Warning Signs That You Are In An Abusive/Unhealthy Relationship

 

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Photo Cred: blkwomenart.com

Disclaimer: This article should not be substituted for psychological/medical advice. It is based on personal experiences and lessons garnered from my studies and personal reading plus the experiences of those around me.

 

The issue of violence and abuse in the South African community has garnered much attention in recent months, and rightfully so. More people than we realize are in abusive relationships. Abuse is such a personal and deeply painful experience that can be extremely detrimental to the life of the person who receives it. It can destroy families and generations – just look at Jacob’s family drama (Genesis 34) or David’s for that matter (2 Samuel chapters 10 – 15). It can even cost your salvation.

 

The sad reality is that more and more young people are entering romantic relationships at younger and younger ages, and without any counsel or guidance. This is mainly driven by the fact that we are an independent generation, and we “mind our own business”. We no longer value the community aspect of life that can act as a shield against harmful situations. Nevertheless, we are blessed with different platforms, including blog sites/online reading, that allow us to gain information that can help us in our situations.

 

As I have written before, I have witnessed abuse and I have endured emotional and verbal abuse myself. God’s love, compassion, patience, mercy and goodness has led me to receive (and to continue to receive) healing over this issue. There are signs that I have managed to pick up on from experience and research that indicate whether you are in an abusive/unhealthy relationship. I thought I would share these with you today:

 

You begin to hide your relationship. I remember my very first relationship. I never discussed it with my family and actually felt relief that they knew nothing about it. I didn’t necessarily acknowledge it then, but I was not sure about this guy and how we related. I knew that if my loved ones got to understand what was going on between us (constant fighting; cheating; being put down in front of others) they would be shocked and disappointed, and would ask me to let him go. If you find that you don’t want even those closest to you to know about your relationship, something may be wrong.

 

You constantly defend your partner to yourself and to others. This one has to be one of the most painful ones for me. Your partner may be extremely mean to you and to those around you yet you find yourself fighting to highlight his/her “goodness” at any chance. You convince yourself that he/she is not that bad but the problem is that it has become a daily exercise. Every person has their flaws and in a healthy relationship this is acknowledged and addressed with your partner. However, in an unhealthy/abusive situation, these flaws and bad traits are the norm in how you relate. If you’re having to regularly excuse your partner’s behaviour especially to yourself, it’s a red light.

 

Your partner wants to know your whereabouts 24/7. In the initial stages of a relationship a couple wants to spend as much time as possible together and send cute messages of “So, what you doin’?” or “Where are you? I wish I could be there” etc. There is nothing wrong with being interested in the activities of a partner, but it becomes concerning when a partner needs to know your exact moves all the time. Not only that – he/she needs to know who you will be with and for how long. This is especially disturbing if you are not even married to this person because it will be magnified in marriage. If you are not free with your time and in your relationship, you are not free in your life.

 

You begin to doubt your right to make choices. Following on from the above warning, another red flag in a relationship is when you can no longer make decisions without the input and direction of your partner. God created you in His image which means that He has blessed you with wisdom and with the authority to decide on things for your life (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22). He is Sovereign and Lord over all, yet He chooses to allow you the free will to decide what you want in your life including having Him as your Saviour. Therefore, there is no reason that another creature like you should determine your own free will and choices (this is outside of the argument of parents raising their children or spouses making joint decisions). If you find yourself unable to make your own decisions because of what a partner would say or what they tell you, something is not right.

 

You feel like you can’t trust anyone because they don’t get your relationship. I distinctly remember the time when my friends were trying to alert me to the fact that my boyfriend had been and was still cheating on me, and putting me down in public. My gut knew it was true so I confronted him about it. He manipulated me by reminding me that we are in this together and some people don’t want to see us together so we need to be careful of what others say. From that moment, I began to view friends through suspicious eyes because I felt that they were trying to cause a rift in our relationship. An abusive/unhealthy partner does not want you to interact with people who can help wake you up to the unhealthy situation you find yourself in, and they will isolate you from the counsel of loved ones. You will begin to believe that other people just don’t understand the relationship the way you two do and so you’ll deal with it (and all its unhealthiness) alone. If you find yourself unable to be honest with anyone else but your partner about your relationship, it’s a red flag.

 

You have extreme highs and lows in your relationship. All relationships go through great times and bad times. But a healthy relationship has a general balance, calmness and normalcy to it. I had past relationships where we were either so on top of the world and it felt like no-one else could ever make me that happy or I was extremely hurt, unhappy, sad and confused by that same individual. I did not have a general sense of well-being or security in our relationship and unless I felt those extreme emotions when I was with someone, I believed that the relationship was not a good one. I believed that a great relationship meant feeling either euphoric or highly melancholic – it was a literal drug. A healthy relationship should nurture your emotions rather than constantly drain them through either extremely good or extremely bad feelings.

This list is not exhaustive and there are countless articles online that deal with the realities of abusive relationships. I haven’t even touched on the physical and sexual aspect of abusive relationships and I am mostly speaking from a dating perspective because that is my experience. Nevertheless, warning signs of abuse are generally mostly emotional.

 

Sis, if you have identified with one or more of these warning signs, I plead with you to seek help for your situation. You don’t have to deal with this alone. Or if you know someone who seems to be in this kind of a relationship, please get advice on how to best help them. You can feel free to contact me or you can contact:

  • Lifeline on 011 715 2000;
  • POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse) on 011 642 4345/6;
  • SAMSOSA (South African Male Survivors Of Sexual Abuse) on 071 280 9918 or;
  • T.E.A.R.S. Foundation (Transform Education About Rape And Sexual Abuse) on *134*7355#

 

If you have any other warning signs that you have identified, please do share with us in the comments section so that we are all the wiser. Let us be each other’s keepers.

