Are you looking for signs you are being emotionally abused in your relationship? Are you worried that you might be caught up in something that isn’t good for you but you just aren’t sure?
Sometimes we are too close to a relationship to recognize the signs that it has turned into something damaging. Our friends and family tell us it is toxic but it’s hard for us to recognize because we are in it every day.
It is important that you know the signs of emotional abuse so that you can recognize whether it exists in your relationship and whether it’s time to get out.
#1 – One person has all the control.
One big sign that you are being emotionally abused in your relationship is when one partner controls the other.
One of my clients had a partner who had complete control of her actions. He dictated whether or not she could attend school, who her friends were, how she dressed, when they would have sex and what she ate for every meal. He also told her that only he was allowed to end the relationship. She took it all for granted and assumed that’s just how relationships were. Yeah, no.
People in healthy relationships do not try to control the other person. People in healthy relationships give each other the freedom to live their lives and be their own person. People who control everything that their partner does are people who create toxicity and discord in a relationship.
Are you given the freedom to be who you want to be in your relationship? If not, there is emotional abuse in your relationship and it’s important that you recognize it.
#2 – Words hurt instead of help.
A very important part of every healthy relationship is communication. This means talking about feelings and things that need to be done but it’s also about making sure that the other person knows that they are loved and respected.
Does your person talk to you with love and affection or do they lash out at you verbally? Do words spoken, either calmly or in anger, inflict pain? Is the language laced with profanity, words that belittle and make you feel very much less than?
Words aren’t meant to inflict pain. Words can express anger and disappointment but those words shouldn’t inflict pain, make you feel bad about yourself or display disrespect.
Pay attention. If your partner is repeatedly raising their voice and inflicting pain, instead of expressing feelings, then you are mostly likely being emotionally abused in your relationship.
#3 – There is no respect.
One of the hardest to recognize, but one of the most important, signs of emotional abuse in a relationship is the presence of contempt.
Contempt is defined as ‘the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.’ Signs of contempt include eye rolling, unkind words, sarcasm and dismissal.
Contempt can be hard to recognize because it’s easily explained away. Oh, I deserved that or He is just crabby or He was just showing off for his friends are excuses that are often used to justified contempt.
Think about your interactions with your person. Is there contempt? Does your partner speak to you sarcastically? Do they talk about you behind your back? Do they roll their eyes when you try to make a point?
The number one killer of relationships is contempt. When people treat each other contemptuously the respect in the relationship is gone. And without respect, nothing else matters.
So, take a good hard look at how your partner treats you. If there is contempt, contempt that causes pain, then there is emotional abuse in your relationship and you should think about if that is what you want going forward.
#4 – Things get physical.
In movies and on TV we often see people who are being physically abused by a partner. Nicole Kidman’s character in Big Little Lies is repeatedly abused, physically, by her partner but she is quick to justify the behavior and, often times, blames herself.
And while many people would say that physical pain isn’t the sign of an emotionally abusive relationship, I believe that the psychic damage caused by physical pain shouldn’t be down played.
Any physical pain that is inflicted on a partner is a sign of an abusive relationship. Healthy relationships involve no physical pain of any kind. Words might be said in anger but not derisively and certainly not involving any physical pain.
If you partner has hurt you physically then you are definitely in an emotionally abusive relationship that you might want to consider leaving.
#5 – There are constant apologies.
One of the hallmarks of emotionally abusive relationships is the presence of apologies.
Does your person hit you and then apologize? Does your person lash out at you verbally and then say they are sorry but that you just drive them to it? Does your person treat you with contempt and then beg you to forgive them?
People who abuse other people often feel remorse, true remorse, after hurting their partners and they apologize. That remorse doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to display that behavior again just that they feel sorry in the moment. Sooner or later, the abuse will begin anew.
If you find that your world is full of apologies for bad behavior then you might be being emotional abused in your relationship.
#6 – Self-esteem issues develop.
This sign of emotional abuse in a relationship has to do with your personality traits not your partner’s.
Do you struggle with your self-esteem? Do you believe that you are worthless or stupid or friendless? Do you believe that you are bad at everything that you try to do? Do you believe that you are fat or ugly or undesirable?
Many people who are in an emotionally abusive relationship struggle with self-esteem issues, issues that they don’t think are the result of their partner’s behavior but because of some huge deficiency in their character. In fact, most people who are struggling in abusive relationships have lowered self-esteem that is the result of the mistreatment.
So, how is your self-esteem? How was it before you were in this relationship? If you felt better about yourself before this relationship then that is a sure sign that your relationship is emotionally abusive.
#7 – Estrangement.
Another significant sign of emotional abuse in a relationship is that the abused has been estranged from their friends and families.
Many emotional abusers go out of their way to make sure their victims are alienated from their loved ones because doing so gives them more control. As a result, loved ones, and their support, are cut off from their family member which only makes the family member more vulnerable to emotional abuse.
So, take stock of your relationships with your friends and family. Are they not what they used to be? And, if not, why? I know you might believe that any disconnect is all your fault but dig deeper to learn why your relationships are where they are right now.
If you an in an emotionally abusive relationship, don’t forget your friends and family are out there to support you and help you escape!
Knowing the signs of whether you are being emotionally abused in a relationship is a very important part of a building a happy life.
Often, when we are in the midst of strife, it can be hard to see the truth. Others might tell us that they see warning signs but it might be hard for us to see them too.
Hopefully, now that I have spelled them out here – the contempt, the control, the unkindness, the physical pain, the apologies and the estrangement – you will be more clearly able to see whether your relationship is a healthy one or not!
If it’s not, get out NOW before it’s too late. You have one and only one life. Live it!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.