Emotional abuse

Feeling insulted and wounded. Never measuring up. Walking on eggshells. If these statements describe your relationship, it is likely you are being emotionally abused.

Emotional abuse may be hard to recognize, because it can be subtle, and abusers often blame their victims. They may act like they have no idea why you are upset. Over time, the abuser will chip away at your self-esteem, causing you to feel guilty, doubt yourself, and distrust your perceptions.

Other aspects of the relationship may work well. The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so that you deny or forget them. Relationships that suffer from this disease are quite common; we reached out to our Relationship Expert, Marwa Rakha, to learn how you can deal with such behavior.

What is emotional abuse? And can a person be unaware that they are being emotionally mistreated in a relationship?

Emotional abuse is the most subtle type of abusive relationships. Most people, when they hear the word “abusive”, physical violence is the first thing that comes to their mind.

Another form of recognizable abuse is verbal abuse because it is easier to spot when compared to emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is usually sugarcoated with “your best interest in mind”.

The abuser is someone who constantly makes you feel guilty one way or the other, sorry for things you did, said, or did not do or say, threatened by being abandoned or ending up alone and lonely, insecure about your potential and capabilities, haunted by self-doubt, and more.

The worst thing about being in an emotionally abusive relationship is that, most of the time, you do not know!

You feel that something is wrong, but you blame yourself for it! You feel sad and melancholic most of the time, but you never think that your partner is causing it.

Here are some famous scenarios of emotional abuse:

  • Your partner asks you to do something, you do not want to do it, but your partner hints that if you refuse, he/she will be upset, will not have sex with you, or will leave you.
  • You are afraid to voice your honest opinion about something or someone, because you do not want to “upset” your partner.
  • Your partner discourages you whenever you want to pursue your dreams, attempt a new project, or learn something new.
  • Your partner implies, using stories and anecdotes, that you are not good enough for him/her.
  • Your relationship is following a “hot then cold” pattern.
  • You only feel loved and appreciated when you give in to your partner’s wishes.

When someone abuses their partner in a relationship, does it mean they don’t love them, or is it simply a need to control and dominate regardless of their love?

Most emotional abusers are victims of abuse themselves; as infants and children, they were denied the unconditional love they deserve.

They were subject to continuous scrutiny and criticism, probably bullying and sarcasm, and, in many cases, they might have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse.

Their understanding of love is flawed. Their sense of self-worth is damaged. Their ability to thrive in relationships is limited.

As they grow into adulthood, they either continue playing the role of the abuse victim, or they become abusive themselves. Healing and recovery is a long journey and they would need professional help to stop hurting others or themselves.

How can one confront and deal with abuse?

“Stand your ground!” This is the first step after realizing that you are in a relationship with an emotionally abusive partner. Do not let the “games” get to your mind.

Learn to recognize emotional blackmail. Stop yourself from getting on a guilt-trip when you know you are not at fault.

Remind yourself that you deserve unconditional love. Learn to say “no” to the things you do not want to do. Surround yourself by many people who truly love and respect you.

Can an abuser change? Should you give them a second chance, or is it healthier to just walk away?

An abusive partner uses guilt, threats, emotional blackmail, passive aggression, and many other unhealthy mind games to make you succumb to his/her wishes and desires. You are not the first, nor the only, victim of that abusive person, and the abuse will never stop on its own.

It is not about you, or what you do, or don’t do. It is not about a particular situation or event. It is a style of life! It is character! It is going to go on forever unless the abuser seeks help.

It is easy to advise you to walk away – which is the best thing you can do. But in real life, the abuser might be your wife, or husband, or even one of your parents! Sometimes it is not possible to end the relationship.

The second-best scenario is insisting that the abuser talks to a therapist and starts sessions. In the meanwhile, you need therapy yourself to regain your balance and self-confidence.

The last option, if none of the above works, is to “stand your ground”, as I advised you earlier! Just protect yourself from the blows of emotional abuse.