Warning signs of excusing abuse in relationships

Sunday November 28 2021
Abuse pic2

Men in relationships do endure abuse just as much as women do. PHOTO |FILE

By Syovata Ndambuki

A few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend.

We had a brief discussion about the weather and the tough economy before she briefed me about her relationship.

She seemed dull on this particular day. “I want to leave,” she burst out. I had heard that statement before. From people who never left. They just complained but never left.

When my friend made this statement, I remembered a conversation we had months ago.

She had declared that she was there to stay and nothing would push her out of marriage.

“What changed?” I wondered, but I did not want to probe. It was none of my business.


Besides, I did not want to listen to another story of a toxic relationship, especially from a friend.

These kinds of tales were taking a toll on me. She did not want to say much either.

She struggled to keep the ‘juicy’ details of her relationship a mystery and in the process; she looked down, fighting tears.

Still in love

I made a joke, just to ease the tension and she laughed.

Then she told me she lacked the energy to laugh, that the constant crying had really drained her.

What followed were brief and vague tales of various things he had done to her.

There were allegations of cheating, neglect and mind games.

It was a one-sided story, but even so, I gathered that he had a big ego.

To my surprise, she declared that she still loved him and she was willing to come back after a while, if he met certain conditions.

She also hinted that she was afraid she would never find anyone like him.

At this point, I realised her reality had been extremely distorted, which is a common side effect of emotional abuse.

It is common for abuse victims to not only tolerate but also excuse abuse. Often, it has been argued that women stick around because of their children or due to financial reasons.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. My friend did not have any children and she was definitely capable of fending for herself, but still she found a few excuses to stick around until she couldn’t take it anymore.

This begs the question, how many people accommodate, tolerate, excuse and even cover up abuse in the name of love? Could you be one of them?

Here are the signs:

Keeping up appearances

In an era where people are flying to Dubai just to celebrate their “first kiss anniversary”, the pressure to speak highly of your relationship is mounting.

Couples have camped at YouTube showcasing their wonderful love stories.

Photographers have also not spared us. We are waking up to cleverly-staged family portraits, engagement photoshoots and men marvelling at their wives’ baby bumps.

This might prompt you to keep up with the trends even when things are not so good in paradise.

One of the signs that you are accommodating abuse is overcompensating the lack of happiness with excessive PR for your relationship.

It could be your constant bragging about how amazing your partner is, covering up bruises with make-up or a fake social media life.

Whatever your tactics are, they do not change the fact that you are unhappy.

You always have a good excuse

“He will change, I am praying for him”, you keep telling yourself. Or “She is going through something, I am sure she still loves me” and “I provoked him, I also had a role to play in this”.

When you first met, things were rosy, but along the way the claws came out.

It is human to desire the good old days when your love blossomed.

Even when you are nursing serious injuries after a rough fight, your mind will take you back to those days when your partner showered you with love. The good memories will linger and as a result, you will forget the pain you are going through for a moment.

From there, the excuses will pop up. You will try to rationalise your decision for sticking around or failing to get help and every time, your excuses will make a lot of sense to you.

Thus, you will trudge on this rocky path.

You are not alone in this. Studies show that victims of abuse are more likely to stick around by excusing their partners’ behaviour.

Abuse pic

Even amongst friends, abuse can take face and shape.PHOTO|FILE

You have lost the support of friends, relatives

When abused, most people will run to their best friends and relatives. They narrate their ordeals amid tears and regrets and once they are done, they go back to their abusers.

At first, your supporters will sympathise and give you advice but if you fail to take action, your complaints will begin to fall on deaf ears.

Eventually, they will stop picking your calls. In extreme instances, they will ask you to never call them as long as you are with your abusive partner.

They are not isolating you because they hate you; they are simply giving you much needed tough love.

After all, when you are abused, they are affected too.

You may bear the bruises and emotional scars but your siblings, parents, friends and children are also affected by abuse.

Therefore, if you find yourself wading through your troubled relationship all by yourself, it is time to question your priorities.

Would you rather lose everybody else in a bid to tolerate an abusive partner?

Trying to be a healer

All abusive people have been through a lot, just like everybody else.

They were probably abused as children, or they were hurt by their previous partners.

Maybe they are struggling with childhood traumas, but still there is no excuse for abusing others.

You have probably diagnosed your partner’s abusive behaviour and you want to love them until they reform.

You are trying to be the loved one that never left or the partner that showed them how to love.

That is a good course but it is hard to save someone who does not need saving.

After all, if they really needed help in slaying their childhood demons, they would be at the forefront.

Downplaying gravity of abuse

A lot of people tend to feel embarrassed for being abused, thanks to victim-shaming.

It seems convenient to either deny or downplay abuse.

You would probably share stories of nasty things your partner says or does to you and when someone points out that you are being abused, you are quick to defend them.

If they insult and threaten you, you may console yourself by saying “at least they did not hit me”.

This is a clear indication that you are not in touch with reality. You prefer to stay in a bubble and when someone tries to burst that bubble, they become your enemy.

Unfortunately, abuse is not gender specific, especially emotional abuse.

Men like women are prone to abuse in relationships.

Downplayed abuse is common in our society especially with the male gender for so many reasons.

Toxic musculinity, bruised egoes and fear that he will be seen as less of a man if he were to open up about the abuse are among some of the reason many men in the African society do not come forward about and eventually out of abusive relationships.

Using destructive coping mechanisms

To be able to cope with the abusive situation, victims sometimes find coping mechanisms that may be self-destructive.

Pills, alcohol and substance abuse are common emotional numbing agents that have been used over time to help victims of abuse cope, rather than leave.

This has led to people living a hazy and barely-there lifestyle.

They are literally left a shell of their former selves.


Abusive people are not entirely evil.

They are humans too and sometimes they can be kind and even loving.

They will dialogue with you from time to time and convince you that they will either change or you are to blame for their behaviour.

But that does not minimise the effect of their abuse.

If you ended up in a hospital bed after a confrontation, you will not get well sooner just because your partner seemed remorseful afterwards.

It is also important to keep in mind that abuse is not just in romantic relationships. Friends can also be abusive and it takes discernment to know when a friend is toxic and abusive.