12 Signs Your Partner Is An Emotional Abuser


Emotional Abuse: 12 Signs You're Dating An Emotional Abuser
How you can detect this more subtle, but equally painful form of abuse.

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 is not 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 because 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 is not that simple, though I wish it were. I know we all have our own journey. My hope is through therapy and personal introspection, the necessary steps are taken to extricate themselves from their abusive and unhealthy relationship.

Here are some common signs of Emotional Abuse (though not exhaustive).

12 Signs Of Emotional Abuse:

  1. Putting 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.
  2. Embarrassing you in public.
  3. Blaming you for their abusive and unhealthy behaviors. Using the "if, then" trick. If you don't do "this" then I won't do "that."
  4. Threatening to harm you or your family often.
  5. Calling you derogatory names many times.
  6. Making 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."
  7. Gaslighting. 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."
  8. Making you feel like you are always doing something wrong.
  9. Isolating you from your family and friends. Playing victim when you want to spend time with family and friends. Stating "we" never spend time together. "If you loved me, you would want to spend time with me."
  10. If you do go out, making multiple demands on you through numerous texts and phone calls.
  11. Stalking you.
  12. Threatening 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."

Learn to recognize these signs (and many more) and set yourself free! Move from being a victim to a survivor. Here are some helpful links:

Dr. Davin believes in giving back and paying it forward. She is drawn to and passionate about charitable organizations such as:

Doctors Without BordersChild FundWater.org and Three Avocados.

More about emotional abuse on YourTango:

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Dr. Kristin Davin, Psy.D.


Kristin M. Davin, Psy.D. 

Clinical Psychologist/Divorce Mediator

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: PsyD
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Divorce/Divorce Prevention
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