21 Signs You're In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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21 Signs You're In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Domestic violence seems to be at the forefront of the media more and more frequently these days. This is in part due to abusive incidents involving sports figures or celebrities coming to light, as well as YouTubers and public figures speaking and sharing their own personal experiences in emotionally abusive relationships as a precautionary lesson for others.

Abusive behavior isn't always as obvious as physical abuse like being hit or shoved, or verbal abuse such as being called degrading names or cussed out.

In fact, abuse can often be underhanded and subtle.

You may find yourself feeling confused about your relationship, off balance or like you are "walking on eggshells" all the time. This is the kind of abuse that often sneaks up on you and occurs more often as you become more entrenched within the relationship.

I'm talking here about psychological abuse, also known as mental or emotional abuse.

What is emotional or psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse occurs when a person in the relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person's sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and not acceptable. It often contains strong emotionally manipulative content and threats designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser's wishes.

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All abuse takes a severe toll on self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless.

In addition, most mental abusers are adept at convincing the victim that the abuse is his/her fault. Somehow, the victim is responsible for what happened.

One of the more sophisticated forms of psychological abuse is often referred to as "gaslighting."

This happens when false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Examples may range simply from the abuser denying that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to staging bizarre events with the intention of confusing the victim.

I once listened to a client tell me her husband denied an affair after his she found a racy email to another woman on his computer and confronted him. The husband vehemently denied any responsibility for his actions, going so far as sending an email to his tech guy asking how his account could have been hacked and demanding that he the problem!

Another common form of emotional abuse is saying, "I love you, but ... "

That may sound nice at first, yet it is both a disguised criticism and a threat. It indicates, "I love you now, but if you don't stop this or that, my love will be taken away."

These constant jabs slowly strips away your self-esteem. Abusers get a lot of reinforcement out of using the word "love" as it seems to become a magic word to control you.

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Abusers at times do what I call "throw you a bone."

I have heard countless times from clients that their partner was "nice," "complimentary," "gave me a gift," etc. as if it should erase all of the bad treatment. You need to understand that this is part of the dynamic and cycle of abuse.

In fact, it is rare for abusive relationships to not have these (often intense) moments of feeling good, complete with overly sincere apologies and attempts to make up for the bad behavior.

The victim clings to hope during these moments, and the abuser knows this.

Here are 21 signs of emotional abuse to watch for if you think you or a friend may be in psychologically abusive relationship:

1. Humiliating or embarrassing you

2. Constantly putting you down

3. Subjecting you to hypercriticism

4. Refusing to communicate or giving you the silent treatment

5. Ignoring or excluding you

6. Having extramarital affairs

7. Displaying provocative behavior with someone of the opposite sex

8. Use of sarcasm and an unpleasant tone of voice at your expense

9. Unreasonable jealousy

10. Extreme moodiness

11. Making mean-spirited jokes or constantly making fun of you

12. Saying, "I love you, but ..."

13. Saying things like, "If you don't _____, I will_____"

14. Attempts at domination and control

15. Withholding sex or affection

16. Subjecting you to guilt trips

17. Making everything your fault

18. Isolating you from friends and family

19. Using money to control you

20. Constant calling or texting you when you aren't together

21. Threatening to commit suicide if you leave

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It's important to remember is that abuse of any kind, whether psychological or physical, is never your fault.

Abusers are expert manipulators with a knack for getting you to believe that the way you are being treated is your fault. These people know that everyone has insecurities, and they use those insecurities against you.

Abusers can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment or that they are treating you this way to "help" you.

Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is also quite baffling.

If you see yourself in these words, know that there is little hope for your relationship to improve. It would take a monumental amount of insight and motivation for the abuser to change and unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to get out — with professional help if needed.

Often the first step in leaving the abuser is obtaining counseling just to rebuild your esteem so that you can leave.

I particularly want you to know that you may love this person, but that they do not love or respect you.

I assure you that in time you will get over this person if you break it off. You will be making the right decision ... no looking back.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, there are resources available in your state, as well as the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).

RELATED: If Answering These Questions Make You Uncomfortable, You Might Be In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Dr. Marni Feuerman is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in South Florida, as well as the author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships. Learn more on her website.

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