Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse can be harder to identify, because it can slowly creep into a relationship without either partner realizing it. Often, the abuser isn’t even aware of what he or she is doing (and would probably deny it if it were brought to light).
Emotionally abusive partners seek to manipulate you. They often don’t want to hurt you, but their controlling nature makes them act out in a way that is mentally and emotionally harmful. Here are some signs that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:
- You feel that you can’t express yourself freely with your partner, or you have to “walk on eggshells.”
- Your partner frequently express jealousy, and keeps you from engaging in normal interactions with the opposite sex
- Your partner frequently yells at you, criticizes you, or undermines your self-esteem
- Your partner keeps you from your friends, family and support groups outside of the relationship
- You caught your partner monitoring your email or internet usage
- Your partner alludes to the possibility of harming you or your loved ones if you “betrayed” or left him or her
- Your partner implies that if you were to leave, he or she may commit suicide or engage in other self-harm
This is not an exhaustive list, and is just meant to point out some of the trends of an emotionally abusive relationship. Regarding the last bullet point — threats of suicide — it is an especially manipulative tactic. If your partner holds their potential suicide over their head, they are essentially attempting to take you hostage. You need to bring in a third party if they resort to this or any other form of violence.
Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, and can lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you need to get help and get out, and you need to do it fast. There are two immediate steps you should take:
1) Realize that this situation is NOT OK and can’t go on any longer. Don’t kid yourself: Your partner’s yelling, constant criticism, “freaking out,” etc., is not a “quirk” you should tolerate.
2) You need to create some space for you to get your mind back. Do whatever you can to create some physical and psychological space. Once you’re away from your partner’s controlling domain and able to find refuge with family and friends, you’ll gain the perspective you need to take the steps to leave.