Reality bites: Are you in an abusive relationship?

  • Deekshita Baruah, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 28, 2015 13:59 IST

Earlier this month, Rati Agnihotri filed a police complaint accusing Anil Virwani, her husband of 30 years, of domestic violence and intimidation. Rati said in her complaint that besides assaulting her physically, he has also mentally tortured her. The 54-year-old actor had abrasions on her hands due to the alleged beatings.

This isn't the first time that a celeb has come out in the open with a heartbreaking tale of domestic violence. In the west, we have the likes of Madonna, Pamela Anderson and Kim Kardashian, while back home actors like Zeenat Aman, Yukta Mookhey and Shweta Tiwari had faced the brutality at the hands of their respective husbands.

If being in a relationship makes you feel like you are walking on eggshells, we suggest you take a closer look at it. Abuse doesn't necessarily have to be something obvious as being hit or shoved. Abuse can be underhanded and subtle.

If you want a healthy relationship with yourself and your partner, just keep these tips in mind:

* Set boundaries at the beginning
You don't have to share everything in a relationship and it's always important to set boundaries, no matter how close you are with each other.

For instance, if your partner reads your personal messages on your phone then let him/her know gently that you don't appreciate the intrusion of your space. Your relationship and interaction with your friends/ colleagues is personal and you can keep it that way if you wish to.

"One has to respect boundaries, and not allow them to be crossed at any times. If you cannot get the message across to your partner by clear assertive communication, consider involving help. Abusive relationships in the long run can end up doing a lot of damage. It's important that you take a stand at the beginning of a relationship," says Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, Delhi.

* Identify the signs
Any form of boundary violation, be it psychological, emotional, verbal or physical are forms of abuse. Failure to identify the signs of abuse can lead to a life of low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. If your relationship is affecting you, ask yourself these three question: Why are you in the relationship, what are you getting out of it and is it contributing to your growth as an individual.

A general sense of being trapped in a relationship is a tell-tale sign that things are not going well. Most people choose to ignore it, we suggest you don't. (Photo: Shutterstock)

"Frequent mood swings, frustration with your partner, low tolerance towards each other and a general feeling of being trapped are all tell-tale signs of a relationship that is on the brink of getting unpleasant," says Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor of Psychiatry, AIIMS.

Dr Prachi, consultant clinical psychologist, Artemis Hospital, Delhi adds, "Most people won't even acknowledge that they are in an abusive relationship. For most of the patients, non-availability of the partner during important occasions or being treated as someone negligible is a part of their marriage. While this doesn't affect the abuser, the victim goes through an emotional turmoil."

* Stop feeling guilty
Never victimise yourself. In case of psychological abuse, the abuser tries to manipulate the victim emotionally. And in most cases, the abuser manages to convince the victim that everything bad in their life is his/her fault. Eventually, the victim starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless.

"In my career I have seen borderline cases where the patients have been on the brim because they felt they were not good enough for their partners and have even attempted suicide," says Dr Prachi.

It is important that you take a step back and look at the situation objectively. If getting a clear picture is not possible due to emotional turmoil, it is always advisable to talk to a friend.

* Practise compassion
In an abusive relationship, there is a lack of empathy, respect and an overriding feeling of 'me' over 'we'.

"A healthy meaningful relationship requires mutual understanding, trust, respect, sharing and a caring approach. Stop and think about how you handle an unpleasant situation with your partner. Do you call each other names? Do you use cuss words? Self introspect daily," says Dr Sameer Malhotra, senior consultant psychiatrist, psychotherapist & drug de-addiction specialist director, Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Max Hospitals, Delhi.

* Do your bit

Let it out in the open. Keeping mum will not make your problems go away. Learn to assert your feelings in a graceful yet firm manner.

"Most of the problems occur due to lack of communication. Even if you don't like something about your partner or the way he/she behaves, let it out. Keeping feelings bottled up will only do more harm. The process of understanding each other is crucial," says Dr Sagar.

He further adds, "There are marriages where there are no common ground, but it still works fine because the partners communicate with each other. A positive attitude towards marriage is really important. Even if you don't know your partner, make an effort to know him/her."

And in case you have kids, make an effort for their sake. Parental disharmony has a negative effect on the development of a child's personality.

* Love yourself
Start by saying no. Second, ensure that you no longer engage in conversations that attack who you are as a person. And third, be self sufficient.

Maintaining a positive attitude helps. Remember, you are strong and beautiful, and you will only surround yourself with people who treat you right. Throw toxic people out of your life, even if it's your partner. But before you start the process of catharsis, make sure that you have the courage to follow it through. Yo-yoing in a relationship will only make things worse.

Remember, you have the right to live and a right to live happily.

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