Real talk: Emotional abuse can be incredibly hard to spot – even in your own relationship.
“Physical abuse is a clear line that doesn’t get crossed, but emotional abuse can get downplayed or minimised both by the abuser and the abusee,” says Dr Lisa Marie Bobby, founder and clinical director at Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in the US.
What qualifies as emotional abuse?
It often manifests as a way for the abusive partner to exert power or control by being demeaning or invalidating, or preventing their partner from doing things they want to do, like spending time with friends and family or having a say in household finances, says Bobby. Emotional abuse can also happen under the guise of “teasing,” “joking,” or “telling it like it is,” Bobby adds.
At the heart of this type of abuse is coercion, says Bobby. “There’s a fear that if you do something that displeases them, they won’t physically harm you, but there’s an implied threat,” she says. This could include the abusive partner threatening to kill themselves if their partner leaves, or the abuser telling their partner they’ll never survive life without them. “The real damage of abusive relationships many times comes from these psychological threats,” says Bobby.
If you think you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship, you’re not alone: Many people will experience “psychological aggression” by a partner in their life.
These are a few signs that you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship that you need to get out of:
READ MORE: 10 Signs You Have A Controlling Boyfriend
1. Your S.O. is coming on really strong
Emotionally abusive relationships often escalate quickly. “They’re madly in love with you and sweep you off your feet. Someone might confess their love or want to move in together within a couple of weeks,” says Bobby. “It comes on like a hurricane.”
This often stems from an insecurity the abuser has about relationships in general; in an effort to feel secure, they try to control you by being near you all the time. If everything feels too rushed, and your intuition is picking up that something’s not right, listen to it.
2. Your partner stands in the way of other relationships
“Abusive relationships are supported by isolation,” Bobby says. Getting an outside perspective on your relationship can help shed some much-needed light on what’s really happening, which is why the abuser may actively prevent friends and family from having access to you. At the same time, it can also look completely different – the abuser may portray you as bad or wrong in an effort to have family members turn against you, Bobby adds.
READ MORE: 13 Relationship Red Flags To Watch Out For
3. You blame yourself
When your partner berates or disrespects you, you see it as something you brought on. “There’s a belief that abusers instil in their victims that it’s their fault,” says Bobby. “You think: ‘If only I were good enough, my partner wouldn’t treat me this way.’”
4. They make you feel like crap
If your partner is constantly putting you down, you’re likely in an emotionally abusive relationship. It’s insidious, since one comment might not be a big deal, but little by little, the harassment crushes your self-esteem. Things you say or do are labelled “stupid.” You’re called “fat” or “ugly” or “worthless.” The more you hear that, the more you start to believe it’s true (it’s not).
5. Your S.O. is gaslighting you
Gaslighting is all about making you doubt your own perspective or sanity. For example, when you confront your partner about them isolating you from friends and family, they might try to make you believe it’s your fault that your friends don’t want to see you more often. Suddenly, the truth seems fuzzy.
READ MORE: 10 Signs You’re In A Toxic Relationship
6. Your partner is allowed into your phone
That doesn’t mean the occasional “Hey, can you send a text while I’m driving” or “Find this song to play” – that’s pretty innocent. But if they have all of your passwords, check on you frequently, read your text messages, force you to put on location services so they can track your every move, that’s “digital abuse,” which falls under the realm of emotional abuse. Your partner is also likely being digitally abusive if they’re furious if you take too long to respond to their text, or they demand you send them explicit pics and/or send you unwanted explicit pics.
7. They’re controlling the finances
An emotionally abusive partner might try to stand in the way of your job, control all of the money (giving you an allowance fits here, too), or keeping you totally in the dark about household finances. If you don’t have financial independence, you’re more dependent on them, which is exactly what an abuser wants.
8. You’re also being physically abused.
There isn’t always a clear divide between an emotionally abusive relationship and physical assault. In fact, 95 percent of men who physically abuse their partners also psychologically abuse them, says the US National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Your partner may also threaten to hurt you, loved ones, or your pets, points out the US Office on Women’s Health.
9. You feel like love just sucks
“Love shouldn’t hurt. If you feel worse about yourself in the relationship, something is wrong,” says Bobby. “It’s time to talk to someone and get the support that empowers you.”
How do you deal?
If you’re wondering whether you should leave an emotionally abusive relationship, just know: “It gets worse. It does not get better,” says Bobby. “This is an unhealthy relationship. It might literally end your life.” In fact, according to DomesticShelters.org,”experts have found that emotional abuse is often a precursor to physical abuse, and that verbal abuse early in a relationship predicts physical abuse later on, usually after partners marry.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
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