Oftentimes, people in emotionally abusive relationships don’t understand that they are being abused because there’s no violence involved. Many will dismiss or downplay emotional abuse because they don’t think it’s as bad as physical abuse, but this is a mistake. Emotional abuse has major consequences and it’s often hard to recognize. This form of abuse deteriorates a person’s self-esteem, independence, and dignity. Not only is it serious because it affects a person’s well-being and could turn fatal, but also because the person has been brainwashed to think that the behaviors are normal aspects of a relationship!
Knowing how to recognize emotionally abusive behavior is the first step to empowering yourself (and others!) should you ever find yourself in this situation. We want you to understand that these behaviors are not healthy, so we’ve put together the stages and signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.
Here are some signs that your relationship may be unhealthy.
We all get jealous sometimes, but if your partner is always getting jealous when you speak to different people they think could threaten the relationship, Cameron said it could point to a verbally abusive relationship.
“Irrational, angry behavior when you speak with someone they perceive as a threat,” Cameron said, listing signs that a ping of jealousy has actually turned into something more harmful. “Persistently accusing you of flirtatious or inappropriate behavior.”
Constantly having to defend yourself and your actions to your partner isn’t typical, and could mean you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
Sometimes we rely on those closest to us to give us honest feedback, and that’s totally fine. But if your partner is constantly criticizing you, calling you names or making you feel worthless, Cameron said you may be in a verbally abusive relationship.
“Calling someone ‘a slut’ … with the intention of shaming them rather than doing so to help someone else out is abusive,” he said.
An overly controlling partner may be someone who is “telling you what to wear, who to hang out with, when to speak or what to think,”. That could include telling you when you can or can’t hang out with your friends, isolating you from your family, changing your style and more. In a healthy relationship, your partner should be empowering you, not preventing you from being yourself.
In a healthy relationship your partner should never prevent you from being independent and making your own decisions.
This type of abuse can come verbally or technologically. As the One Love Foundation points out, a partner who is constantly demanding to know where you are, or using technology to control you in any way, may be a abusive.
Taking responsibility for your actions is helpful in any relationship, but your romantic partner shouldn’t always be placing blame on you, especially for situations that are out of your control.
One example of this, is if your partner blames your actions for their feelings, saying something like “It’s your fault that I’m so angry, you shouldn’t talk with so many guys.”
One sign of verbal abuse includes constant blame, and your partner making you feel like everything is your fault. Gaslighting also comes into play here. If you find yourself questioning whether your feelings are justified, second guessing your memories of events, or apologizing excessively, your partner may be gaslighting you. Find more signs here.
If your partner gets so angry that it makes you afraid, or has frequent angry outbursts, this could be a sign of abuse, Cameron said. People in healthy relationships, he added, don’t feel scared of their partner.
“In a healthy relationship, there is no need to raise your voice or demean someone,” he said, “If you are ever nervous or scared during an argument, your relationship might be unhealthy or abusive.”
If any of the above signs seem familiar to you, there is help available.
“If someone feels afraid in their relationship, they should talk to their friends and family for advice and reach out to resources,” Cameron advised. “Loveisrespect.org is great, many college campuses have counseling centers that are free to students, and a hotline can be helpful for anyone involved to learn what next steps are. If you ever feel afraid or unsafe, it is important that you reach out to a resource like Loveisrespect.org or a local shelter to create a safety plan.”
Loveisrespect.org’s chatline can be found here, or you can access them by phone at 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Crisis Text Line also provides round-the-clock support for anyone in crisis. They can be reached by texting HOME to 741741. The One Love Foundation has more tips and resources here