 

I am praying for you.

 

With love,

Sonia Dee

3 Issues around Romantic Relationships in the Church

Closeup of sad young woman in living room with man after an argument
Photo Cred: African Sweetheart 

I’ve recently become aware of certain behaviour amongst the youth in my faith as a Christian. You know, when I decided to become serious again about my faith and about being an active member of my Church, I believed that the people I would interact with would all be seeking the same things that I was. What a wrong mentality that was. The truth is that the Church is a clinic. A hospital. We’re all congregating with different ailments, needs and wants and there is no way we will all require the same treatment or medication. Thus, I have come to quickly recognize a difference in thinking in terms of different issues including that of dating or romantic relationships amongst people at Church.

I have been fellowshipping at my Church for about 6-and-a-half years now and in that time, I have not entered a romantic relationship with any guy there. Yes I have naturally crushed some gents there but for various reasons, nothing has materialized into a full-blown relationship. That truly frustrated me for a good 4-and-a-half to 5 years! I’d watch those close to (and not-so-close) to me start dating, get engaged, have bridal showers, get married, and now we’re on baby showers. And it just felt like God had put some sort of cover over me so that no guy even SAW me. Over time though, and in the last year or so I’ve actually grown grateful for my situation. I’ve realized that God was protecting me – from entering hurtful relationships and most importantly, protecting me from myself. I had NO clue on how to recognize the right partner and listen to His counsel on it. And I was certainly not ready to love one of His Princes the way He requires me to. It has also given me time to observe and pick up on the things that we young people do right as well as do wrong in picking our life partners – myself included.

There are several patterns that I’ve picked up on in how we young people go about dating in the Church:

  1. Easy Come, Easy Go – I’ve watched people quickly fall for one another and in the space of a month or a couple of weeks of acknowledging these feelings, they are dating and in a full-blown relationship. They talk all the time; spend each opportunity together; and just move from point A to Z in record time! It’s natural to feel such great euphoria when you first meet someone and are getting to know them. They’re a sort of mystery and you tend to pick up on all their great qualities and breeze over the more unflattering ones. I think though, in rushing into love we miss out on actually getting to know the person without our rose-coloured glasses on. We don’t take the time to observe their character and how they respond when someone makes them angry; or when bad things happen to them; or when they fail at a task; or how they treat those closest to them (because that is a sign of how they will treat us). Then, as time passes and we start to see their true colours, we’re quick to say that they’ve changed when the truth is that we never actually knew them (James Michael Sama). I believe that we need to be careful about how quickly and blindly we enter into relationships because that which comes easy tends to go just as easily.
  1. God Spoke to Me – We’re all encouraged to have a personal and close walk with God. We’re told that God still speaks to us today as a collective and individually. We just need to take the time to get to know Him and listen. This is beautiful and it’s the absolute truth. We ought to always seek to hear from God so that we do what He purposes for our lives. However, I have issues when we misuse this blessing (whether knowingly or unknowingly) for our own personal gain. Most recently, I’ve heard this statement being used in getting romantic relationships going in the Church. More especially from the gents. A gentleman will approach a lady and tell her that he’s been praying to God either for a life partner or about that specific lady and he believes God is directing them into a relationship. What is a higher authority on relationships to a Christian than God Himself? And so, the lady willingly and happily obliges. Not many months down the line, things have gone sour.

This makes one wonder whether God really spoke or what He said. It’s a dangerous thing to use the name of God when you’re not even sure that it was Him speaking. I must say though, that it’s not just the gentlemen’s fault.  We are commanded in the Bible to test everything and all spirits to ensure that they are from God (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). We can never take as gospel that which someone comes and tells us God told them. And so even if a gentleman approaches you and tells you God has spoken to him about you, it is your duty as a lady to take the time to return to this same God to hear whether it is in fact true. I think we just get so caught up in the beauty of it and our strong desire for love and relationships that we quickly hold on to what appears good and right. It seems like such a godly approach after all. But we need to learn to be cautious and speak to God about what someone else claims to have spoken to Him about.

  1. All Out of Fight – A great mentor of mine remarked how our generation no longer fights for things especially relationships. It’s as though we’ve come to believe that if something comes to us and happens without much of a struggle, then it’s meant to be. It should be natural and effortless. That is the lie of the devil. If we look at all the great Bible characters and their stories, their journeys were far from easy! They had to at some point put up a fight – either with others, themselves or the devil himself. Some had to exercise patience for years (Abraham). Others had to run and fight for their life until they became what God had promised them they would be (David). Still others had to work 14 years to marry the love of their life after being deceived (Jacob). The list is endless.

One of my favourite quotes says, “The couples that are ‘meant to be’ are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.”  ­That is a powerful statement! Truly, anything worthwhile does not come easy. It is through the difficulties and fighting to be with the other person that your bond is strengthened. I think the issue is that we are a generation that is used to getting things at the click of our fingers. We’ve sadly translated this into every area of our lives including relationships. But this is false. It’s an illusion. For you to value your partner, you must have had to face and overcome some challenges together. A person more readily appreciates a fairly pricey bag that they’ve been eyeing and have worked hard to save up for and buy, than an even more expensive bag that someone just gives to them. It’s in the labour of your hands that you value what you get. So, let’s not give up too easily and let’s put up a fight to keep the relationships we believe we’ve been given.

There is so much more that could be said, but I just wanted to point out those 3 issues that stand out the most for me at this point in time. All relationships are complicated, but if we take the time to better understand them and each other we can have beautiful, God-ordained unions.

What are your thoughts around romantic relationships in the Church? What lessons can we learn in engaging in these? Let’s share and grow together!

Remember, I’m praying for you!

Love,

Sonia Dee