38 Warning Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Relationship

Some abusive partners are very smart and sneaky. Watch out for these 38 warning signs of emotional abuse. They could be in form of actions or words.

By Gerald Matiri
38 Warning Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Relationship

Definition Of Emotional Abuse

It refers to a type of brainwashing which can destroy the victim’s sense of self, leading to insecurity and trust issues in a relationship. There are many aspects of emotional abuse in a relationship but most psychologists define it as an act of controlling a partner’s life through sneaky psychological tactics. No physical harm is involved here. Emotions are the greatest weapons the abusive partner uses. Most of the abusive relationships are usually on-and-off and rather than seeking support, the victim tries to solve the problem by themselves. As a result, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts can set in. In essence, emotional abuse is the sneakiest killer of self-esteem. There are rare cases where the abuser is not aware of what’s happening. In marriage, the abuser can be the husband or the wife but this article will focus on an abusive husband, boyfriend or ex. Emotional abuse is characterized by bullying, verbal offense, intimidation, threats, shaming, manipulation, negative criticism, and financial control. In most cases, the abusive partner wants to dominate due to their insecurity issues and childhood wounds they have not yet resolved. The abuser never learned a positive coping mechanism and instead transfers their anger, fear, and paint to their intimate partner. One survey reports that male abusers almost always experience various disorders such as narcissist personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Often, the victim doesn’t often seem to take the behavior of their partner as abusive because they develop a self-coping mechanism of denial. Do you always feel like your husband is restricting your every movement? Perhaps you don’t even know the constituents of an abusive behavior. Keep reading to find out if you are being abused emotionally.

Warning Signs Of Emotional Abuse

Most people think that abuse in a relationship is only related to physical violence. However, there are many cases of psychological abuse that go unnoticed. There are warning signs that your boyfriend is emotionally abusive which are not related to physical abuse. In fact, most abusive partners are never hit their significant others; the pain they inflict is only psychological. The scariest thing about this form of abuse is that the victim may not even realize what’s going on. Physical abuse is deadly while emotional abuse can destroy life. It is known to destroy someone’s confidence, dignity, cause frustrations, and destroy other relationships. In a few cases, abusive partners have been reported to escalate to physical violence. Emotional abuse is hard to detect mainly because there are no physical signs. Most victims look confused and feel as if they lack something to complete their relationship. Its effects are more detrimental than those of physical abuse as they destroy the personal value and self-worth of the victim. It can lead permanent psychological damage and emotional scars as it cuts the core of one’s essential being. If you happen to be the victim, you become a prisoner of your husband or boyfriend. Then, sorrow, hopelessness, and fear become your daily bread. You cannot call this a less form of abuse just because you are not beaten physically. Without much ado, let’s get down to the 38 warning signs of emotional abuse in a relationship.

1. Manipulation

The definition of manipulation, in this case, is tricky. Basically, if you are enduring physical abuse, you will often find yourself doing things because you feel compelled. Your boyfriend will constantly convince you to take on particular responsibilities you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. Your abuser has a way of using you as a piece of chess game just to get what they want. They convince you that something is a great idea and you end up doing it half-heartedly? If this is what you are going through, then your boyfriend or husband is abusing you emotionally.

2. Emotional abuse instills fear

You have a romantic relationship with this man but you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, fearing that your actions or words could make him upset. Fear is among the major warning signs that you are enduring emotional abuse. A relationship should be enjoyable and you don’t deserve to live in fear. If you think that your actions could make your boyfriend blow up, hurt you, or scare you, you need to find ways of recovering your personal power lest you live in misery.

3. Signs your partner doesn’t want you to interact with others

An abusive partner wants to isolate you from the real world. It is not uncommon for an abusive husband to convince you that your friends and relatives are a bad influence. What you might not know is that he is the bad guy in the equation. He will suggest you relocate to some far off place or even forbid you to visit the neighbors. His main agenda is to isolate you so you can be totally dependent on him.

4. Emotional abuse by name calling

Who would tell you that you are useless? Only a boyfriend that doesn’t know your value as a human being would. Verbal abuse is one of the most obvious warning signs of an abusive partner. In the beginning, he calls you names jokingly and you might miss it. Soon, it turns out to be a mean treatment but because you are too used to it, it doesn’t occur to you that you are being abused.

