Episode 89: Signs That You’re in an Abusive Relationship

The Harvey Weinstein case came about several months ago, and one of the women in our community and I were talking about it. She said, “You know, Michelle, I feel like this is an opportunity for us to address such a common problem.”

I have a done a lot of research to prepare for this post because I take this topic very seriously.

Did you know that abuse thrives in isolation and that 50% of men in recovery admit that they have been physically abusive to their partner or spouse? And my guess is that close to 100% of men in recovery have been verbally abusive.

Let’s get started by determining what abuse looks like. And you might have started off reading this thinking, “Well, Michelle, I’m not really in an abusive relationship.”

And hopefully that’s true, but will you promise me to read this and let me teach you what abuse looks and sounds like? If it doesn’t apply to you, then great, you’ll have confirmation and peace of mind. You’ll also have the tools to help another sister in our community who is going through this.

But you might be surprised. Addiction might be pulling a fast one on you. And there might be more abuse in your relationship than you’re aware of. So please, please give me just a few minutes of your day.

I can’t promise this is going to be a quick read because there’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I can tell you it will be rich with information, helpful, and applicable.

You are in a safe place with me. There’s no judgment. We are a sisterhood, and we’re all experiencing very similar things. We don’t judge ourselves, and we don’t judge each other.

This might be the most important article you’ll ever read.

So please keep an open heart and mind because we are in this together.

I’m going to ask you some questions. And I want you to take the time to really think them over. Ask yourself: Does this apply to me? Is there any truth to this in my life?

You know one of our core beliefs in the Love Over Addiction community is that we do the work. We’re not powerless over this disease. We don’t just need to sit back and wait for them to get sober. We are willing and committed to doing the work.

Recovery doesn’t come without amazing effort and the desire to be truthful with ourselves.

Think of your loved one for a moment, and think about the effort that you know it will take for them to choose long-term sobriety. It is a huge commitment that takes a lot of energy, tons of love, lots of thought and research, and work. That same amount of energy is what you need to recover yourself.

The amount of effort that your loved one needs to put into their sobriety is the exact amount of effort you need to put into your recovery.

So I hope and pray that you will stop in between these questions and really answer them. Nobody is around for you to judge. This is just between you and me. Are you ready?

Here are the signs and symptoms that you’ve been in an abusive relationship:

Does he/she make you afraid by using looks or actions or gestures?

Does he/she smash things, destroy property, abuse pets, or display weapons?

Are they putting you down, making you feel bad about being yourself, or calling you names?

Are they making you think you’re crazy?

Does he/she play mind games or humiliate you and make you feel guilty?

Does he/she control what you do, who you see and talk to, or what you read and where you go?

Are they limiting your outside involvement?

Do they use their jealousy to justify their actions?

Are they making light of the abuse and not taking your concerns about it seriously?

Is he/she saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, or saying you caused it?

Does he/she make you feel guilty about the children, use them to relay messages, or use visitation to harass you?

Do they threaten to take the children away?

Is he/she treating you like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the master of the castle, and being the one to define your role in the relationship?

Are they preventing you from getting or keeping a job?

Does he/she make you ask for money?

Are they giving you an allowance or taking your money?

Is he/she not letting you know about or have access to the family income?

Do they make or carry out threats to do something to hurt you?

Is he/she threatening to leave you or commit suicide?

Is he/she making you drop charges against him or making you do illegal things?


These are all ways addiction exerts power and control over us, and this is physical, mental, sexual, and verbal abuse. If you answered yes to any of these, you are not alone. I promise you. There are so many of us in this Love Over Addiction community who have experienced this. We understand.

And I know for me, when I was in this type of relationship, I felt like I was the one to blame.

I let the addiction make me feel like I was the problem and that somehow, someway, I asked for it.

I don’t have an issue with speaking up for myself. And sometimes, when you have a bad habit of nagging, yelling, or acting out of control, it can feel like you asked for it, right? It feels like you asked for this kind of abuse. It can feel like you helped take things to the next level. And maybe if you were that quiet girl, he wouldn’t have gotten so mean and cruel.

That’s how I used to feel. He wouldn’t have had to do what he did if I was the timid and well-behaved girl. The woman and the wife who was quiet and small.

But can I be your friend and tell you the loving truth? That is BS. That’s the kind of lie that this disease wants you to believe because guess what: we have women in this community who are quiet. They’re the ones who internalize all of their feelings and anger, and they still get abused.

Nobody, under any circumstance, should ever, ever abuse you, even if you’ve gone off your rocker and made a big mistake.

There is never any justification for abuse, and it’s grounds to leave forever and never return.

