So you are in a relationship… and it doesn’t make you feel good. You are sad all of the time. You feel like you are worthless. You feel crazy, not yourself, angry, and you cannot handle your emotions. Is it you? Or is your partner to blame?
Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is not physical. While that definition can take on many possible forms, it is best explained that emotional abuse can range from subtle things like criticism to more destructive abuse, such as intimidation, manipulation, or bribery.
The effects on a marriage or relationship can be dramatic. Of course, it depends on the type of emotional abuse taking place.
This includes things like not wanting to leave the house and possible social isolation, where someone might cut off contact with friends or family members. Even things as dramatic as suicide attempts can be related to emotional abuse.
In the context of a romantic relationship, there are many different ways that emotional abuse can show up:
For example, a hurt ex-husband does not pay the children’s tuition as per their agreement. The wife is left taking the phone calls from the school with embarrassing requests for money and then she gets angry with him but he still “forgets,” voicing that he feels they should go to public school anyway.
There are many red flags to take notice of when you’re being emotionally abused by a partner. Overall, this includes feeling uncomfortable in a situation, like you are being coerced or manipulated by your partner. Specific things to take note of are:
When it comes to parenting, there are also red flags to signal emotional abuse.
Specifically, when a parent’s love is conditional. For example, conditional on good grades, performance in sports, etc. Other examples are: if you feel hatred toward your parents, have very low self-esteem, have suicidal thoughts, or thoughts like “they will be sorry when I’m dead.” Or, if you find yourself turning to marijuana, or alcohol in order to cope when the parent is around.
It is possible that a relationship can survive after emotional abuse, but usually this only happens under the context of therapy or other psychological treatment, in which a person makes a shift in the abuse.
The victim can help the abuser by setting boundaries with their partner. Statements such as “if you yell at me or call my names, I will leave.” Or, if the person’s emotional abuse is in the context of alcohol, make sobriety a condition of a continued relationship.
You can also make therapy or medication a condition of a continued relationship. Build a support network of friends and family who can help you maintain your boundaries or be there for you in crisis. article continues after advertisement
Come up with an exit plan if you need to be able to enforce the boundaries you set up. This could include things such as living with a friend or parent, having a lawyer on standby for legal arrangements, etc.
If you suspect you are being emotionally abused by a partner, you can get help.
Or, call your insurance company for a list of providers or reach out to your doctor for a referral. It is very hard to do this on your own without support to help you set boundaries or deal with your own codependency issues.