Your partner should respect you, not belittle you.
Emotional abuse: it's insidious how it creeps into your life. It's one of those things that, at first glance, feels innocuous.
In the beginning it isn't uncommon for a victim to innocently ignore the infrequent snide comments and put downs. This is because they occur sporadically and are often "peppered" with random acts of kindness — leaving the victim feeling confused and unsure. Forgiveness and oversights are common.
According to Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. in their article, "Domestic Violence and Abuse," "Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don't do what they want."
It simply (or not so simply) "chips away" at how we think, value and esteem ourselves. However, over time the road narrows between an abuser's acts of kindness and emotional and verbal abuse.
For those who have been there, you understand; moving from victim to survivor you found yourself wondering, "How did that happen?" and "How did I get here?" That's how insidious it is. But let me make it clear: you have done nothing wrong. Abusers are just that good.
I can deeply empathize with a victim of abuse in many ways. As a therapist, it's very painful to watch, to experience, to sit across from and to absorb. As a woman, these same feelings and experiences were once part of my life. My depth of understanding reaches far.
And, of course, to watch this unfolds breaks my heart. Instinctively, I want to protect them from further harm and tell them to run. But unfortunately, it isn't that simple, though I wish it were. I know we all have our own journey. My hope is that through therapy and personal introspection, the necessary steps are taken to extricate themselves from their abusive and unhealthy relationship.
Here are 12 common signs of emotional abuse (though not exhaustive).
- They put you down. In private, but often in public. This is their attempt to shame you. Projecting their feelings of low self-worth on to you.
- They embarrass you in public.
- They blame you for their abusive and unhealthy behaviors. Using the "if, then" trick. If you don't do "this" then I won't do "that."
- They threaten to harm you or your family often.
- They call you derogatory names many times.
- They make you feel bad or guilty when you don't consent to sexual activity. Laying guilt on you that you "should" be doing this, and if you really loved me, you would be having sex with me. Or "I will have to find it elsewhere."
- They gaslight. This is a form of psychological abuse where false information is presented to their victim to make them doubt their decisions, perceptions and judgements in their attempt to make you seem "crazy."
- They make you feel like you're always doing something wrong.
- They isolate you from your family and friends. They play victim when you want to spend time with family and friends, or state that "we" never spend time together. "If you loved me, you would want to spend time with me."
- If you do go out, they make multiple demands from you through numerous texts and phone calls.
- They stalk you.
- They threaten suicide when you attempt to break up with them. "I can't live without you." "I will kill myself if you break up with me."