Emotional abuse: what it is and how to spot it
Abuse comes in many different forms, but perhaps the most insidious, subtle, and psychologically scarring form it can take is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is distinctly different from physical abuse in that abusers will often dominate and control their victims without ever laying a hand on them in violence. Abuse of this kind is common, and manifests itself in the same places any kind of abuse can be found. It’s most commonly found between romantic couples, but also frequently occurs between parents and children and other close relationships.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of different behaviours, including verbal abuse, that individually may not seem to be too awful, but examined collectively and over an extended period of time amount to an extremely controlling, frightening, unfair, and dysfunctional relationship dynamic. It’s easy enough for victims of physical abuse to rationalize and excuse the behaviour of their abusers – it’s even easier when the abuse takes the form of subtle, controlling behaviour that chips away at a person’s identity and sense of self-respect.
Many victims of emotional abuse aren’t even aware of the fact that they’re being abused
The fact that emotional abuse can be so difficult to detect means that it’s vitally important that you learn the warning signs of it. That way, you’ll be more prepared if you ever find yourself or someone close to you is the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship.
15 common signs of emotional abuse
You’re accused of things you didn’t do. Your partner tries to convince you you’re remembering wrong, or that something didn’t happen the way you know it did. – This is called ‘gaslighting’ and being a victim of it is particularly horrendous. You begin to doubt your own sanity and trusty yourself less as a result of this abusive and intentional behaviour.
They play the victim, often. They rarely admit to things being their fault or apologise. They shift the blame onto you or others instead of acknowledging their mistakes. – This often goes hand in hand with them blaming you for their actions and for them being upset.
You do not feel safe or comfortable disagreeing with your partner or having your own opinion. – And are often subject to verbal abuse if you dare to speak up. This is frequently accompanied by your partner pressuring you to adopt their opinion and always agree with them.
Your partner decides what is best for you. This applies to your career, your clothing, and how you spend your time. – Being able to tell you how to dress, making your decisions for you, and telling you what you should be doing at any given moment are all ways to control you and restrict your individual liberty.
You do not feel safe poking fun at your partner in the same way they poke fun at you. – They are quick to dish out insults and make fun of you but can’t take it when you do the same to them. This stems from insecurity and wanting to feel more important than you. Belittling you makes them feel better about themselves and superior.
Your partner checks up on you often. They demand to know where you are and who you are with at all times. – They’ll often attempt to guilt trip you if you haven’t told them every little detail about the things you’ve been doing.
They often ‘joke’ about things they know really upset and hurt you. – Putting you down and upsetting you are power tactics to keep you feeling worthless and inferior. It’s especially common for emotional abusers to bring up things they know embarrass you or that you’re ashamed of.
Your partner often implies that you are the lucky one in the relationship. You feel as though you are beneath them. – Another way to keep themselves in the dominant position in the relationship.
Your ambitions and accomplishments are not taken seriously. They are secondary to your partner’s. They don’t acknowledge your strengths and belittle your achievements. – This is intended to make you feel inferior to them, to be relegated to a cheerleader in their lives and restricted from creating your own destiny without them.
When you are upset, your partner tells you that it is your own fault for being too sensitive. – It’s also common for them to overreact to you being upset, either getting angry or apologising relentlessly. The goal is the same in the end – to make confrontation as uncomfortable for you as possible.
You fear you partner’s disapproval and walk on eggshells to avoid disappointing them. – If you can’t disagree with your partner or do something they don’t approve of because you’re deeply afraid of the way they will react, your relationship is unhealthy.
You are not allowed to see certain friends or family members as often as you would like to. – This prevents other people from having too much influence over you. Your partner wants your main influence to be themselves in order to have more control over your actions and your life.
Your partner is hot and cold – their mood shifts frequently – This is intended to destabilise you and keep you unsure of where you stand. Showering you with attention and affection one day and then being totally distant and unresponsive the next is a form of abuse used because it’s frustrating, exhausting, and emotionally overwhelming.
Your partner will not allow you to control your own finances. – This is a form of controlling you and your freedom. Being in control of your finances means that you partner can effectively restrict the way you live your life, where you can go, and how independent you can be. The goal is for you to be as reliant on them as possible.
They threaten to commit suicide to manipulate you – This is the biggest of all red flags. Someone who uses this tactic IS emotionally abusing you – in every case. There is no excuse for ever using the threat of killing yourself to control another person’s behaviour.
Written by Maverick, Staff Writer.