A relationship should be the place where you are safe and most protected, yet the relationship space is also where the most emotional abuse happens. If you are in a physically abusive relationship, you’d have bruises or broken bones that tell you quite clearly you are being abused. In an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s much harder to know you are being abused.
A tongue can give you as much of a lashing as a fist can. Sadly, we don’t speak out about emotional abuse, and we are often encouraged to keep quiet for the sake of our families and keeping “the peace.”
But what is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse is when your right to feel the way you do is violated by your partner. Instead of validating you, they undercut you with snide remarks that break down your confidence and create a self-esteem issue for you so your abuser can control you. Instead of being physically wounded, you are bruised to your soul.
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4 Signs You Are in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
To help you decide whether you are in an emotionally abusive relationship or if you and your partner are simply going through a rough patch, it’s good to look for signs of emotional abuse. Read also my article: The Importance of Emotional Needs in a Relationship (How to Make Your Relationship Last)
Here are a few classic signs.
1. They Humiliate You
When your partner intentionally humiliates you, they are abusing you. By making you look the fool, they gain power and dominance. Humiliation can also turn to negative reactions and constant criticism.
Here are a few examples of humiliation-driven emotional abuse if your partner emotionally abuses and humiliates you with:
Name calling is such a tricky action. While it may start off innocently, and even cutely, name calling tends to make the other person feel foolish or small. Using name calling instead of maturely talking through issues is a classic sign of emotional abuse.
When your partner publicly humiliates you, they may shout, slam doors, reveal personal secrets in public, and give you negative criticism. Random acts of suggested violence may also be an example of public abuse and humiliation, which is part of emotional abuse.
So if your partner raises their voice in public or gives you stink-eye, it’s a threat that they raise, which publicly intimidates you and makes you become submissive.
Your partner may develop a habit of running you down or making light of things you feel are serious, which belittles you and makes you seem the fool. This kind of treatment is emotional abuse.
If your partner pokes fun at you all the time and gets a rise out of making you angry, they are provoking you intentionally, which is disrespectful and abusive.
Most often, when you really get angry and try to talk to your partner about their abusive behavior, they will say that you’re being too serious and it was all a game. They will say that they never said things quite like that or spoke in that tone of voice, making you wonder if you are losing your mind—effectively gaslighting you.
2. They Control You
For someone who engages in emotional abuse, it’s often about control. Your partner may seek to control you, own you, and shame you so they can feel better and more in charge.
There are many signs your partner is controlling you, and if you look carefully, you will see it.
If your partner constantly wants to know where you are and who you are with, they are trying to control you. By acting in a parental way, they are dominating you and expressing a lack of trust in you.
A traditional stalker would easily be seen as an abuser, but your partner may also stalk you in more furtive ways. They may be monitoring your whereabouts, your online presence, and your connections.
Don’t be fooled when they say they are only concerned for you and want to ensure you are safe. They want to control who you see, when, and how often.
In a partnership, you and your partner should make joint decisions. Yet in an emotionally abusive relationship, your partner makes all the decisions. They decide what’s for dinner, where you get to work (or if), and who you can be friends with or not.
It’s very clear in everyone’s mind just who’s in charge of your relationship.
A really dark example of control is to use reverse psychology. Instead of being strong on the surface, your partner manipulates you through apparent weakness. They act needy so you will constantly tend to their needs, and while you may feel like you’re in charge, you are very much at their beck and call.
3. Accusations and Denial
In an emotionally abusive partnership, you may find that your abusive partner constantly accuses you of things, while they deny having any blame. For them, it’s not a relationship of “us” but rather one of “me” against “them.”
Signs of accusation and denial in an emotionally abusive relationship may include:
An emotionally abusive partner will want to focus all the attention on themselves. They want to be seen, supported, and above all, praised. Yet, when it comes to your needs, they accuse you of being selfish or deny neglecting you.
Unlike Taylor Swift’s hit song, it’s not a case of them admitting they’re the one to blame. Instead, it’s always a case of you’re the one to blame. No matter what goes wrong, they will never own up to their part in the problem—it’s always your fault.
4. Loneliness and Neglect
Abuse need not always be an active process. It can also be strategic neglect. When your partner simply doesn’t try to meet your needs, they are neglecting you, which is also abuse.
The result of this neglect is loneliness. In fact, your partner may intentionally neglect you and also isolate you so you can only rely on them and are 100% at their mercy.
Your partner may constantly avoid listening to you, making eye contact, or even choose not to speak to you. When you seek to discuss their distance with them, they will deny it and insist that you are needy and can’t stand on your own.
The result is that you feel weak and also don’t want to seek out help and support from others.
If your partner is carefully isolating you and pushing others out of your life by alienating you from your friends, colleagues, family, and support networks, they are busy pushing everyone away from you so they can make you desperate for their own company through loneliness.
Should your partner spread rumors or lies about you so other people will see you in a less favorable light, they are seeking to isolate you and get other people to leave you. They enjoy the sympathy it gets from others to tell them their partner is violent, drinks, swears, sleeps around, or is mad.
Dealing With Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship
If you feel you are in an emotionally abusive relationship and you’ve seen signs, you should begin to take the following steps:
Final Words on Emotional Abuse in a Relationship
Emotional abuse often happens in relationships. It can be that the abusive partner has their own issues to deal with and being unable to own up, they victimize their partner to get a sense of power.
Very likely, the abuse is learned behavior that you were not aware of your partner having. They may themselves be from an abusive relationship or parental home, and they only know this way of being with the person they love.
If your partner is emotionally abusive toward you, it’s up to you to decide whether there’s still hope for your relationship. If you have children together, it is hard to make the decision to leave, but keep in mind that children raised in abusive relationships often grow up to become abusers.
Abusive behavior often shows up during the initial relationship stages, and it’s up to you to spot the red flags in your relationship.