When thinking of an abusive relationship, most people think of physical abuse, but one type of an abusive relationship that can cause just as much damage is an emotionally abusive relationship. You may not see the signs of emotional abuse since they can be more subtle than physical abuse. The marks left by emotional abuse are psychological.
An abusive relationship is not limited to any gender, race, or relationship type. You may be casually dating, or married for 20 years. Emotional abuse in relationships does not discriminate. If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you afraid to be around your partner?
- Do you feel unsafe around them?
- Do you feel you can’t trust your partner?
- Do you feel as if you are always walking on eggshells, careful of your every move so you will not upset them?
- Have you noticed that your self-esteem has plummeted since being with this person?
- Do you feel that your life is in their control and not your own?
- Do they say things to put you down, yell, or make you feel bad about yourself?
- Do you avoid events with family and friends because you don’t want to hear comments about how you are being treated?
- Do you feel you are being isolated from other people you like to be around?
- Is your partner jealous often?
- Do you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough?
If you are in a healthy relationship, you should not be feeling these things or be treated this way. If your partner is using power and control to create an emotionally abusive relationship, you are not alone.
The purpose of emotional abuse is manipulation in order to make you stay in the relationship. Your partner’s goal is to slowly chip away at your self-confidence, thus making you feel as if you are nothing without them. They may call you names, control who you see, what you wear, and where you go. They may become very possessive and jealous. If you grew up in a household where emotional abuse was occurring, it might be difficult to notice the signs as an adult since it was the norm for you as a child.
Many people stay in an emotionally abusive relationship with the thought, “Well, at least they never hit me.” Even though there may not be physical marks, emotional abuse is damaging to your physical, mental, and emotional health, and overall well-being. If there are any children who are witnessing the abuse, it is harmful to them as well.
If you think you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, the first step is talking to a trusted friend, family member, or professional counselor. Every situation is unique, and the best course of action should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Safety is first in any situation. What you should do can depend on how severe the abuse is, the frequency, and if there also other types of abuse that are occurring at the same time, such as physical abuse. On one end of the spectrum, some abusers are not aware that their actions are abusive, and counseling and education can be helpful for them. On the other side of the spectrum, an abuser who knows they are emotionally abusive may also be physically abusive and may threaten their partner’s safety. In this case, the safest action is to contact a crisis line or a professional to help evaluate your safety and make a plan with you. Leaving an abusive partner may be the most dangerous time in your relationship, but there are many community options that are available to help ensure your safety.
You deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and unconditional positive regard, and if the person you are with is hurting you, something should be done.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or visit www.thehotline.org.