Good question! What do you need to do to find out if your relationship is abusive or controlling? Do you ask your mom or your friends? Do you consult a guru or ask your pastor? All you can get through those questions is someone else's definition of abuse (or their guess of what you want to hear). How do YOU define abuse?
Here are some guidelines to use when you're considering this question.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "abuse" as "improper or excessive use or treatment: misuse."
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "control" as "to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to have power over : rule."
What is improper or excessive? Who gets to exercise influence and power over you? The good or bad news is that you get to decide. The better or worse news is that it is your responsibility to decide.
Here's the thing, though: if you are asking yourself whether you are being abused, you know there's something to look at. Whether behavior is abuse is a really different question than whether it is something you want to tolerate. You don't have to tolerate any behavior. But, also, other people get to continue to act how they want - they are going to act how they want whether you try to stop them or not.
Taking a look at what you want to tolerate and how you want to feel in your life doesn't mean you need to leave the circumstance you are in now. It is an amazing opportunity to evolve to the next, more amazing version of yourself, look at who you are and who you want to be.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to make a decision about whether what you are experiencing is "abuse" or "control" (write down your answers to these questions on a sheet of paper. DO IT! Don't just answer them in your head. It will help you look at what you define as abuse and why):
1. What is the specific behavior you are concerned about?
2. If you had a friend, whom you loved, who was experiencing that type of behavior, would you call it abuse?
3. What if the behavior was the same, and your friend told you she loved the behavior and felt so lucky to experience it?
4. What do you make that particular behavior mean about you?
5. What if that behavior meant nothing about you, and it only meant something about the person behaving that way?
6. What if the person behaving that way was a child? What would you tell them about that behavior?
The point of these questions is to help you identify whether you are feeling powerless or whether someone else is behaving in a way that you want to deal with. The two are VERY different. If someone is behaving abusively, the last thing you want to feel is powerless.
Often we get stuck in a cycle of deciding whether something is definitely abusive or not abusive. The good news is that you get to decide, but you don't have to decide. You get to tolerate or not tolerate whatever you want whether it is abusive or not. If you need more help, sign up for a free consultation here. We'd love to talk to you!