Once upon a time, I dated someone who was emotionally abusive.
But, once upon a time, I didn’t realize it.
That might be concerning, but I’m not alone; over half the population has experienced some form of emotional abuse at least once during their lives. Even though physical abuse has more deadly outcomes, emotional abuse is harder to detect and therefore considered more harmful.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms. It is defined as “any nonphysical behavior or attitude that is designed to control, subdue, punish, or isolate another person through the use of humiliation or fear,” according to psychologist Beverly Engel.
This kind of abuse happens on a psychological level; warping the minds of even the strongest people. We hope to all be immune to such violence, but the reality is emotional abuse can easily slip past the best of us.
Victims of emotional abuse frequently experience:
– Diminished self-worth
– Fear of abandonment
– Shame and guilt
– Difficulty sleeping
– Inability to concentrate
The good news is there are specific actions and signs to help you realize if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. If any of the below actions apply to your situation, I urge you to consider finding help or reaching out to someone close to you.
They threaten to leave you during arguments
Threatening to abandon someone is not a healthy means of arguing. It’s a manipulation tactic aimed to make an argument or situation end in the person’s favor. If the relationship means that little to them, then you should, in fact, be the one to leave them.
They make you feel crazy
Do you go into an argument confident and leave questioning yourself? Does your partner use their words to confuse you?
This is known as gaslighting, and it’s a common method for emotional abuse. Your partner is attempting to gain control of the situation by making you question your own sanity.
They control who you see and when
Part of a healthy relationship is having independent lives outside of the relationship. If a partner tries to dictate who you see and when it is a control tactic via isolation. Your partner may be scared that the outside perspective of your family and friends will help you see things more clearly.
They withhold affection as a means of manipulation
There’s a term for this, and it’s called Emotional Withholding. It’s not healthy for your partner to shut down and stonewall you. A thriving relationship has communication as a top priority. Needing space is acceptable, but going silent without explanation is not.
They’re always trying to make you jealous
If they’re constantly toeing the line of cheating, then they’re using the threat of intimacy with another to control your emotions. A partner shouldn’t give you reasons to feel jealous; they should make you feel respected, and like you can trust them.
They’re offensive with their jokes
Lighthearted teasing is perfectly fine, but if you’re always at the butt of their offensive jokes, that’s not ok. If you let them know their words hurt you, and you’re told you’re “too sensitive,” they’re disregarding your well-founded feelings. You deserve to be treated better.
They act superior
In a relationship, partners are equal; there is no question of who is better. Your partner belittling your accomplishments or putting you down will slowly start to eat away at your confidence. You’ll be left feeling inferior to them, which makes for a very unhealthy relationship.
They use the word “love” against you
“But I love you.”
“I’m the only one that could ever love you.”
Love is not a weapon; it’s your feeling that you act on. Someone who is emotionally abusive will make you feel like they’re the only one that could love you. Not only is that not true, and insinuates you’re somehow flawed, but its a form of control. They’re attempting to isolate and keep you from leaving.
They criticize how you look
What you choose to wear and how your body looks is only your concern. Someone who is emotionally abusive will attempt to shame you or insist they’re trying to protect you. Neither is ok. This is an attempt to control your behaviors and potentially tear down your self-confidence.
They call you names
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, a relationship needs respect. There is absolutely no respect in a partner calling you names; it’s childish and uncalled for. It’s an attempt to manipulate your emotions, to get you to feel differently about yourself rather than focus on the issue at hand.
They threaten to harm themselves during arguments
If your partner genuinely plans to carry out hurting themselves, then you should contact authorities or the suicide hotline. However, if they bring this threat up in arguments often, it’s a tactic that plays on your love for them and fear for their safety. Remember that this is a form of abuse, and you’re not responsible for their actions.
If you need help getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship, reach out to a friend, family, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.
Written by Kirstie Taylor