Am I Being Abused?

Am I Being AbusedA joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.  Proverbs 15:13

I know how hard it is to be in that in-between place, wondering whether you are simply going through a difficult season in your relationship or whether the relationship is truly abusive. If this is where you find yourself, the assessment I have provided below is a good place to start.

Every relationship has an air, a dynamic that engenders an array of thoughts and feelings reflective of it, whether peace, contentment and safety, or fear, confusion and chaos. If you are living in an abusive relationship, you have probably worked hard to convince yourself that the thoughts and feelings that trouble you are unique to your situation or are perhaps over exaggerated when, in fact, those natural responses may be telling you that you are sharing your home with an abuser.

This quick personal evaluation should enable you to more closely assess the kinds of thoughts and feelings that characterize your lifestyle and your relationship.

Just respond mentally yes or no. Perhaps a pattern will emerge.

This is not a scientific assessment. It is simply intended to assist potential abuse victims in identifying whether their own thoughts and feelings are consistent with those that many abuse victims share.

  • Sometimes I feel like my spouse has become a stranger to me.
  • When my husband is around, I feel unsettled or fearful.
  • When my husband is around, I feel like I need to behave differently.
  • Sometimes I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around him.
  • I don’t laugh like I used to.
  • My husband comes from an abusive or neglectful background.
  • I came from an abusive or neglectful background.
  • I have consistently struggled with my own self-esteem.
  • When I come home or when he comes home, I try to quickly sense what kind of mood he is in.
  • I have nightmares where things are out of control, or where I am running away from something.
  • I feel like my husband doesn’t like me.
  • I feel like I am not allowed to need anything from him.
  • I feel like I have to pretend I am not hurting.
  • There are times my spouse is overly harsh with the children.
  • He speaks badly of me in front of the children and encourages them to disrespect me.
  • I don’t trust my own judgment.
  • I consistently feel depressed.
  • I feel like my husband’s needs and desires always come first.
  • My husband sometimes gives me the silent treatment.
  • I am afraid to talk to my husband.
  • I feel like I have to constantly prove myself.
  • I sometimes sense that he’s hiding something.
  • I have caught him lying to me.
  • I feel like I don’t really matter.
  • I feel like I’m never good enough.
  • I don’t feel safe.
  • I feel lonely.
  • I feel lost.
  • I feel insecure.
  • I feel confused.
  • I feel like I have lost my identity.
  • I feel like I have no value.
  • I feel like he is trying to keep me away from my friends and/or family.
  • I feel like I don’t know how to get close to him.
  • I feel like he does things to intentionally hurt me or put me down.
  • He gets angry or impatient with me over little things.
  • I always feel like I need to try harder.
  • I mentally rehearse the things I want to say to him.
  • He is critical of the way I do things.
  • Sometimes I feel like most of our problems are my fault.
  • I feel like I need to keep issues affecting our relationship a secret.
  • I feel like I need to protect his image and reputation.
  • It feels like he must always “win.”
  • Other people see him differently than I do.
  • If something goes wrong in his life or someone does not like him, it is almost always someone else’s fault.
  • He treats me badly.
  • He puts down my friends and/or family.
  • He is an expert on everything.
  • He says things that are hurtful.
  • If I tell him he hurt my feelings, he tells me I’m being overly sensitive.
  •  I’m not allowed to need anything.
  • He likes to be in control.
  • There are times I don’t want to go home.
  • If I question something he does, he accuses me of being bossy, nosy or paranoid.
  • I feel guilty that I’m unhappy.

If you answered ‘yes’ to the majority of the statements, you may be in an abusive relationship. Certainly, there are many issues that color and define a marriage; however, if these feelings and responses are part and parcel of your relationship, it may be time to dig a little deeper and begin to establish a network of emotional support – if you do not already have one.

Begin your journey now, so you can pursue healing and discover the freedom and joy that is possible at the other end. There are some burdens in life that are put upon us without our permission. Some unfair burdens you can refuse, and you must if you are to reclaim your value, your dignity, your life, and the health, safety and security of any children.

It is also important to acknowledge that, over time, you may experience any of a variety of stress-related illnesses associated with your body’s struggle to cope. Such physical issues may include: digestive problems, fibromyalgia, headaches, muscle pain, high blood pressure, or a stiff neck.

