Signs of an Emotionally-Abusive Relationship

Emotional abuse is generally considered any harmful abusive behavior that is not physical. A relationship becomes emotionally abusive when the pattern occurs repeatedly over time. With physical abuse, there is often an evidence of violence, but emotionally-abusive relationships can involve sophisticated—and toxic—mind games that often leaves no evidence. Emotional Abuse may include the following-

Yelling: It’s normal for married couples to raise their voice occasionally when their opinions differ on certain issues, but it’s not at all healthy when disagreements regularly escalate into shouting. Yelling make a productive conversation nearly impossible.

Excessive Defensiveness: When you constantly feel like you have to defend yourself, it will ultimately lead to less room for positive communication. For a healthy relationship to prosper, it is important for both parties to be able to talk openly without any hesitationmto resolve issues. Excessive defensiveness, can feel like you’re in a battle where you need to be always ready with your defensive shield.

Blame: Victims are often made to believe that they are the cause of any fights or arguments and they are fully responsible for their own sufferings and unhappiness. This can get worst by the shame that many victims feel for letting their abuse continue.

Isolation: Emotional abuse affects all areas of life. Most notably is the toll it takes on victims’ relationships with friends and family. Abusers often succeed to convince their partners that no one cares about them and that they have no value. This alienation can cause victims to feel like they’re on a lonely journey, removed from loved ones. They are always depressed having nowhere to run.

Threats: If your partner is threatening you in any way, you may feel like you’re in danger. This is one form of emotional abuse as you feel scared and not in a position to think right or talk about it to anyone. Though you are not being harassed physically but you are mentally tortured and feel completely exhausted.

Volatility: If a relationship is constantly interrupted by mood swings, it can signal abuse. Many people experience natural ups and downs, but it’s a problem when it harms one’s partner. Volatile abusers often shower their victims with gifts and affection following an outburst, only to become angry again shortly after.

Mean Jokes, Humiliation, and Put-downs: Emotional abuse sometimes starts as a partner simply not treating you very nicely. They may make fun of you, put you down, and humiliate you in front of friends and family. When you tell them that something they said was offensive, they may say you’re taking things too seriously or being oversensitive. 

Emotional Distancing: The silent treatment is when a partner refuses to talk to you or, in some cases, to even acknowledge you, after a fight. In some cases, a partner may still talk to you but may act emotionally distant, treating you more like an acquaintance than a romantic partner.

Stonewalling: Benton notes that stonewalling takes place when one partner refuses to talk or communicate. If your partner shuts down uncomfortable conversations, it can feel like abandonment. Their refusal to discuss issues may come across as rejection or a lack of concern for your feelings.

Control: Your partner may seem overly-invested in your social life, or police your day-to-day routines without acknowledging your desires. You don’t have the freedom to make your own choices (either overtly or subtly). Even small comments that undermine your independence are a means of control.

Possessiveness, Jealousy, and Controlling Behavior

Emotionally abusive partners are often jealous. They frame their possessive feelings as positive. However, in an abusive dynamic, this jealousy can turn into controlling behavior like:

  1. Expecting you to answer texts and calls right away, no matter where you are or what you are doing
  2. Always questioning what you were doing, where you have been, and who you have been with
  3. Disliking your friends of their gender
  4. Disliking other people in your life and discouraging you from seeing them, isolating you from them
  5. Accusing you of cheating with no evidence

They may also try to control you with money or access to things you need. This is more prevalent in relationship dynamics where one person works and the other doesn’t. An emotionally abusive partner may limit your access to money so that they know everything you are doing. They may also limit your access to a vehicle or phone to prevent you from going to places or talking to people they don’t approve of.

Dealing With an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Reaching Out to Someone

Reaching out to someone, whether it is a friend, family member, clergy member, or anonymous hotline, is often a valuable first step. 

Put Yourself first

Create time for self-care. It can be as simple as going for a walk by yourself,or calling a family member or friend without your partner listening. Doing something that you love to do.

Create a Safety Plan

Create a safety plan that includes saving money and planning where you will go and how you will get there if things do become physically unsafe.

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