Theresa Fearon, Life and Relationship Coach



Posted on 4 April, 2019 at 7:50

How to Recognise Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship

Does your partner emotionally abuse you? Emotional abuse can be subtle and difficult to recognise. But this type of abuse can erode your feelings of self-worth and chip away at the happiness you deserve. How can you recognise the signs of abuse so you can take steps to protect yourself?

Emotional abuse, we are now recognising, is something that happens to both women and men. For way too long, men have been silent on this subject, for fear they would be seen as weak if they admitted they were being emotionally abused. There is no shame in stepping forward. I have written this article, as best as I could, in a non-gender specific way.

Threatening Behaviour

An abusive person shows their tendency for violence in many ways. They may punch walls, kick the dog, break down doors, or show other violent behaviour. Some forms of violence, however, are less obvious. Emotional violence can be just as dangerous and destructive.

How to Tell if You're Being Emotionally Abused

Emotional abuse often manifests itself in these ways:

1. Isolation. Sometimes, a person in a relationship can become possessive. A possessive person tells you they care for your safety, and that their possessive behaviour proves that they love you. Taken to the extreme, possessiveness becomes isolation. The goal of isolation is to control you by breaking down your emotional will to resist.

• The desire to isolate could be caused by your partner's insecurity. He/she may project that insecurity onto you by trying to control everything you do, who you meet, and where you go. They may try to make you feel guilty for enjoying yourself or making friends.

2. Verbal abuse. Regular verbal attacks on your character and value destroys your self-esteem. Continuous verbal assaults may cause you to put aside your most important ideals and beliefs.

• Verbal abuse is characterised by critical or humiliating remarks about you as a person. If your partner continuously puts you down and makes you feel unworthy of self-respect, this is a warning sign that something is definitely wrong. Verbal abuse may escalate into sexual or physical abuse if you avoid taking action to protect yourself.

3. Financial abuse. Unless you're financially independent, you leave your finances vulnerable to a partner with abusive tendencies. They may deny you access to funds, refuse to allow you to work outside the home or spend money irresponsibly and blame the financial struggles on you.

Next Steps

If you're the victim of continuous emotional abuse within your relationship, the most important steps are to recognise the abuse and know that it is wrong. This can be a challenge for anyone who has been emotionally bullied over a period of time.

You are worthy of respect, and you can live a life that is free from emotional abuse. Think honestly about your relationship and ask yourself these questions:

• Does your partner show, by their words and actions, that he/she loves you and values you?

• Does he/she seek your opinion as someone who has much to contribute?

• Does he/she raise his/her voice and criticise you often, while hardly ever providing words of affirmation that lift you up?

If you're in an emotionally abusive relationship, take steps to change your circumstances. Stop being silent about the situation. Talk to a trusted friend, family member or a counsellor.  Years of emotional abuse will have chipped away at your self-esteem. You are not unworthy, unlovable, stupid. Look up affirmations and start saying them to yourself. Begin to reconnect with who you are. Find your voice again.

Re-establish boundaries. This is something you may need help with, after all, your partner has had it all their way for a long time. Speak with a professional, get a self-help book or do an on-line course (Try my 5 Day Self Esteem Challenge). One phrase to remember is “I’m not OK with that.” It can be varied to “I’m not OK with you talking to me/shouting/swearing at me/treating me like that”. You may be greeted with a less than complimentary response; don’t worry, the purpose is to find your voice. Keep practicing it – in any situation where you are not OK with what’s happening.

Do not engage with the abuser. If possible, walk away from the situation, but don’t go toe to toe with them. Your challenge is to find something to do that takes away the negative charge inside of you. Remember, the way they’re acting isn’t about you. It’s their issue. They are fighting battles inside of them that you can’t do anything about. So go for a swim, go for a jog. Bring your body back into balance. Think about ways to build yourself up.

When the relationship is calmer, talk to your partner. Tell them how you feel and how it’s affecting you. Suggest therapy. In some cases, the “abuser”, may not even recognise that it is abuse! The door is open for them to re-evaluate their responses, just as it is for you.

Protect Yourself

If you decide to leave an emotionally abusive relationship, it's important to take precautions to protect yourself. If you choose to walk away, remember that the abuse may continue. With your counsellor or trusted friend/family, discuss your options. Don’t leave in hate. Leave in strength.

Most of all, remember that you are valuable. Anyone who makes you feel otherwise can only do so if you let him. Enlist the help of emotionally strong, positive friends. Take action. Protect yourself. Replace emotional abuse with strength and confidence in your self-worth. You will emerge stronger and happier when you begin to take these steps today.

Categories: Relationships, Love, Life