5. Signs of depression and anxiety

Emotional abuse will destroy you, causing tremendous stress which eventually turns into mental trauma and related conditions such as anxiety and depression. This something you must be aware of and you cannot allow it to go on. Your health matters a lot and leaving this boyfriend is a good option. If leaving is not an option for you, then you will need a psychological therapist to help you navigate the emotional trauma. You have to find a way of recovering your self-esteem before your mind becomes permanently damaged.

6. Emotional abuse through negative comments

Everyone else compliments your physical transformation, academic achievement, and your latest hairstyle; well, except your husband who should be the first to cheer you up. He is far more focused on tearing you down through negative comments. The last thing he wants is to see you proud of your achievements; he is afraid that you could do better than him and so, rather than showing admiration, he will show reactions of keeping you down.

7. Financial control

The reason most women cannot leave an abusive relationship is that their financial matters are in their husbands’ control. Most of these women are housewives, with no job security. It is hard to leave a husband if he is the sole breadwinner of the family.

8. Verbal abuse disguised as humor

Was your ex teasing and ridiculing you with an ironical comment? Did he use to put across sarcastic remarks concerning your abilities, appearance, values, and behavior? You did a good thing to break-up with your boyfriend because he was emotionally abusing you. An emotional abuser makes fun of you even in public because he knows you don’t have the guts to confront him in front of others. And when you ask him to stop this form of sarcasm, he tells you to stop being too sensitive and that it’s just a small joke.

9. Emotional abuse signs are unpredictable

If you have an abusive husband, it’s hard to tell his next maneuver. You never know what to expect from him. Sometimes, he comes home happy and other times all moody. You find yourself worrying that he might start a fight for no reason. If you are never sure about your husband’s reaction, this is a huge warning sign. Look no further because he indulges in emotional abuse.

Believe you are worthy of happiness. 💚

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10. Signs your husband isn’t interested in your pain

In a healthy relationship, you should be free to express your feelings- what hurts you and what excites you. In a similar manner, you should share your interests and aspirations, but this is not the case of an emotionally abusive relationship. An abusive husband doesn’t seem to care about your pain. He actually dismisses any claims that he’s abusing you and affirms that you actually deserve the suffering because you have caused it yourself. If he shows that he has no time to listen to your tribulations, then it is clear that he is an abusive partner.

#Abused.... #Genevieve #setpic

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11. Dishonesty and extramarital affairs

If your abusive husband can break the promise of your holy matrimony, then he is indeed indulging in emotional abuse. The worst case scenario is whereby he indulges in multiple affairs, leaving you heartbroken. At this point, you should find an escape route because it’s clear that he has no tinge of respect for you. He will deliberately leave the affairs undisguised especially when he knows that leaving is not an option for you.

12. Crumbs of love in emotional abuse seem true

The main agenda of an abusive partner is to control you. He will keep you off-center by giving crumbs of love e.g. buying you small gifts occasionally so as to keep you under his wings. Do not be confused by these crumbs of love; they are not genuine acts of affection which are more consistent. Note that he brings up these occasional blips so you can feel good and stay hooked up to him. He may surprise you with dinner when he feels like you are uncovering his mask and even apologize. But his cruelty will soon resume.

13. Lack of empathy

An abusive husband has limited tolerance to your woes. Instead of being a compassionate shoulder to cry on, he shows indifference. He is never there to console you during difficult moments because he wants to resume his manipulative behavior as soon as possible. You are so sad about losing your job but are not sure he can support you. You are almost sure that he’s unreliable. If he is never there for you, take note that you are dealing with somebody indulging in emotional abuse.

14. You’ve been stood up on several occasions

Your ex husband just canceled a meeting to discuss your kids’ welfare. Or he failed to show up on your child’s birthday. He stands you up more often, leaving you agitated. It is one of his emotional abuse techniques.

15. Controlled transportation

At the back of your abusive husband’s mind, leaving him is not possible when you don’t have access to transportation. He will, therefore, ensure that have no car or he will buy a home at an isolated place where public transportation is inaccessible. Controlling your freedom is one of the biggest warning signs of emotional abuse.