If you’re a woman of faith, I’m going to make a very bold statement here that I am completely prepared to back up. God does not want you in an abusive relationship. You are His child whom He adores. Would you want your child in an abusive relationship?

What would you do if your young child called you and said somebody was abusing them in the playground, or if they were a grown adult, their partner was abusing them?

Would you say to that child, “Oh, just stick it out. Toughen up. Grow up. This is partly your responsibility. What did you do to cause this?” You wouldn’t say that. You would help them pack their bags, give them a safe place to stay, and do anything you could to protect the one you love.

That feeling is how God feels about you. But He can’t force you to leave. He’s not going to pack your bag for you. That’s your work. If you’re staying out of guilt over what your church or religion is telling you, I am boldly saying and declaring you are focusing on the wrong opinion.

Too many of us have been putting up with abuse for too long.

Addiction and abuse go hand in hand. And if the ones we love are abusing us, it’s time we stick up for ourselves.

Now that we have covered what abuse looks like, we are going to talk about why we put up with it. And there are basically four reasons why we don’t speak up about abuse.

1. We love them. And the idea of being alone and leaving is frightening. So we stick it out, and we hope that it will get better. We try our best not to upset them, and we live in fear that he will lash out again, but leaving would make them really, really mad.

We don’t want to leave, we just want them to stop being abusive.

And trying to escape seems impossible. So we hang on to hope that if we become a better woman, or if we try harder, he will change.

2. We feel like were partly to blame—like somehow we antagonized them, or we allowed it and didn’t speak up or stand up for ourselves. We asked for it if we were in an argument and they hit or pushed or attacked us or put us down or yelled at us.

And we might blame ourselves for being too loud or assertive. We tell ourselves if we were just quiet and agreeable, this would never have happened.

We are intimidated and bullied into thinking that somehow this is our fault.

So we are left with feelings of shame.

3. We are not sure if this really is abuse because they can be so kind afterward. They know that in order to lure you back in, they need to be charming and apologetic, and then they need to bribe you emotionally or financially or physically. And then they abuse you again.

It’s this cycle that never ends until you get out and away.

4. We’re smart women, so we feel like we can’t really be in an abusive relationship. Usually, we find ourselves in an abusive relationship, and we think, “Well, there’s no way that this is truly abusive. This isn’t the obvious abuse that is portrayed on the Lifetime TV movie.”

But for the most part, you think your partner is a good person, and you’re a smart woman.

Abuse doesn’t happen to people like you.

Look at the example of the women in Hollywood. Those women were successful, beautiful, gifted women. Abusive relationships happen to people of all different backgrounds. It’s not subjective.

So now that we have covered what abuse sounds and looks like, and we spoke of why we put up with abusive relationships, what can we do about it? I am going to give you a resource that I want you to write down.

All my data and research on the topic of abuse was done through this amazing organization. It’s called The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and you can find them at TheHotline.org. They are an independent resource that offers a free hotline with trained and skilled staff who specialize in this topic.

I have spoken to them professionally many times, and they are truly wonderful. And they will help you come up with a safe plan. They have safety plans for you and your children, for you and your pets, for you during your pregnancy, and any other situation you can think of.

Now, you don’t have to implement the plan right away. I’m not telling you if you’re feeling panicked, and your heart’s fluttering, that you need to go home and pack your bags immediately; you don’t.

You don’t have to implement this plan right away. Part of leaving is coming up with a strategy.

You have to have a plan in order to execute this correctly.

You can also get the plans on their website, so if you don’t feel like calling the hotline specifically, all that information is still available to you. I am not trying to scare you, but rather lovingly teach you that abuse is not normal in a relationship. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, my sister.

This is not your fault. Even though the one you love can be very charming, that does not mean they are not abusive. There are wonderful examples in your life of healthy relationships.

That is what you deserve. That is what your children deserve to have modeled for them. It is time for you to consider that you have the courage inside of you to stand up to abusive relationships once and for all.

I am right here with you. I believe in you 110%.

And if you are one of those people right now who has been listening to the podcast or reading the blog, but you haven’t joined our community, I am telling you that it takes a village, and we are your village.

We are real women all over the world who are waiting to encourage you, to lift you up, to give you advice, and to tell you what worked for us.

Think about it. We are all a collective voice that is waiting to help heal you, nurture you, and nurse you back to health.

You do not need to do this by yourself. If you are that woman, please consider one of our programs. I’m telling you that they work, and they can be life-changing when you make your healing a priority. You can check us out at TheLoveOverWay.com.

Are you ready to take your healing to the next level?

Love Over Addiction is here for you.

Join thousands of women, just like you today.

Love Over Addiction is a private self-study recovery program just for women who love someone who drinks too much or suffers from substance use disorder.

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