9 Signs You Are In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical violence
Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical violence | Source

What is Emotional Abuse?

Sticks and stones

May break my bones,

But words will never hurt me.

We've all heard the saying at some point, but nothing could be further from the truth. The scars left by words run the deepest of all, long after physical injuries have healed.

Emotional abuse is horribly common and frequently discounted, even by the victims themselves. There are no bruises, no visits from the police, no hospital trips --- just the slow and terrible erosion of self-esteem and self-worth at the hands of the abuser.

If your partner regularly puts you down, threatens you, humiliates you, or belittles you, you are in an abusive relationship.

Emotional abuse is also a frequent precursor to physical violence. If he or she is willing to hurt you with words, they may well graduate to hurting you with fists.

Everybody deserves a safe and loving relationship where they feel cherished. If your partner is abusing you in any way, GET OUT. It won't get any better, and they will never change. It's not your fault and you didn't cause it -- all you can do is escape it.

Here are some of the signs you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

1). You're Afraid

A healthy relationship should not contain fear.

If you're afraid to talk about problems with your partner for fear they will blow up at you, there's something wrong.

You might be afraid to ask for things because you don't know how they will react, or even begin to be physically afraid of them due to their angry outbursts.

Abusers use fear to manipulate their partners into the behavior they want. If you're afraid to confront them, you'll be much easier to control. And angry outbursts leave the recipient feeling like they have done something wrong -- after all, if they haven't, why was the abuser so mad?

If you fear your spouse or partner, it's time to take a very serious look at your relationship.

2). They belittle you and criticize you

"You can't ever do anything right." "God, you're so stupid." "You're crazy."

If someone walked up to you in the street and said these things to you, you would be greatly offended, and then shrug it off.

It's different when it's a loved one saying it. Someone you care about is already inside your emotional armor, and their words can slip right into your heart without you ever really examining them.

Usually it will start at a vulnerable moment -- you've just done something you thought was pretty stupid, for example, and your partner echoes your own negative self-talk, which makes you accept it much more easily.

A supportive partner in a healthy relationship will not constantly find fault with you or belittle you.

If you hear these negative things often enough, you begin to believe them and internalize them, and the cycle just gets worse. The lower your self esteem goes, the more the abuser can pile on to you, and when you accept it, it lowers your self-worth even further.

Remember that the problem is NOT with you, it is in the abuser's own sick mind.

Have you been in an emotionally abusive relationship?

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3). They isolate you

At first, it can be exciting and flattering that your partner can't stand to be without you, and wants you to spend all your free time in their company. It feels like love, but it's not - it's control.

You begin to see far less of your family and friends. They would be likely to confront the abusive partner about your treatment, but by the time the abuse starts the isolation is usually in full swing.

He or she hates it when you go out to see friends, and tries to find fault lines in your relationship, exaggerating them. If you got angry with your mother one day, the abusive partner might take the opportunity to fan the flames and make the disagreement seem as massive as possible, hoping you will cling to him/her instead.

Eventually you might start feeling you have to get permission from your partner to out and socialize, or maybe you know they'll be so upset if you do that you don't even try, knowing the emotional storm that would happen if you did.

4). Jealous and Controlling Behavior

Your partner demands to know who you were talking to on the phone, where you went and who you were with. Sometimes they will engage in stalking behavior [following you surreptitiously to "check up" on you and see if you're where you should be, or going through your phone, emails, and mail].

Everything is grounds for suspicion, even if you've never given them a cause for it. Your partner does not trust you, and is unafraid of letting you know.

Trust is one of the cornerstones in any healthy relationship, and if your partner does not extend you such a basic thing, then there's a problem.

5). Everything is always your fault

...or if not your fault, there's another scapegoat. Emotionally abusive people try to lay the blame for everything that's wrong at the feet of anyone but themselves.

If they don't get promoted at work, it's the bad boss and stupid co-workers conspiring against them. If they have a drinking problem it's because someone else is driving them to it. If they get a ticket, it's definitely the cop's fault.

Any of this sound familiar?

Abusive people never want to own up to their own faults and mistakes. If you're with someone who tries to blame you for everything, take heed -- it really ISN'T you.

6). You regularly have to make excuses for their behavior

You frequently find yourself explaining your partner's poor behavior to your friends and family. Maybe you feel like you have to justify it. "Oh, he's been stressed at work," or "She was just having a bad day."

You might begin to feel embarrassed to have your partner visit your friends or family out of fear how he or she will behave -- which in turn leads to the isolation mentioned.

7). Ignores your opinions or accomplishments

If your partner persistently ignores or belittles your opinions and accomplishments, that's another warning sign to heed. A supportive partner will be excited and happy for good fortune in your life.

Maybe you came home excited to share the news of a promotion at work, to be met with indifference or outright hostility. Or perhaps he or she regularly insults your opinions and wishes.