16. Signs of pathological jealousy

This is not the type of jealousy that a boyfriend shows in a normal relationship like being protective of you. By definition, pathological jealousy is a syndrome where an intimate partner is preoccupied with anger, resentment, and suspicion due to the mere thought that their sexual partner is being unfaithful without a proof. It is the form of jealousy whereby you are accused of cheating by merely looking at the bartender. He forbids you to wear sexy clothes when going out because he is extremely insecure. He constantly accuses you of infidelity even without evidence. This is the type of jealousy that can destroy a healthy relationship.

17. A full-time job of pleasing your husband

If your relationship was healthy, you would please one another mutually. However, you spend a lot of time trying to make him happy but he never gives back. He almost never reciprocates your kind gestures. Note that you are not obligated to please him. You need to find your way to recovering from this mental burden.

18. Your social media accounts are monitored

Does your ex boyfriend stalk your Facebook and Instagram to see who is following you? Watch out because he is trying to control you.

19. Threats are the core of emotional abuse

He has threatened to file your daughter’s custody if you ever walk away. He actually uses your kid to keep you close. He sometimes accuses you of being a bad mother while you’re the best mom in town. His threats may not only be through words but also intimidating actions. Furthermore, he might threaten your friends and family. Note that threats can turn into real life nightmares so beware.

20. Your relationship seems chaotic rather than balanced

While your husband claims that your marriage is doing great, what other people don’t know is that it thrives on turmoil. Every time you focus on setting things right, something comes up to destroy what you’ve built, and do you know why. It is the result of the negative energy from your spouse. If you feel overwhelmed by ceaseless chaos in your relationship, you need to make some serious adjustments or walk away.

21. Shameful feelings

An abused woman feels shame (not guilt) most of the time. Guilt comes in when you have done something wrong, but in this case, you feel ashamed of yourself because he makes you look like the short one in the relationship. His constant rebukes have eroded your self-esteem that you no longer see yourself good enough. Recovering from this torture is going to take more than just your willingness. Seek professional counseling to deal with the shameful feelings.

22. Lack of approval

It is as if this guy came to contradict your life. He opposes everything you do, think, or achieve. It doesn’t matter what you say, he will form a counteractive opinion to make you frustrated. If you give a suggestion on the best restaurant in the city, he dismisses it by something like ‘the place is overcrowded.’ This boyfriend of yours is hard to please. You text him good morning and all he can say is ‘what is o good about this morning.

23. Gaslighting- an emotional abuse technique

The definition of gaslighting is - the psychological manipulation of a victim into doubting their mental health so that the abuser can overpower them. Does your boyfriend’s opinion make you doubt your mind? You are being gaslighted. He suggests something for you but later denies having given you an advice. What happens is that you start doubting your credibility. He makes you believe that you cannot be trusted to recall things. This abuse is detrimental as it might make you lose your sanity.

24. The silent treatment of emotional abuse

This is one of the coldest treatments you can receive from your intimate partner. He punishes you by withholding eye contact, refusing to tell you why he is leaving the house on a Sunday morning and does share his financial information with you. He withholds affection, this feelings, appreciation, and personal information just to control you.

25. Guilt tripping

Sometimes, your abusive ex who wants to get back with you can put on a show by apologizing. He pretends to feel guilty for putting you through hell. What you don’t know is that he wants to manipulate you so you can pity him and get back together. Beware of this warning sign and do not fall for it.

26. Emotional abuse is discouraging

If you don’t share your dreams with your ex husband or boyfriend, you should ask yourself why. Maybe it’s because he makes mean remarks every time you accomplish something. A supportive boyfriend listens respectfully when he doesn’t completely agree with you on the next steps. Discouragement is one of the most obvious warning signs of emotional abuse. An abusive partner seems unhappy when you get a new opportunity. Take caution not throw away your aspirations just because he thinks you can’t make it.

27. Emotional abuse starts with tough rules

You find yourself following some unspoken rules such as how you should behave or cook dinner. You basically don’t live a free life- you are bound by excessive guidelines from the only recipes for dinner, what grocery shops you should go to, and the dressing code you should adhere to. You are only allowed to visit the salon on weekend and only when he is with you. Such rules are means of overpowering and controlling you. The big question is, how long are you going to live as a prisoner?

