Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

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No relationship is perfect.  Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, whether romantic or otherwise.  Even the best of lovers will have moments of misunderstanding, frustration, and confusion.  However, with open communication – which is vital in a healthy relationship – most conflict can be remedied through mutual respect, support, and compromise.

In a healthy relationship, each partner usually feels comfortable sharing their feelings, wishes, and disappointments.  While there are different levels of emotional maturity, if your partner attempts to consider your point-of-view and makes sincere efforts to make compromises, your relationship is probably healthy.

Passive-Aggressive Does Not a Narcissist Make

An important thing to keep in mind is that although a person may exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors, it doesn’t automatically make them a Narcissist.  Though passive-aggressive people aren’t bad at their core, it’s a learned behavior that often leads to the destruction of important relationships if their negative coping behaviors are not corrected.  The difference between a person who is passive aggressive and a narcissist is that passive-aggressiveness is a self-defeating behavior, whereas the narcissist engages in other-defeating behaviors.

A person who is passive-aggressive has a true desire to not rock the boat.  He or she is loath to bring up any displeasure or objections.  Because of this, their anger and frustration become pent up until they have a meltdown of sorts.  It can appear that their anger is extremely disproportionate to the event that triggered them.

It is sometimes difficult to make the distinction between a person engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors and a narcissistic person.  In general, they both exhibit explosive anger, place blame on their partners, and seem hostile.  The passive-aggressive, however, isn’t sadistic like the narcissistic personality.  They typically aren’t serial cheaters, stalkers, pathological liars (unless having to do with deadlines and tasks), nor have a desire to hurt the other person, as ironic as that may seem at times.  Further, passive-aggressive types generally don’t take advantage of their partners financially, engage in sexual deviation or degradation, or lack empathy when their partner is sick or has a death in the family.  They simply haven’t learned to communicate their anger and frustration properly.

Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships, on the other hand,  are based on power and control, not fairness and respect.  According to

In the early stages of an abusive relationship, you may not think the unhealthy behaviors are a big deal. However, possessiveness, insults, jealous accusations, yelling, humiliation, pulling hair, pushing or other negative, abusive behaviors, are — at their root — exertions of power and control. Remember that abuse is always a choice and you deserve to be respected. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind.

Other signs of a toxic partner include:

  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Criticism and contempt
  • Repeated and prolonged silent treatments
  • Wanting you to keep the relationship a secret
  • Criminal inclinations

To find out more about whether your relationship might be toxic, take the following test – Toxic Relationship Test – 10 Toxic Love Signs

**If your test results indicate that you are in a toxic relationship, it’s important to realize your partner will not change.  Those with disorders such as narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy do not believe their destructive behaviors are wrong.  The best thing you can do for your mental and physical health is to go No Contact.  

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crystal says December 29, 2016

My ex and I just broke up it was long distance and a year, I didn’t think he was a narcisstic but the signs and just telling my girlfriends they all knew and all had a bad feeling. the more I read on this it was true. the amount of times I tried to leave and I would get the sweet talk id go back in. we would get in to the most harsh arguments just rip me apart my self esteem and my dignity was gone. I felt dumb and sad everyday. its like walking in egg shells didn’t know what to do or expect.. to go out was hard i felt guilty and he would call and text me all the time. we would argue and id block he would email me non stop till i felt bad. and somehow I would take him back. I felt it in my gut feeling that this was not okay. but I didn’t know, I haven’t been in many relationships to know better myself. I wood sometimes think maybe its like this because it being long distance just a normal jealous feeling. but it wasn’t I was emotional and mentally abused. I don’t think I could ever be as cruel or mean to anyone how I’ve been treated. anything good happening to my it would just be turned into something bad for him. name calling or wouldn’t even say ” that’s great”, “im happy for you’. that would hurt me the most. it took a year. 2016 was the most hard and worse year for me. but it opened up my eyes that I know I deserve better and it wont stop, he knows he has issues but he never did anything about it. always an excuse. it got to the point where I was helping him in everything. I felt tired. this article was to the point of how my ex was. in all of this I don’t miss him one but at first I did, but I just did a lot of reflecting on myself and I lost who I was in this toxic relationship. I let myself go. I missed myself. I don’t think I smiled much and my family noticed this as well but I kept it all to myself. im just really hurt in all of this. and I don’t understand how someone can treat anyone so bad. I did allot of over thinking in all of this and it messed with my head. to the point where I was having chest pain and depression. my anxiety got really bad.

