Are you Living With an Emotional Abuser?

Gary and Amy have been married for eight months. In that time, Amy has become a shell of her former self. She now has low self-esteem, is always anxious, and has to ask for permission to make decisions. On top of this, Gary is always negatively criticizing her, and constantly putting her down in front of her friends. He blames her for everything and calls her names. He shows her affection only when it suits him and frequently threatens to commit suicide if she ever leaves him. Amy constantly wondered if all relationships were like this. One day, she decided to confide in her mother who informed her that her husband was an emotional abuser.  

Understanding What Is Emotional Abuse?

Perhaps you have always heard of the term but never really knew “what is emotional abuse”? It is any kind of exploitation that targets a person’s emotions. It involves intimidation, verbal attacks, manipulation, blaming, and humiliation. emotional abusers may also apply indirect forms such as putdowns, isolation, name calling and infantilization. Cyber-bullying and text messaging are newer forms of abuse resulting from technology. It is also referred to as psychological abuse.

Any systematic treatment of another person leading to lower self-worth, dignity and sense of identity is emotional abuse. It typically takes three common forms manifesting as, minimizing, denying, and aggressing. In any case, the end result of an abuser’s actions is severe psychological consequences such as lack of independence and self-concept.

Emotional abuse can take place at any stage of your life and nobody is immune to it. Adults, teens and children can all experience abuse which results in harmful and overwhelming consequences. Long term and persistent emotional abuse can make the abused become withdrawn, depressed and eventually suicidal.

When Is It Emotional Abuse?

It is not enough to understand what emotional abuse is. You must recognize instances it occurs.  

Emotional abuse is different from physical or sexual abuse in that a single incident is not enough to classify it as such. There has to be a pattern of conduct taking place over a period of time. It has to be repetitive and continuous. The emotional abuser may be doing it subconsciously, intentionally or a combination of both.

What separates abusive behavior from normal acceptable behavior is the feelings or reactions it brings out in you. If another person’s behavior consistently makes you feel belittled, and lack control, it might be abusive. If you feel unable to express yourself or discuss issues, and are always altering your actions to accommodate someone, you are being abused.

Abuse can occur in all types of relationships. Emotional abusers are present in the family setting, workplace, and school. So, when is it emotional abuse? An emotional abuser will have the following characteristics.

  • Tends to be highly suspicious
  • Has drastic and sudden mood swings
  • Is overly jealous
  • Has very low self-control
  • Tolerates and approves aggression and violence
  • Exhibits personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or borderline personality disorder.
  • Are very manipulative while blaming it on the victim

10 Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship

What is emotional abuse, and how can you tell if there is emotional abuse in a relationship? Below are a few signs.

  1. Emotional abusers persistently make cruel jokes, criticize you negatively and enjoy humiliating you.
  2. They constantly threaten you with abandonment, or suicide to frighten or punish you.
  3. They trivialize your accomplishments and dreams while condemning you of being highly sensitive.
  4. They seek to control you, treating you like a child who requires permission to make decisions.
  5. They persistently highlight your shortcomings, and regularly disregard your needs.
  6. They lack empathy and remain emotionally distant a lot of the time.
  7. Instead of taking personal responsibility, they deflect the blame and play the victim.
  8. They manipulate you, calling you names, making cutting remarks or placing unpleasant labels on you.
  9. To get what they want, they withhold affection, or refuse to communicate completely.
  10. Emotional abusers frequently ignore boundaries, lie a lot and love to share your personal information with others.

7 Ways to Deal with Emotional Abuse

Handling emotional abuse depends on whether the emotional abuser is willing to change or not and if they are committed to that. It is time to start putting yourself first and reclaim your self-worth and independence. Here are a few pointers.

  1. Recognizing there is emotional abuse in a relationship is the beginning of handling it. If there are enough signs of abuse, start by being honest to yourself. It’s the only way to regain your power and start healing.
  2. Let your needs come first. It’s time you stopped worrying about others and concentrate on yourself. Discontinue your concerns over pleasing the abuser and find ways to override their manipulation.
  3. Set firm and realistic boundaries. Inform your abuser that from now henceforth, abusive behavior such as yelling, and name calling will no longer be acceptable. Be firm and take action when such behavior occurs so they know you are serious.
  4. Recognize an abuser has to want to change. You cannot make anyone change including your abuser, no matter how much you love them. They must feel the need to change from within by recognizing their harmful words and behavior.
  5. Avoid blaming yourself. If you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for a long time, you may have concluded it was your fault. There is nothing wrong with you and admitting you are not the problem to yourself, will start rebuilding your self-esteem.
  6. Seek out emotional support. Find family, friends or a counselor you can speak to about the abuse. Create opportunities to leave the abuser frequently, spending time with those who genuinely love you. This generates a support system to help you deal with the abuser.
  7. Work out an exit strategy. It is pointless to remain in a relationship if the abuser doesn’t want to change. Whatever your reason for staying, begin working on it now and plan to leave as soon as possible. It will help you feel empowered and gain control over your life.

Having learnt what is emotional abuse, and how it can change you, consider the 7 steps to begin healing. It’s definitely time to start the journey of recovery from emotional abuse in a relationship.

Author: Esateys Stuchiner

Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.

Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.

Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.

For more information, go to esateys.com.