Recognizing Emotional Abuse: Are You the Accuser or the Abuser?


Recognizing emotional abuse is confusing. Unlike physical abuse, the assault is not so clear-cut. The hurt from emotional abuse is internal rather than external yet just as devastating to an individual’s well-being and happiness and their relationship with their partner. Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship? Are you on the receiving end of the abuse or are you the one dishing it out? Not sure what constitutes emotional abuse? Not sure the line has been crossed from disagreeing to abusing?


What IS Emotional Abuse?

As a motorist, when you come up to a caution sign, you proceed cautiously and stay alert to avoid the danger. Learning to recognize you are being emotionally abused is a little bit like being in the driver’s seat when danger is approaching. You feel something is wrong. There are warning signs in your head, but those warning signs are not so obvious and you don’t know if the danger is real or just your imagination.

You may not know how to proceed to avoid the conflict or if there is any conflict outside of your jumbled, active-imagination. You may react with hurt to what your partner did or said. So does that mean that you’ve been emotionally abused? Learn to trust those the warning signs. More often than not, you’re on to something real, deliberate, and not imaginary.

Emotional abuse is an attempt by one person to control another, in a non-physical way, like an emotional slap in the face. The abuser is attempting to use emotion as a weapon for the purpose of controlling your actions and behavior. It’s similar to mind control if the person being abused succumbs to the control, gives up their right to question it, and changes their behavior and thoughts to be compatible to the abuser’s behavior and thoughts.

Another characteristic of emotional abuse is that it’s a pattern. It’s ongoing, like psychological warfare. The tragedy of emotional abuse is that changes can occur in the behavior and personality of the abused … subtle changes that can happen over a period of time so that it becomes more difficult to recognize that you are being abused and more difficult to recognize that you are not the person you used to be. That’s emotional abuse at its extreme. More subtle, less damaging exhibitions of emotional abuse may be in play.

Whichever the case, you have been robbed and used and may not know to stand up for yourself or remove yourself from the abuse because you don’t know if the problem began within you or outside of you. You may be misinterpreting your partner’s remarks as a sign of love and caring when in reality they’re a sign of control.


Examples of Emotional Abuse

Read through this laundry list. Do you recognize any of these behaviors in your mate – or in yourself?

·         Frequent yelling

·         Harsh criticism

·         Hostile sarcasm

·         Accusations

·         Threats

·         Blaming, belittling, bullying

·         Playing with your partner’s emotions, like withholding affection

·         Playing mind games, like making you feel that you’re crazy (known as gaslighting)

·         Refusing to communicate (known as stonewalling)

·         Isolating a partner from their family, friends, and other supporters

·         Constantly checking up on your partner’s whereabouts

·         Trying to control where your partner goes, who they talk to, what they say to others

·         Trying to control your partner’s relationships and interactions with others, their physical appearance

You don’t have to be subjected to all of the above to be a victim of emotional abuse. Your partner or you may be applying one or more of them. However many the infractions, it’s still plain and simple emotional abuse.


The Scars of Emotional Abuse

How do you feel in your relationship? If you’re on the receiving end of emotional abuse, how does it make you feel?

·         Do you feel drained of energy?

·         Do you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to keep your partner happy to keep him/her from displaying more abusive acts?

·         Are you fearful, anxious, conflicted, confused?

·         Do you dread interactions with your partner?

·         Do you feel a loss of control?

·         Do you question yourself, feel unsure of yourself?

·         Do you suffer from a loss of self-esteem?

·         Do you feel isolated?


What Emotional Abusive Relationships Thrive On

Emotional abuse can perpetuate itself and worsen if the abuser gets away with it as one partner gives up their power to the other. The relationship can turn toxic and your mental health can suffer. Here’s what can feed it:

·         The need for control

·         Malicious intent

·         Manipulation

·         Turmoil and chaos

·         Fear

·         Making your partner question their actions and feelings

·         Making your partner feel they/you know what’s best for them/you

·         The other partner’s unspoken consent


Take Your Life Back By Questioning

A healthy, non-abusive relationship is built on love, support, mutual admiration and respect, empathy, balance, and personal responsibility. If these are missing or you feel that something just doesn’t feel right about your relationship but you can’t put your finger on it, throw yourself a lifeline by questioning it.

You deserve a healthy relationship. If you’re not getting it, start with discussions with your partner. Express how you feel about how you’re being treated. Tell your partner you want it to stop. Seek the help of a therapist. End the relationship if you and your partner cannot repair the damage and stop the abuse.