thank you for this article. 🙂

Matt Johnson says October 12, 2016

My ex-wife has every, single one of these signs as a major part of her personal identity. It was hard to watch.
I wish I knew this then.

Denise says November 15, 2014

Why would someone in a toxic relationship want you to keep the relationship secret?
I do not understand the reasonings . Please explain.

    Kim Saeed says November 17, 2014

    Denise, not all narcissists/sociopaths request this, but many do. They want to keep the relationship with their supply sources (victims) a secret because it makes it much easier for them to take advantage of the person while giving the narcissist the opportunity to procure other victims. Sometimes they do it because they are married or engaged. This is seen more often in narcissists who are high-profile, such as government officials, those who have a celebrity status within their community, millionaires, and the like. Other times, the narcissist may ask their victim to keep the relationship a secret because it would prevent the victim from talking about inconsistencies and emotional abuse with friends and family, thereby making it much easier to isolate and brainwash them.

      Denise says November 17, 2014

      Thank you for your reply. My Husband of almost 40 years did this when we were first dating. I worked as a nurse & he was a resident at the same hospital. I thought he just did not want work conflict or the embarrassment if I broke off the relationship. I never knew of the NPD until after his death. He spent all his free time with me, wined & dined me. Perfect gentleman etc. never played the games with me. Always involved with just me. Sex was always low key, he always initiated—- in control, every time we were together, not too experienced, vanilla, never talked or asked me my preferences he just did the deed. Not warm & fuzzy — thought he was just shy. Married 1 year later— sex the same until my 1st daughter was born. Then it all started. He made excuses, started fights , became emotionally cruel totally turned him off if I cried. Sex never returned except for me wanting a 2nd child. My luck I got pregnant 1st time. What was I thinking !! Then totally sexually avoidant till death. Knew things were crazy but thought it was his drinking. Thought he was a misogynist but back then they did not mention correlation between misogyny and NPD. No computers or info on NPD. All I knew was he was very selfish if I needed anything he loved to say NO!! Had questions but he never divulged info –had a IQ of 163 very intelligent but very private or shall I say secretive. More of a covert cerebral narcissist. Threatened to kill me & said he hated me a couple of times. Got physically abusive –I left with kids but I thought it was the alcohol. Made him go for counseling & once had an order of protection put in place. Served him divorce papers once but he promised to go for counseling again & I gave him the benefit. He always let me believe all our problems were with his drinking. Had a problem with porn all our marriage very deceitful. No remorse either. Put him out for 3 months because of it. Nothing changed.

      Now that he passed away from GI cancer at 67 years old I have questions. Did not find out about the NPD until 6 months after his death. Looked up misogyny which took me to NPD—- that was him except he did not brag about his greatness seemed to down play all his achievements which were major. False humility ???? In practice for 22 years never had a pic of his family in his office either. Never hurt our daughters but he never really took an interest until they became older. He worked hard & provided well for us but controlling. Funny that when he knew he was dying he apologized for being stubborn & said the hardest thing about being married to “Someone” like me (sounds impersonal) was he could not control me. Really !!!! No sex!!! Why the punishment ??
      Why did he just not leave. Devalued me all my marriage —- surprised he never left or wanted to. Always wanted to stay married. Appearances maybe . He always complemented me on looking pretty — maybe I was his trophy wife. Appearances made him look good —– sick. This was his only marriage also. I asked him if he was gay, sexually abused, told him I felt like his trophy once committed I was shelved never taken down or dusted. All this fell to deaf ears. Like a shield about him/protected like he never heard me. Never discarded but just like it I guess. I have no proof or any reason to believe there was ever any infidelity. Nothing ever came up in 40 years except the porn addiction. Can this be possible ??

