I remember the day a very close friend revealed that her charming, suave long-term boyfriend had been abusing her physically, verbally and emotionally. My first reaction was disbelief. "Not my strong, powerful, opinionated friend. She is not the type of woman who would be in an abusive relationship," I thought to myself. And then I experienced pure rage and anger. Is she okay? How could he even think about abusing her? How could I have missed it? How could he have convinced me that he was a good guy?
That was a while ago. She has since dumped him, cut up his clothing, had him declared persona non grata in our social circles and moved on to much better things.
Over the years I have discovered that many of my friends and family members have fallen victim to abusive partners and narcissists. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them carry shame and guilt - even after they have escaped these relationships - and don't speak out about their abuse.
1) There is no shame in being abused. Anyone can be abused. It can happen to your friends and family. It can happen to you. Chances are that someone you know is being abused. Don't fool yourself into believing that it will never affect you.
2) Abusers don't necessarily drink brandy from a bottle for breakfast and behave badly in public, like they do in the movies. Most of the abusers I have known were charming, good looking and put on a great show.
3) It is incredibly hard to date a narcissist or someone with abusive traits. Unfortunately they walk among us. If you realise that you are dating one - run! It's not your job to fix them. They will break you down over a period of time and make it harder for your to leave as time progresses.
4) Trust your gut. If a relationship feels wrong - honour that feeling. If there are red flags pull over. If you are worried about a friend's relationship, don't ignore it. Don't stay silent. Speak up. Silence is dangerous.
You can find out more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder here, find resources to get out of an abusive relationship here, find out more about Louise and her music here and check out the latest issue of Glamour here.
Images courtesy of Louise Carver (Photographer: Dave Hann) and Glamour South Africa