What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is when you bully, devalue, demean, control, manipulate, and deliberately hurt the feelings of the person you are in a relationship with for your satisfaction. Unlike physical abuse which is visible, emotional abuse is very hard to spot, even the abuser sometimes doesn’t know his/her behavior is abusive. Emotional abuse is very subtle and could go on for years without anyone realizing it until it gets out of hand.
Victims of emotional abuse often downplay the abuse since there's no violence involved. But as it has been proven by research, emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, it destroys the victim's confidence and self-esteem, strips them of their dignity, affects the way they interact with others and brainwashes them into believing whatever lies the abuser told them. In severe cases, emotional abuse can push a person to hate themselves to the point of suicide.
Are you wondering whether your relationship is an abusive one if you or your significant other is abusive and you don’t know? These are some of the signs you should be looking for to know once and for all as well as guidelines you can follow if you are in an abusive relationship or ever come across one.
9 Signs that You are That Emotionally Abusive Partner
1. You have unrealistic expectations
If you find yourself making unreasonable demands to your partner, it’s a red flag. For example, you expect your significant other to meet your every need at all times, to prioritize all things concerning you at the detriment of themselves, their friends and family, criticizing, blaming, guilt-tripping, and threatening them when they fail to do so or fall short. If this is you, then you’re most definitely that monster partner.
2. Shutting down communication.
Being manipulative is a signature move of an abuser, if you often pick a fight and then shut out your partner, ignore all attempts at conversation be it by phone, text, or in person, you’re being abusive. You create chaotic situations that require communication only to shut down all forms of communication.
3. Use emotional blackmail
Control and blackmail are and abusers best tools, do you use your partner's fears, values and empathy to get what you want from them? Or blame him/her for your mistakes and poor choices, keep them in the relationship by threatening them with self-harm, withholding love and affection from them as punishment, or in return for favors. If you exhibit any of these behaviors, you’re by all means an emotionally abusive partner.
4. Isolation and control
To better manipulate you an abuser will try as much as possible to cut off your support system, you’re isolated from your family and friends. Are you stopping your partner from communicating with other people? Demanding respect and your partner's full attention and focus? Do you want them to depend solely on you for everything? Keeping them from socializing, switching on and off their emotional supply at your convenience? If your answer to any of this is ‘’YES’’ then sorry you’re that ignorant and emotionally abusive partner.
5. Criticism and humiliation
Another confirmation of emotionally abusive behavior is when you actively work to bring down your partner. In private or in public it doesn’t matter, you deliberately pick fights, expose your partner’s secrets, or make fun of their shortcomings in public. Criticize and humiliate them in front of family and friends, tell people they’re incompetent, unreliable, needy, and call them names like ‘’stupid, loser, dumb, etc’’.
You’re indifferent and dismissive of their problems and hurt, using every opportunity to make them feel insignificant and unworthy.
6. Belittling and ignoring
You feel superior to your partner and act entitled, you repeatedly tell them their opinions, ideas, values, and thoughts are stupid, illogical, or do not matter. While yours are always right, you’re condescending and use sarcasm, jokes, and dismissiveness to make your partner feel inferior. If your partner is insecure about something you emphasize their shortcomings, make fun of their worries, and prey on their insecurities.
7. No sense of personal space
Are you that partner who has no respect for boundaries and personal space? Chances are you’re are emotionally abusive, this is how it plays out; you’re paranoid about text messages, phone calls, and friends of the opposite sex. You’re jealous, possessive, and want to know every detail about every aspect of your partner's life and day to day activities. You mistrust everything your partner does without you and question their whereabouts, who they’re were with and demand a minute to minute account of their time apart from you, if that’s you then you’re a stalker and borderline psycho.
8. Verbal outbursts and mood swings
Typically, an emotionally abusive partner yells, screams, curses, and even throws things when they’re angry, they switch from outbursts of anger to patronizing you and declaring their love to you in one swoop. With such a partner you never know what to expect, their moods are as whimsical as the weather, they take pleasure in pushing your buttons every chance they get and then act like nothing happened so that you end up looking ‘’crazy’’ or foolish if you react.
