How To Escape The Cycle Of Reactive Abuse In A Relationship

About one in three women globally has, at some time in their life, been physically abused by an intimate partner, according to an estimation from the World Health Organization. In a similar vein, a 2018 study in Violence and Victims found that over 50% of Americans had experienced emotional abuse from a relationship. Abuse may take many different forms and levels. Physical and verbal aggression falls under the more common type of abuse, while others can be more subtle.

For instance, reactive abuse is destructive behavior that typically goes unnoticed. According to Break the Silence, this is a tactic used by abusers to make the victim take the fall for the abuse by making them believe that they are overreacting. For example, when a victim lashes out toward their abuser or physically defends themselves, a reactive assailant might use these reactions against them. The oppressor might twist words around and file protective orders against the victim. The goal is to guilt-trip the victim into thinking they are at fault and use that as an excuse to continue acts of oppression. The longer this toxic behavior goes on, the more distress it brings to the victim.

If you're a victim of reactive abuse, here's what you can do to exit this unending vicious cycle.

Nip reactive abuse in the bud

To begin with, watch out for red flags such as gaslighting, the silent treatment, or public humiliation. Emotions are indicators of your emotional wellbeing and shouldn't be dismissed. When a person provokes you to the point of reacting negatively, you need to take action, according to YANA. Try to make your opinions heard, avoid unfruitful arguments, and maintain your cool lest the abuser uses your outbursts to gain the upper hand. Remember that reactive abuse only happens when you react, so choose your battle wisely.

Furthermore, it would help if you made an effort to validate your self-worth and acknowledge that you're not in the wrong. Whether your partner likes it or not, do not hesitate to establish boundaries, make your intentions clear, and enforce consequences when necessary. If you're not persistent, you might fall into a trauma bond — a situation where you develop empathy toward the person who abuses you and become a willing participant in the oppression, per Diversity for Social Impact. A reactive abuser's manipulative strategies can barely work when they realize they have little influence over your feelings.

You don't have to suffer reactive abuse in silence

When your partner's behavior causes you to worry about your bodily or mental health, you should seek outside help for guided support, per BetterHelp. Many times, you are not even aware that you're in an abusive relationship. Therefore, a friend, family member, or therapist can do a better job at identifying the signs and guiding you out. When push comes to shove, you might want to contact a domestic violence hotline or go to the police for timely assistance. Even when you have reacted negatively, it doesn't change the fact that you are the victim and justified in seeking help.

Supposing you've decided to end the abusive relationship you're in, the next step is to remove yourself from the abuser, says A Conscious Rethink. To give yourself room to heal, you need to keep a physical and emotional distance from that person. If you can, cut communication with the abuser so as not to give them any chance to play the sad puppy and stop you from moving on.

Nobody deserves to be abused in a relationship, regardless of how high their pain threshold is. Ultimately, only you can end your suffering. No matter how much you want your relationship to work, abuse is never the solution to a long-lasting relationship. If someone you love has repeatedly brought out the worst in you, perhaps letting go is the best option.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.