When you think of an abusive relationship, you may think of a physical one, in which one spouse hits another. While this is a common type of abuse, it is not the only one. Many marriages are also fraught with emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse does not have to involve hitting or any other physical harm, although it may. It may be harder to identify because you may not know you are being manipulated by your partner. You love them and may simply agree to go along with their mind games, no matter how sophisticated or toxic they may be.
Plus, emotional abuse is more subtle than physical abuse. You know when someone has hit you. When there is emotional abuse, it tends to develop over time. The negative patterns slowly emerge within your relationship. By the time you notice them, it may be hard to leave your abuser.
While emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, it can be just as damaging by causing emotional scars. You may suffer from low self-esteem. You may feel scared to show your feelings. You may feel as if you have no control over yourself.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Are you concerned your partner may be an emotional abuser? Here are some signs:
- Yelling. Many emotional abusers use yelling as their main form of communication. Every discussion causes them to raise their voice. This makes it impossible for you to voice your feelings and be heard.
- Constant criticism. Emotional abusers always have something negative to say. They may call you names, swear at you, insult you, put you down, belittle your accomplishments, embarrass you in public, or engage in other verbal assault to undermine your self-esteem.
- Control. Some abusers may try to take possession of their partners’ belongings, particularly their electronic devices. If your partner is trying to take away your phone or demands to know your every move, they are being controlling.
- Contempt. Your partner should respect you. If everything you say is met with apathy or sarcasm, then this is a form of verbal abuse.
- Threats. Abusers will often use threats to get their victims to do what they want them to do. They may include blackmail or intimidation.
- Accusations. They may act jealous and accuse you of cheating on them or doing other things that you did not do. They may deny this and use guilt to get you to do things their way.
- Blame. When their partner is behaving badly, victims often blame themselves. They may feel as if they caused their own abuse and that they deserved it.
- Stonewalling. Stonewalling occurs when the abuser refuses to communicate. When communication shuts down, it can feel like abandonment.
- Gaslighting. Abusers may use manipulation to make their victims feel like they are going crazy. Abusers will tell victims that their concerns or memories are stupid, false, or crazy.
- Isolation. Some abusers keep their victims away from friends and family by convincing them that nobody cares about them. They make them feel alienated.
- Mood swings. Many people experience mood swings from time to time, but when it affects their partner, it becomes concerning. Some abusers have outbursts, then shower their victims with gifts and affection the next day. Then the cycle continues.
What Happens Now?
Is your partner abusive? Keep in mind that having disagreements is common. All relationships have conflict from time to time. It is how you deal with these conflicts that make the difference.
If you always feel defensive or that you are constantly playing mind games, then you may be in an abusive relationship. If you are not sure if you are experiencing emotional abuse, get validation from friends and family. How do they feel about your partner? What do they think of when they see your relationship? Are there any red flags?
Is it possible for an abuser to change? Maybe. A therapist or counselor can help a person change their ways and have a relationship without abuse. In the end, though, these relationships are unhealthy, and it is best to get out of them as quickly as possible. While people can change, it is not always easy to do so.
When deciding to leave, think about what you want in a relationship. Whose relationship do you envy? Think about real relationships, not ones based on movie plots and unrealistic situations. Also, think about how your partner makes you feel better. He or she should make you feel secure and supported. If you do not feel a connection, then your relationship is doing more harm than good. Find someone who makes you feel good about yourself.
While leaving the relationship can be more complex if you are married or have children, do not let those be excuses. If you are ready to leave your marriage, seek legal help to get the right advice for your situation.
Seek Legal Help
Abuse can take on multiple forms. Just because your partner does not hit you does not mean they are not abusive. You may still be in a toxic relationship.
If your marriage is emotionally or physically abusive, you need to get out quickly. Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you out of a toxic marriage. Schedule a consultation today to get started. Call our office at (954) 346-6464 or fill out the online form.