Emotionally, you may find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, eating disorders, insomnia, nightmares, suicidal thoughts or other related problems. Of course, seeing a physician or mental health professional may enable you to obtain medication or emotional support; however, doing so may only treat the symptom of the problem without addressing the cause, which may be directly attributable to the stress under which you are living. Your children may be subject to similar issues.

If, using this brief assessment, you see yourself, then it may be time to make a change, to accept the hard truth and begin your journey toward recovery, which will have to begin with you.

Don’t wait. You can reclaim your life, firm in the knowledge that you don’t deserve to be abused, and you don’t have to live this way.

* Portions excerpted from the book “Why Is He So Mean to Me?”

Cindy Burrell
Copyright 2014
All Rights Reserved


6 thoughts on “Am I Being Abused?”

  1. Cindy, You stated it very well, “the in-between-place” … A very good checklist. I have Lundy’s book; just need the time to study it. Thanks for the encouragement to press on.

  2. This is a very thorough list and very helpful in the process of discerning between “is this just a hard time in my relationship or is it something else?”–a hard question to answer because there tends to be so much self-doubt, guilt, and fear.

    I identify with about 75% of it as related to my (former) marriage of over 42 years which I left for good in the middle of my ex’s last rage in December, 2012.

    May I mention two more things that helped me clarify the reality of my relationship with Dr. Jeckyll (good guy) and Mr. Hyde (angry and verbally abusive mate)?

    My sisters tell me that when he was around, I was very different, subdued; I said less and was not so spontaneous. It was very obvious to them; however, because we were raised to stay out of others’ business unless asked, they didn’t share much about this until afterward. One sister in particular started stopping in to visit, unannounced, more often in the last months. She sensed something had changed for the worse and worried about my safety. I, too, realized there was much more of an overt meanness in him the last few months, something I thought was dealt with years ago after crises and counseling. A woman just now wondering about her own relationship might ask her friends and family if they have noticed something similar in her behavior when her husband is around.

    The other factor is something that I think women in so-called patriarchal relationships might relate strongly to: the idea that if a woman leaves a marriage for reasons other than proven adultery (and if she overcomes the notion prevalent in some circles that it was in some way her fault), she is “out from under God’s cover;” that God will take away his provision from her life. This is especially worrisome when a woman lacks the skills to support herself and, perhaps, her children as well. To some extent, I recognized this restraining influence in my (married) self although I gleaned the notion more in the larger Christian culture than in some specific patriarchal cult.

    I’m here to tell others that God doesn’t need some angry, abusive man to take care of His daughters, not to mention the children. God hates divorce (the oft-quoted Scripture), yes, but the other half of that sentence from Malachi 2:16 says He also hates violence. We don’t hear much about that half of the Scripture.


    1. I agree with everything you shared. It can be difficult to examine all of the intricacies of our relationships, as each of us have our own unique insecurities and the weak spots that our abuser targets.

      I wholly concur with your view of the patriarchal culture. To add to your comments, I actually believe that many abusers prefer that that their victims not work to keep them dependent. I also agree that the contemporary church tends to give victims the impression that, should they divorce for any cause other than adultery, God will abandon them. This is where the Scriptures have been misinterpreted and harmfully misappropriated to keep women in bondage in what God refers to as “treacherous” marriages.

      And, actually, the correct interpretation of Malachi 2 states that God hates “putting away,” (the word for legitimate divorce for cause is not used here). “Putting away” occurs when a man would send away his wife without cause – an act of betrayal. Too many churches have long failed to research the depth of this truth, which is consistent with God’s love for marriage – and His intent to protect women from hard-hearted spouses. Abuse surely qualifies. And, I have seen the faithfulness of God in countless ways in my life and in the lives of others who took the courageous step to say ‘no’ to abuse, expose the sin of the unrepentant and protect themselves and their children.

      Thank you as always for your thought-provoking contributions.


  3. Cindy,
    Thanks for a wonderful, eye opening article. One of the reasons that I wrote the book “Sexual Abuse in Marriage”, D. Anne Pierce (on Amazon) is that many women in abusive relationships ask themselves if what they’re experiencing is abuse or not. Usually early in the relationship they excuse it and don’t see it for what it is. As they grow, mature, and learn more about healthy relationships through reading, observation and counseling, they realize that they are living in an abusive marriage.

    Thank you for your service to so many women who are struggling to see the light!

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