Anytime we embark on a new relationship, we are essentially taking a gamble. After all, we don’t really know someone until we get comfortable with them, or vice-versa… (and even then, do we still know?) No person knowingly enters into a traumatic relationship.
Obviously, there are the noticeable signs when someone rubs us the wrong way, or when red flags start firing. However, the tricky thing about emotional abuse is that most abusers can mask their toxic traits. By the time their subtle abusive tendencies are noticed, their partner is already attached to them, making it much harder for the person to leave, thus further perpetuating the cycle of emotional abuse.
What is Emotional Abuse?
If you have to wonder if your relationship is abusive, then it most likely is. You may be feeling insulted, broken, like you can never measure up, always walking on eggshells, and if this is the case, it is highly likely that you are dealing with an emotionally abusive person.
In general, a relationship that is border lining emotional abuse is one where there is always tension, where one person is afraid to speak up, a constant pattern of demeaning words, hostile voice tones, and bullying tendencies that painfully erodes a person’s self-esteem and mental health.
Furthermore, psychological or emotional abuse can occur in any relationship (not just romantic ones) including friends, family members, and coworkers. Although emotional abuse doesn’t leave you with physical scars, it can leave an enormous impact on your mental state and seriously disrupt the quality of your life.
Why Emotional Abuse Is Easy To Overlook
While physical abuse is easier to identify, emotional abuse, unfortunately, is not. Emotional abuse can happen gradually; at the beginning of the relationship, the abuser may only show good qualities. However, once they’ve lured you in or they feel comfortable in the relationship, that’s when controlling tendencies begin to take place.
In the beginning, the person who is being abused may view their relationship struggles as the typical relationship woes everyone faces with a new relationship dynamic. Despite suffering regular abuse day after day, well-meaning partners will continue trying to make changes and sacrifices in their attempts to make the relationship work.
If you are having trouble determining whether or not your relationship is abusive, stop and think about how the interactions with your partner, friend or family member MAKE YOU FEEL. If you feel beaten, frustrated, confused, like you can’t communicate your feelings, misunderstood, depressed, anxious or worthless any time you interact with them, then the chances are your relationship is emotionally abusive.
12 Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse
1. You’re Subconsciously or Consciously Fearful
You’re afraid to speak up, communicate your feelings, or tell them something because you’re scared of how they will react.
2. Your Self-esteem is Shot
Self-esteem and emotional abuse go hand in hand. An abusive partner will criticize you in order to feel better about themselves while eroding your self-worth.
3. They are Petty
If they make a big deal out of little things, it can make you feel as if nothing you ever do is right.
They turn away from discussing any real issues that feel uncomfortable to them. They twist your words making you lose sight of the issue at hand.
“You’re overreacting!” “You’re too sensitive!” – This makes you doubt your own perceptions, reality, and gut instincts.
Often disguised as humor, they will taunt you in front of others, and if you do end up speaking up, they will tell you that you’re too sensitive/can not take a joke – that’s because abusers trivialize the feelings of the people they hurt.
7. You are Second-guessing & Self-editing (Walking on Egg Shells)
If you’re second-guessing or self-editing yourself to avoid unpleasant exchanges, subtle abusive behavior has already been internalized.
8. They Go Out of Their Way To Annoy you
A person who goes out of their way to do things that intentionally provoke you clearly has control and boundary issues.
9. Lack of Self Awareness
If they show no empathy or compassion for your pain and have no interest in understanding what caused it (or how to prevent it) that is a big indication that they don’t care to make you happy.
10. When It’s Good, It’s Very Good
Emotional abusers aren’t bad 100% of the time, and this is what makes them so deceiving. When times are good, they are very good. They know how to switch up their behavior to make you stick around (further perpetuating the cycle of emotional abuse)
11. You’re Always on Edge
Much like walking on eggshells all the time. If you’re always on edge, then this is a clear indication that you don’t feel comfortable in the relationship, period.
12. You’re Losing Yourself
You don’t feel like yourself anymore, and you’re even confused about who you are, what you like, your beliefs, and what matters to you.
I’m In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship, Now What?
Get out. General relationship advice about things like improving communication, or appreciating one another, relies on the premise that both individuals care about each other’s feelings and are willing to put in an effort to make their relationship work. However, an emotionally dysfunctional person cannot understand their partner’s feelings or perspectives.
For emotional abusers, the underlying cause of their abuse is that they are emotionally dysregulated. So even though one person may do their best to improve the relationship, the cycle will only continue until the abusive person is conscious of their actions and seeks help for their emotional and mental issues.
If you or someone you know needs help getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.
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