      I am angry at myself for not just divorcing him. Who lives a sexless life — no intimacy and all the other crap he put me & our daughters through. The no sex/intimacy really hurts. I am not a narcissist but at 64 y/o I still weigh the same & people can not believe my age—-& seeing pics from younger days think I was beautiful. I know it was not about me but I never knew a man who did not want sex. Why ??? What is their problem ? 40 years of masturbation ???Online porn was not here till the 90’s all he had was magazines before then. Any insight ??? I also dealt with all the finances so nothing there either to suspect anything.

      I am sorry this is so long. Any insight I would appreciate. How do I process all this.
      Took on the battle and prevailed during the marriage but now I guess the darkness was darker than I thought. He even accused me that my oldest daughter who is blonde haired & blue eyed looked like somebody we knew—–he brought this up when she was 12 years old. Who can live like that suppressing the questions— then telling me he thought it but never really believed it. I told him I would never do that plus he was a Dr. Get her tested if he did not believe me. Then 6 months before he died he told me I probably had sex with a neighbor across the street at our other house (31 years before) that he saw me talking to. Again —-he never said anything until 31 years later. Who does that & what is that about?? His quilt for a sexless marriage. All these accusations were untrue but I am horrified about what he said. How can I deal with a lie or his imagination (reality) if I did not know.

      After his last fling on an I- pad looking at porn & caught 2weeks before he died. He said his life was pathetic and 2hours later told me he just wanted me to know he was always faithful to me. Guess he does not think porn is being unfaithful. He knew he was going to die—- do I believe him ???? Do dying people lie ?? He sounded sincere but Again drops one liners & no depth or detail. I have much too process & I think I knew more than my counselor. Help me sort this out or anyone have any input. Thanks!!!!

Anonymous says November 13, 2014

I was wondering if passive aggression would be used as a defence mechanism when we haven’t actually been taught that angry feelings can be expressed and contained, nor how to negotiate conflict.. I haven’t checked out the links yet, but I just wanted to seek some feedback. Very helpful.

    Kim Saeed says November 13, 2014

    Absolutely. In fact, those are the primary reasons one develops passive aggressive behaviors.

Amy says November 12, 2014

I was in this type of relationship for 30 years and am finally divorced. It was hard to see when I was in it. Thank goodness I finally had a good counselor who pointed out the abuse. Now that I look back I can see how bad it really was.

Joyce M. Short says November 12, 2014

Very helpful post!

Just wanted to point out why being passive aggressive is not always a sign of sociopathy…..At the core of a sociopath is the inability to feel emotional empathy. Without this ability, they are unable to form a conscience and will be either harmful for pleasure or for any other reason that suits their needs. The people in their lives are objects to be used as they chose.

Not every passive-aggressive person is a sociopath, yet sociopaths will often use passive aggression as a covert means to create harm and control.

When someone encounters a passive-aggressive person in a relationship they need to determine whether their significant other has genuine feelings of warmth and caring toward people or if they simply turn it off and on when it suits them.

Whatever motivates the person’s passive aggressive pattern of behavior, however, it is extremely difficult to change it without counseling.

    Kim Saeed says November 12, 2014

    Thanks, Joyce! I’m actually in the process of making some changes right now in order to highlight the differences 🙂

Joddle says November 12, 2014

If you keep going back to your toxic partner, it’s like going back to a poisonous well.

    Kim Saeed says November 13, 2014

    Indeed it is. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

alienorajt says November 12, 2014

Yes, is the simple answer.

    Kim Saeed says November 12, 2014

    I can relate 🙂 Many victims of abuse can’t really decide if their relationship is toxic or not because they’ve been conditioned to normalize abuse and believe love always involves elements of pain.

    Wishing you peace and love today. Maybe 2015 will be a new year for you <3

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