Signs Of An Emotional Abusive Relationship

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Signs Of An Emotional Abusive Relationship


It is easy to recognize physical abuse in a relationship but emotional abuse can be more insidious. It often goes undetected by family members, friends and even the victims themselves.

Emotional abuse is one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognize. It can be subtle and insidious or overt and manipulative. Either way, it chips away at the victim’s self-esteem and they begin to doubt their perceptions and reality.


Why Is Emotional Abuse Hard To Recognize?


The abusers often act like they have no idea why you are upset. Over time, the abuser will chip away at your self-esteem, causing you to feel guilty, doubt yourself, and distrust your perceptions.

Other aspects of the relationship may work well and that is why it gets harder to recognize the abuse. The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so that you deny or forget them. It is possible that you may not have had a healthy relationship for comparison which makes you less sure about your thoughts. Usually the abuse takes place in private and therefore, there are no witnesses to validate your experience.


Difference Between Causal Fights And Abuse?

Cycle of abuse in relationship
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Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time. This is absolutely normal. But you must be alarmed if this begins to form a consistent pattern. Some of the behaviours may seem like small or harmless acts, but together they make up a repeated pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting.

If it starts to make you feel intimidated, controlled or fearful, then it’s a sign that you could be in an abusive relationship.

And even if you do realize this and feel certain that you want to get divorced or leave the toxic relationship, abusers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for making you believe that doing so impossible. You need to keep your senses in control and think about all the emotional or sweet talk. Emotional abuse may start out innocuously, but grow as the abuser becomes more assured that you won’t leave the relationship.

Spying, stalking, and invading your person, space, or belongings is also abusive, because it disregards personal boundaries.

Verbal abuse is the most common form of emotional abuse, but it’s often unrecognized, because it may be subtle and insidious. It may be said in a loving, quiet voice, or even concealed as a joke. Whatever might be the way of doing it, if it’s hurtful, its abusive.

“The underlying goal in emotional abuse is to control the victim by discrediting, isolating, and silencing.”



Red Flags That You Must Look Out For


  • Insisting on spending more and more time alone (just the two of us)

You might feel special with this request each time. You will feel like they value your relationship enough to spend so much time alone together. But it is actually about them limiting where you go and whom you spend your time with. This is done in attempt to isolate you from your network of support which makes the abuser’s work easier.

  • Excessive affection of withholding affection

Withholding affection from a partner is a way to punish the partner and to exercise power and control. This is done intentionally and is just wrong. In some cases when you have been in a fight and your partner does not feel like showing a lot of affection for the moment; it is normal.

On the other hand, some genuine seeming love and interest in your well-being may possess some undercurrents of toxic jealousy and possessiveness. This is completely wrong. If they are keeping a constant tab on your schedules and whereabouts, you must get alert. Their ultimate goal is to get their victim in total control.

  • Threatening to leave

Some abusers might threaten to leave you if they don’t get their way. This will make you feel bad and guilty about things you may have not even done. It will make you compromise anything just to have them stay. The extremity can be when they say that they will tell your friends or family something personal about you, which is doubly damaging, as not only are they threatening you, but they are implicitly stating that there is something so wrong with you that you should feel ashamed.

  • Playing the Blame game

It is a way of redirecting blame for their bad acts back to you, starting fights, and firing accusations at you immediately before or after being especially nice and loving. But the sole purpose of all these things is to distract from the abuse that they are subjecting you to repeatedly.

They may even give you a chance to rectify things. The fact that they are giving you a choice through which you can rectify the situation (by doing what they want you to do) is a way in which they are actually being “generous” to you, and that, therefore, all blame for the situation and any possible consequences are entirely your fault.

  • Excessive gift-giving

Some abusers give gifts right after the fight is over as an indication of how much they care about you. It can even be like a threat which will act as a reminder for the victim to make them fear what they might lose. The abusers might end up comparing you with others and how you are being treated good because they are so generous.


Ways To Deal With Emotional Abuse


  1. Know that your mental and physical health is a priority.
  2. Establish your boundaries.
  3. Do not blame yourself for their behaviour.
  4. Realize that the behaviour of an abuser cannot be “fixed” after a point.
  5. Build your support network and work on an exit plan.


You will see an even worse side of your partner when you try to leave the relationship. Don’t be trapped by that fear. Leaving partners who are emotionally abusive requires more planning and more support than typical, and it often requires the advice of professionals as well.

If you detect the above-mentioned signs in your relationship, reach out for help from friends, family, or a therapist.

Also read: Signs of a Toxic relationship

Know the Signs of a Controlling Relationship

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