You May Be Emotionally Abusing Your Partner If You’re Doing This One Thing (& How To Stop)

You may be emotionally abusing your partner without even realizing it.

One Of The Signs Of Emotional Abuse Is Withholding Love, Intimacy, & Communication In A Relationship Pexels

By Gary McClain

One of the signs of emotional abuse in a relationship is withholding love, intimacy, or communication from your partner.

Do you ever find yourself being withholding toward your partner? 

Or do you ever feel your partner is withholding from you?

RELATED: 21 Signs You're In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship


Here are a couple of examples:

Max is disappointed with his wife, Tara.

He had hoped she would help him out with a home do-it-yourself project he was trying to complete.

He had planned to complete it on his own, but has discovered that it would go a lot more smoothly with four instead of two hands.

When he asked Tara for her help, she promised to lend him her two hands over the weekend.

But then she remembered a volunteering event she had promised to attend on Saturday.

And on Sunday she begged off because she was tired out.

So Max figured out a way to finish it on his own.

On Monday, Tara had a rough day at work, due to an ongoing situation with a difficult boss.


Max has been giving her a lot of support and advice, along with listening to her frequent venting. 

That evening, she started to tell Max about something that had happened at work that day.

“Let’s catch up later,” Max said. “I want to call my parents while it’s still early.”

Now, Max knew that Tara needed some support after another difficult day.

But he wasn’t feeling all that supported by Tara.

So he had decided to “give Tara a taste of her own medicine,” his mother would have said.

Max knows that he and Tara would benefit from having a talk about what has happened over the last few days, and how disappointed he felt.

However, right now, it just feels good to withhold the listening ear he knows she relies on.


Withholding from your partner feels good in the moment.

But what about the impact?  

Max is aware that he is withholding from Tara.

RELATED: 7 Things That Look Like Love (But Are Actually Emotional Abuse)

And Max knows this isn’t fair. Or good for his marriage.

He knows he might feel better by talking things out with Tara, letting her know how he felt.

Right now, being withholding just feels like the best he can do under the circumstances.

And what about Tara?

Most likely, she’s feeling hurt, angry, and maybe justified in doing some withholding of her own.

And so the cycle continues…

Withholding is a normal human reaction in situations when you feel disappointed, angry, or frustrated.


It’s normal to just want to build a wall around yourself, to refuse to be giving when you feel like you aren’t getting much from your partner, or the world in general.

But as you may have experienced yourself, withholding from your partner – whether it’s affection, communication, or acts of kindness – builds walls that leave both of you feeling unsupported.

When that urge to withhold visits your relationship, here’s what you can do:

1. Start by owning up to your own feelings

If you’re not staying in awareness of your feelings, you can easily slip from Point A to Point B.

From disappointed, for example, to withholding.

If, on the other hand, you make an effort to monitor yourself emotionally, to remain aware of the emotions you’re experiencing, you have the opportunity to avoid the withholding trap.


It’s as simple as asking yourself: How am I feeling?

Followed by: What can I do to help myself cope with the way that I feel?

In this way, you are heading the urge to withhold off at the pass, stopping the cycle before it gets out of control.

2. Recognize withholding behavior for what it is

And here’s what it is: A surefire way to cause conflict, to cause hurt feelings, to drive a wedge between you and your partner.

Sure, it can feel justified in the moment, and deserved.

But the potential damage isn’t worth it.

Hold this thought when feelings flare up that might normally lead you to withhold from your partner.

RELATED: 5 Zodiac Signs Who Are The Most Likely To Withhold Affection


3. Don’t criticize yourself

As I said before, withholding is a normal reaction to feelings like disappointment and anger.

I don’t know anyone who can’t look back on the past and recognize times when they have been withholding toward someone close to them.

So if you feel the urge, don’t criticize yourself.

Decide to find a more healthy way to cope with your feelings. 

And if you give into the urge, also don’t criticize yourself.

Resolve to learn better ways to cope with your feelings rather than taking them out on your partner by withholding from them.

4. Consider the potential benefits of saying no to the urge to withhold

Just in case you need to give yourself an additional pep talk, review what resisting the urge gets for you and your partner.


Open communication. Honesty. Support. Respect. Kindness.

Basically, avoiding being withholding with each other leads to a more loving relationship.

And isn’t that what your relationship is all about?

5. Be willing to take the first step

To either not withhold from your partner in the first place or to get your communication back on track when you, your partner, or both of you are withholding.

It’s as simple as saying, “I see what I’m doing here.  I’m feeling ______________ and because of that I’ve been withholding from you by ____________. 

That’s not what I want our relationship to be about.”

Be prepared to ask for forgiveness.

Remember, peace in your relationship is more important than being right.


RELATED: 10 Dos And Don'ts For Healthy Relationship Communication

6. Open the door to better communication

And invite your partner to help.

Be clear with each other about your needs and expectations. In the moment!


Ask for what you need. Ask how you can help. Disclose how you’re feeling.

If you’re doing this with your partner, the urge to withhold will be less likely to gain a toehold at your house.

7. And if your partner is withholding from you… 

Be willing to take the first step here, too.

You can say something like, “I know I’ve upset you by _______________ and, because of that, it feels to me like you’re feeling I don’t deserve _______________.  If that’s how you feel, I understand why.”

Get things out into the open. Ask what you can do to help bring some healing into your relationship. Not accusing, just asking for help.

Asking for forgiveness may also be needed here.


8. Maintain an attitude of goodwill

Keep in mind that appearances can be deceiving.

Making assumptions about your partner’s behavior can lead you down the wrong path.

Assume that your partner means well even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Take a step back and consider the circumstances before you make an assumption that might lead you to feel justified in withholding from your partner.

You, your partner, and the urge to withhold.

It’s only human to feel justified in holding back when you feel your partner isn’t giving you what you need and deserve.

But ask yourself: What is this doing to our relationship?

Keep the communication honest and open.


Be willing to be giving. Always.

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Gary McClain is a writer who focuses on love and relationships. For more of his love content, visit his author profile on The Good Men Project.