These aren't normal relationship behaviors -- take heed!

8). Two-Faced

Does your partner act delightful and charming and loving in public, only to turn into a totally different person as soon as you get home and close the door?

This is a classic abusive behavior, designed to keep you off-balance and unsure of what to expect.

Do you find yourself still loving their public persona, but wishing they would be like that all of the time? The unfortunate fact is that abusive people are often superficially very pleasant and charming -- they are master manipulators, and one part of manipulation is the ability to identify exactly what you want to hear.

Unfortunately, that stage doesn't last long.

9). Threats

The most serious warning sign is a partner who threatens you in any way. Threats are a final means of control when other methods have failed.

Often they will try to keep you from leaving the relationship by threatening to harm or kill you, themselves, or the family pet if you leave.

Statements such as "If you ever cheat on me, I'll kill you," are also common. You might dismiss this, since you know you're not the type to cheat on anyone - but jealousy is another hallmark of abuse, and you might be accused of things you did not do.

If someone is threatening you, don't dismiss it. You have to assume they may attempt what they say, and take appropriate precautions.

Don't let it scare you into staying, however. If your partner is willing to try to hurt or kill you for leaving, they'll be willing to do the same if you stay.


galleryofgrace profile image

galleryofgrace 2 years ago from Virginia

I've never seen so much truth except in articles I've written myself. Thanks for sharing.

KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California Author

galleryofgrace, thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you liked the article. I wish more people could avoid such relationships - unfortunately so easy to fall into.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

A very important topic and a good hub. I like your recommendation to get out early while the gettin. is good.

KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California Author

Thank you, FlourishAnyway. It's an issue I care a lot about.

Janellegems profile image

Janellegems 2 years ago from Virginia

Thanks for writing a Hub on this. Very necessary topic for women who are experiencing this in their dating relationships, and need to see the signs and get out of it. Your Hub helps in a tremendous way. Voted up!!!

KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California Author

Thanks for reading, Jaellgems. If this hub helps even one person recognize the signs, I'll be very very glad.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I love articles like this one; not because abuse is a favorite subject of mine, but because I think it is so important for writers to step up and be the voice of change. Raising awareness about these issues is vital if we are ever going to see abuse diminish in this society. Well done.

KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California Author

Thank you for commenting, Billybuc - I completely agree. When I was younger, I stumbled into a relationship much like the one above, and I had no idea it wasn't normal for the longest time. I hope I can help someone else figure it out quicker than I did!

Relationshipc profile image

Relationshipc 2 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I think its telling that everyone in the poll has been in an emotionally abusive relationship. So many people are in this kind of relationship.

I have another example. My friend is being emotionally abused by her husband not paying attention to her emotions. For instance, he works out of town for two weeks and when he comes home, he kisses the dogs before he even thinks about saying anything to her. This is hard on her emotionally, and it makes her feel like he cares more about the dogs than her (which I have to think he does!)

I do know that he belittles her, but I don't know about the rest of the signs. They live across the country so I don't get to see how they interact, and she never wants me to visit when he's there. I just happened to see him come home from the airport on the same day I was leaving last time, and I actually saw him shower the dogs with love and then hold out his hand for the keys from her.

KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California Author

Relationshipc, I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Unfortunately these kinds of relationships are easy to fall into, and so much harder to get out of again.

I hope she manages to realize what is going on, and move on to something better.

Arachnea profile image

Arachnea 2 years ago from Texas USA

I recently reconnected with an old high school friend and was greatly disappointed to find that she was in an emotionally controlling relationship. It was the little things that tipped me off, like her writing down my number and it always disappearing no matter where she put it. The SO made plans every time she set an appointment to call me and when we were able to chat on the phone, though he was right there, he wouldn't mind the kids for the time she was on the phone and allow her a moment to herself with a friend. I was greatly dismayed. I'll share this hub.

cesily profile image

cesily 2 years ago from Nairobi

I just watched' Happily Never After' just yesterday and it is so terrifying to hear spouses who exhibited these symptoms kill their lovers just days or even hours after the wedding.

Linda BookLady profile image

Linda BookLady 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

Hi there... I was in a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship for seven years until last year when he threatened to kill me... so I identified with almost everything you wrote above. I have an emotional abuse lens (soon to be a hub) and have written myself a note to make sure your link is on my lens/hub when I edit it after the move.

FirstStepsFitness profile image

FirstStepsFitness 24 months ago

Great Hub :) I would like to add also many people are raised in an emotionally abusive family structure . Some unknowingly choose the very same type of partner unless the cycle of abuse is broken with treatment .

Jelly 19 months ago

My husband gets upset about something I did or say and goes silent for days. He wants me to figure out what did I do wrong. What can I do to break this silence?

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