9. Accusing and blaming
An emotionally abusive person will accuse you of cheating without any proof, they will blame you for all that is wrong in your relationship and their life. They act like they’re a victim, make you feel disloyal and force you to prove your love and commitment to them in one insane way or another. If this is you then you need to make some major changes or seek professional help.
How to Change For the Better
Emotional abuse is often the result of resentment so the first step to changing for the better is to recognize the area or source of your resentment and dealing with it in a healthy manner. Resentment always stems from the perception of hurt, loss, deception, and failure, to overcome resentment, you need self-compassion and empathy. This means you have to, first of all, forgive yourself for your so-called ‘’failures’’ and shortcomings, accept your insecurities, and sympathize with others for their flaws as well. As you develop more self-compassion, you automatically become more compassionate towards the people you love... All this is easier said than done but it’s the best way to heal and change for the better.
Seeking professional help is another way to go about it, if your desire to change is genuine you can opt for therapy. Abusive behavior is not something you get rid of overnight, it’s a pattern and is likely to occur over and over if not handled properly. You may need to take time off relationships and work towards healing, this will take a while as your behavior could be as a result of an abusive childhood or trauma in past relationships, either way, it’s something you have to work through progressively.
What If It is my Partner who is Emotionally Abusive?
Do not engage
If you’re the one who’s being emotionally abused in your relationship, your safest course of action is to begin by not engaging with an abusive partner. When they start an argument or try to pick a fight, simply walk away. Do not try to explain, apologize, reason with them or soothe their feelings, it will only make things worse.
Make yourself a priority
Your mental health is at risk here so you need to make yourself a priority, acknowledge that your partner is abusive, make no excuses for their actions. Also, accept that you are not to blame for your partner's behavior and it isn’t your responsibility to fix them. As much as you may want to help it’s unlikely they’ll break this pattern of behavior without professional help and that’s their responsibility. Focus on self-love and self-care, for a change put yourself and your needs first.
Set personal boundaries.
Stand up for yourself and tell the abusive person not to yell at you, insult or call you names, if they do walk out of the conversation and the room. Stick to your guns and let them see you respecting your set boundaries. Limit your interactions with the abusive partner as much as possible. Remember to always disengage because, at this stage, emotional abuse can easily become physical abuse and domestic violence, so be firm without being aggressive or provocative.
Build a support network
Reconnect with your family and friends, confide in someone you trust, stop being silent, if you can’t talk to your entourage, reach out to a professional counselor, dial a hotline or join a support group. Take time away from the abusive person as much as possible and spend time with people who love and support you. Build healthy relationships with others so you don’t feel lonely and isolated. Surround yourself with people who know you well enough to tell you the truth when you need to hear it.
Give yourself time to heal and if possible reach out to a therapist who can help you through your recovery.
Should I change or get away instead?
If you are the abusive partner the decision to change or not is solely on you, you have to make a conscious choice to seek professional help, realize that despite their best efforts your partner cannot help you. To work on yourself, you need to let go of your partner and focus on controlling your behavior. If you’re married and have kids, leaving can be much complicated but nevertheless you need to take time away from your family to work on yourself.
In case your partner is the abusive one and you are the victim, give them space to fix their behavior, make them understand that if they don’t work on changing their abusive behavior you’ll walk away for good.
In a situation where you’re not married and have no kids, you should come up with an exit strategy. If possible, cut all ties, make it clear that it’s over, and don’t look back. Take time to heal from the abuse before getting into a new relationship and see a therapist if you can.
Being single and lonely could be daunting but that's not enough reason to remain with an abusive partner. It’s normal to fight and disagree in a relationship, even yelling is occasionally acceptable but when one partner continuously feels hurt, insulted, isolated, controlled, and manipulated, it is likely they’re being emotionally abused. And abuse is never okay, it will deeply affect your mental health leaving you trapped as you repeat the cycle over and over. There’s also a chance of emotional abuse evolving into physical abuse, which could be tragic. If you suspect abuse in your relationship, be it from you or your partner, talk to someone about it, and seek help before it’s too late.