28. Body language signs of emotional abuse

You don’t need to be verbally insulted to call it abuse. Sometimes, your boyfriend can use body language signs to humiliate, diminish, and control you. For instance, drifting eye contact in the middle of a serious conversation is a form of disrespect. There is a certain posture he can use to show you that he doesn’t care. Other warning signs of emotional abuse through body language include bored crossed arms, contemptuous look, sulking, rolling eyes, strutting, frowning, and leaving the room as you converse, careless driving, deep sighs followed by silence, and hitting something hard.

29. Broken promises

Because this guy undermines you, he can easily break a promise. He will not follow any agreement and will trivialize your opinions, interests, and concerns. He seems to accidentally forget important things like a debt he owes you or picking up clothes at dry cleaning. Clearly, he is in control of your resources, time, and reality.

30. Negligence

There are many ways an abusive partner can neglect you. For instance, your husband can block the driveway, leaving you with no option but to call a cab if you have an emergency call. He can withdraw his affection to keep you emotionally deprived of love. Other times he will disappear, leaving you and the kids without the basic supplies. He can as well refuse to speak with you because he just wants to see you frustrated.

31. Frequent ultimatums

A final demand is the perfect definition of an ultimatum. These are forms of threats that come with serious conditions. He will ask you to either do this or suffer a certain consequence. One of the worst ultimatums is when a boyfriend threatens to kill you if you ever break up with him. Has he told you to quit your job or else he withdraws his child support? This is an emotional abuse ultimatum where you are left with no choice but to follow his command.

32. Every problem is your fault

He takes no responsibility for anything that goes wrong. His car wouldn’t have been wrecked had you not called him while he was driving. Had you woken him up earlier, he wouldn’t have been late for work. Every wrong scenario comes down to your fault, why? He cannot see himself making a mistake; he externalizes all his disappointments and targets you. Arguing with him is pointless because he is deeply convinced that you are to blame entirely.

33. Inappropriate twists and turns

The role of an abusive partner is to block and divert your progress. You could be having a good conversation but then he refuses to discuss a sensitive issue or he makes an excuse just to interrupt it. He will twist your arguments, watches TV while you need help with kids, and leave the room as you talk. If he wants to dismiss a conversation, he will pose a destructive criticism so you can get emotional as you try to defend yourself and lose focus on the main point.

34. An emotional rollercoaster every day

This is how emotional abuse feels like. You wake up every day with a sickening feeling of mental warfare knowing that it’s yet another day of agony. You feel exhausted and nauseous because all your strength is used up as you try to please your abusive husband. Eventually, you come to realize that your efforts go unnoticed. Your mind is full of anxiety, fear, guilt, and disillusionment- the perfect definition of your emotional rollercoaster. Recovering from this condition is going to take a heavy toll on you but you can make it if you have the willpower.

#Abused ......me on set

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35. Emotional abuse involves unbecoming behavior

He will drive you crazy with a series of unbecoming behavior from distortion, stonewalling, confusion, frustrations etc. He will deny the fact that he has been abusing you and put you on the defensive. If you defy his rules, he convinces you that he is only helping you while in reality he wants you to feel guilty and worthless. He constantly reminds you that you cannot be happy because of your hypersensitivity and that it is probably the reason your ex dumped you.

36. A wave of kindness and rage

In some cases, the emotional abuse is constant while in others, it presents itself as tidal waves. An abusive boyfriend is a tyrant- he hurts you, buys you gifts, and apologized. He promises not to do it again but you know he’s lying. If that is the kind of boyfriend you have, it’s time you make him your ex by leaving this abusive relationship.

37. Feeling like a servant in a relationship

By definition, a servant is an individual who performs duties for someone else. If your husband comes home drunk and soaked in wet clothes, he demands you remove his dirty shoes and get him clean clothes immediately- he is treating you like a servant. It is a common sign of an emotionally abusive marriage. If things get worse, leaving this relationship will save you a lot of heartaches.

38. Your personal information leaks

You decide to put an end to the emotional turmoil by leaving your abusive boyfriend. Later, a friend calls to console you about the huge financial loss you are going through and you wonder who leaked the information. Well, your ex couldn’t keep his mouth shut.


You now understand the full definition of emotional abuse. If you are serious about recovering from this torture, start by detecting the 38 warning signs. Then, try to be honest with yourself and the abusive husband, boyfriend, or ex. Only then can you regain power to stop the emotional abuse and start recovering. The first steps to recovering are tough but you can always count on outside help- your family, friends, and professional counselor.