care about and you don’t want to give them the opportunity to at least complain about your decision before you do it, then you have a problem.
  3. You will never have a successful relationship if you are doing this. Period. If they can’t trust you and they have the option to leave, they will probably do so eventually. Even if they decide to stick around, they won’t think much of you or enjoy being with you. That only happens in movies. Even if you happen to be right, your relationship will most likely end. Is it really worth it?
  4. No one is so bad off that they need to be rescued by a romantic partner. People need love and support to thrive, but what they do not need to have to thrive and succeed is a romantic partner. You, personally, can get by without a romantic partner and so can they.
  5. This is a sign that you push them to do things they don’t want to do. Yes, some people are lazy, but the word “push” is the key here. Encouragement is good. Pushing is bad. If you happen to think that they wouldn’t take care of themselves if no one else was around to do it, you are not giving them the credit they deserve. Every healthy adult on earth will step up and do what they can to meet their own needs when they have the necessary resources and they have no other choice.
  6. The only exception to this is when they actually thank you for showing them something.  Otherwise, this is a sign that you are pushing them to do things the way you want them done, not the way they want them done.  They are an adult.  They know how they like things done.  If the way they did things before they met you didn’t satisfy them, then they would have tried to figure out a better way, or they would thank you for showing them your way.

If the things on this list sound at all like you, take some deep breaths, take a few days, weeks or even months to think about what you are doing and then figure out a way to let go and allow your spouse to make decisions, have feelings and generally be a human being the way they almost certainly allow you to do.