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Emotional Abuse — This Is What It Looks Like

This topic is one that is close to my heart. So many suffer silently in emotionally abusive relationships. About 60% of women will experience some form of abuse during their lifetime. While it may be easier to walk away from more identifiable types of dysfunction in a relationship, emotional abuse isn’t always so blatant.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can be subtle at first. An emotionally abusive relationship usually begins in a normal way. The person will spend a lot of time in the beginning phases of the relationship building goodwill with you.

They make you feel safe emotionally and mentally. As a result, it can be confusing when they begin exhibiting signs of being emotionally abusive. You may figure it’s a one-off or something you have done to trigger their actions. They aren’t usually yelling, swearing, or using more apparent signs of abuse. It’s much more subtle.

Sometimes their actions can be under the guise of them trying to make you a better person when you don’t yield to how they want you to act or behave. They may give you the silent treatment’ to control your actions and act as if it nothing happened when you confront them about the situation.

Characteristics of an Emotional Abuser

It’s not your fault! Emotional abusers are great at disarming and making others feels comfortable around them. They are usually charismatic and intelligent. They hide behind providing you what you need in measured doses so your judgment about them can easily be clouded. When someone is looking out for you, it can be hard to see that they may have other motives.

They are also good at providing you with some source of security and safety. It’s not uncommon for an emotional abuser to impose their views on the way you act, dress, or carry yourself around others.

Emotional abuse is very prevalent. Being financially dependent on your significant other can be another factor which can also spark an emotionally abusive situation. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the organization, Purple Purse; They help women who are in abusive situations who are reliant on their significant other for financial support. When a woman is financially dependent upon her partner, it intensifies her feeling of being trapped.

According to Purple Purses, financial abuse happens in 99% of all domestic violence cases.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

But you may wonder how can you determine if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship?

There are some signs:

  1. Your partner may constantly contact you throughout the day.
  2. Your significant other may be insistent that you are always available to them and may react negatively when you don’t immediately respond to them. What’s also telling about this behavior is that this expectation can be one-sided.
  3. They may track your every move, showing up unexpectedly where you are without warning.
  4. They are not comfortable with you spending time with your friends or doing normal recreational activities unless they are present.

These actions are signs of emotional abuse.

It might seem obvious, but often it’s not. Most times your relationship doesn’t start off this way. Emotional abusers are very calculated. They exhibit behaviors of caring for your well-being, often tell you that they want to protect and love you.

Because they are not physically abusive and exhibit other positive characteristics, it is easy to brush off some of these behaviors.
Deciphering whether you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship becomes more convoluted when your significant other gives you things and provide a comfortable lifestyle for you too.

These factors can make it more it difficult to decipher if their jealousy is over the top. But, if you are questioning it, and the behavior continually presents itself, you are probably experiencing emotional abuse. 

Abusive vs. Non-Abusive Relationship

You may wonder, how can I tell if I am in an emotionally abusive relationship versus a non-abusive relationship. Here are some additional indicators

Non-abusive relationship

  1. The person loves you, respects you, and your need for healthy boundaries.
  2. Someone who loves you doesn’t use money or gifts they give you to exhibit control.
  3. Your partner provides and gives to you because they love you without strings attached.
  4. You are privy to financial information that relates to your household.

Emotionally abusive relationships are the opposite.

Your significant other will try to tie in what they do for you as something you should be grateful for with constant reminders of ‘you are lucky’ and how other women would easily trade places with you, as a way to exercise control over you. They are manipulative behind each action they take for you.

They constantly remind you of what they have done for you as a way to keep you loyal and in the relationship. They make you feel guilty when you question their actions. And they deny any accountability in being part of the problem in the relationship when there are disagreements or differences of opinion.

They may withdraw when you don’t go along with their agenda, act out, or become even more controlling of you. It could include holding back physical affection, financial support, or being emotionally unavailable to you.

Lack of trust, possessiveness, making you feel inferior, isolation from your friends and family, and lack of financial transparency with you are also signs of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is mentally and physically exhausting. It weakens your self-confidence and self-esteem in a way that may seem unrecoverable. It’s serious. And because you cannot see the scars of someone who is emotionally abusive, it’s harder to identify this type of abuse.

In fact, things can and often look good from the outside. Emotional abusers are likable, know how to make themselves look good in the eyes of others, and can be extremely manipulative. However, if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you can get help.

You Need Help?

There are numerous organizations which work with people who have suffered emotional abuse. Some professional counselors can provide resources and offer you the encouragement needed to leave an unhealthy relationship.

You are not alone, and you are not to blame. Emotionally abusive scars can take time to heal. When someone affects your mental mindset, destroys confidence in who you are over a period, the time to recoup and rebuild your mental well-being can take some time.

What Actions Can You Take?

The good news is that there is support out there for you if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. These organizations can help provide you with an exist plan, counseling, and resources to get out of an abusive relationship.

Here are some support groups you can reach out to for help:

The National Domestic Abuse Organization
Healthy Place
Day One
Purple Purse

Remember, you can end an emotionally abusive relationship. By taking the first step, and getting help the you need, you can be on your way to living a fuller, happier, and more emotionally satisfying life.

One last thing…

If you liked this article, click the like button below, and share it with other people so they can enjoy it as well. If you think someone close to you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, please offer them help.

If you want to know what it looks like to be in a healthy and loving relationship, this website is a good place to start.


Originally published on Medium.

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