As a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and trauma, I'll share some of what I've learned in the hope that it might help an abuse victim.
1. The longer you put up with abuse, the harder it will be to walk away.
When I work with abused women, my job is to convince them that the abuser won't change and all she can do is get out. It's not an easy thing to accept. Her self-esteem is at rock bottom. Deep down, she doesn't believe she deserves better than this... She's afraid that no one else will ever love her. She's afraid of what her partner might do if she should leave... She often wants to believe that their love is so 'special' that it will somehow get them through this.
2. No abuser starts abusing on your first date. First, he must win you over. Then, he must wear down your self-esteem. No one with a healthy sense of self-esteem allows abuse. The most effective (and least detectable) way to lower your self-esteem is to poke fun of some weakness or mistake of yours. He does it in the spirit of 'only kidding' or teasing but it becomes a running joke that subtly affects you... makes you feel less than others. Abusers usually have control issues so the abuser now begins 'correcting', in the guise of helping or teaching you something. Correcting soon becomes criticizing and adds to the further deterioration of your self-esteem.
People with controlling personalities love the feeling that they get from correcting and criticizing others but they often pretend to be teaching or teasing to minimize the chance of negative consequences.
3. The mental health field has an abysmal record of 'fixing' abusers. That's because controlling another person is a deeply-seated need for controllers. It's like trying to 'fix' rapists and child molesters. The act itself becomes a primary source of the perpetrator's self-esteem. The courts often force them into mental health counseling, but the perpetrator simply learns to say whatever will satisfy the counselor. It's important to understand that the abuser feels guilty of no wrongdoing.
Another factor that prevents change is that losing one's temper becomes a habit. It's like a drug. It is a great feeling of release ...a rush... for the person who is losing his temper. Once you have given yourself permission to express RAGE against another human being and have gotten away with it, no one can take it away.
4. Blaming is a common aspect of abuse. To believe that the solution is to change yourself is to buy into the abuser's excuse. How many women have told me that their spouse "warned" them that, if they said "one more word", he wouldn't be responsible for the outcome? Then, of course, the abused spouse says something and gets hit... and tells me how it was, ultimately, HER FAULT because he warned her.
Bullshit! There is NOTHING my wife could say to me... NOTHING my wife could do to me that would make me hit her or be emotionally abusive to her. She could get me to walk away... that's all.
Other common aspects of abuse are manipulation and guilt. Abuse victims eventually reach the point where they want and need the approval and love of their abusers. Abusers are motivated solely by their own self-interests. If you should ever want to know why an abuser said or did anything, ask yourself how it benefited him. Abusers are incapable of loving another person in any meaningful way. But they are experts at using their victim's need for their attention and affection to manipulate them.
5. 'Controllers' always need to be right, seldom apologize, and always place blame elsewhere. They know exactly what we should all be doing and spend tons of time 'teaching' it to us and correcting and criticizing us... and yet they're some of the least happy people on the planet!
There is an unspoken agreement in every successful, healthy relationship: "I'm not perfect and you're not perfect. I'll live with your imperfections if you'll agree to live with mine. I prefer to go through this life with you."
In an unhealthy relationship with control issues, the unspoken attitude is, "Here is PERFECT (hand held high) and here is YOU (hand held low). I'm going to devote my time and energy to pointing out the difference."
6. Abusers often grew up with an abusive parent. If Dad hit or attacked emotionally when he was angry, then a child learns that it's a normal expression of anger.. Emotionally-healthy men learned the opposite lesson.
If you are in an abusive relationship and you have kids, you're unintentionally teaching them two lessons: 1.) It's normal to be abusive and 2.) It's normal to tolerate abuse. Think about it.
7. Abusers often isolate their victims. He doesn't like your friends and/or family and does his best to sever or weaken your ties with them. He has worked very hard to get you under his emotional control. An objective friend or relative who actually cares about you will often see right through his game and could ruin things for him.
If you believe you might be the victim of an abusive relationship, confide in as many friends as you can!
8. Abusers apologize so they don't have to find and train a new victim. Here is what's called the "Cycle of Abuse":