While physical abuse is straightforwardly identified, it can be much more difficult to tell whether you are being emotionally abused. However, being degraded, demeaned, or controlled leaves unseen scars, lowering self-esteem and eroding happiness. Here are the ten signs that you are being emotionally abused.
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1. You are always the one to blame
Most emotionally abusive people refuse to take responsibility for their own mistakes or negative feelings, instead opting to blame their partners. An abusive partner may tell you that you stop them from fulfilling their potential, drive them to substance abuse, or make them yell at you. If you live with these allegations for long enough, you can start to doubt your own sanity.
2. You are treated like a child
However you are infantilized, it will make you feel utterly powerless and submissive. Your partner may control all of the finances, dictating purchases and admonishing you for perceived over-spending. Alternatively, you might be told what to do around the house or made to ask for permission to attend any social event.
3. Your partner disguises hurtful remarks as jokes
Emotional abuse can be cleverly cloaked in “jokes” that aren’t really funny, leading your partner to accuse you of having no sense of humor if you dare to object. This tactic is a common way of excusing cruel remarks and undermining your faith in your own judgment. On reflection, you’ll probably realize that it is your partner who has trouble laughing at their own faults—emotionally abusive partners will typically respond with bile when teased.
4. You are baselessly accused of wrongdoing
Even if you are the most chaste and appropriate person on the planet, and emotionally abusive partner might accuse you of outrageous flirting or even outright infidelity. Your clothes and manner may be dissected, and your partner may make insulting remarks about how “easy” or “slutty” you appear to be. These types of accusations are often precursors to enforced limits on your contact with the opposite sex.
5. You feel inferior and unintelligent
There are dozens of ways to make someone feel inferior. Your partner might suggest that someone with your looks is lucky to have ended up with someone so good looking, or you may be constantly reminded that you are “so slow” at grasping new things. Your career aspirations may be dismissed as shallow, your preferences as crude, and your dreams are as silly. In time, you can come to genuinely believe that these types of evaluations are fair.
6. Emotional blackmail is part of everyday life
Emotionally abusive people will often choose to administer punishments if you attempt to challenge their control. Your partner might become very emotionally cold, acting wounded and distant until you let them get their own way. In more extreme cases, pushing against your partner’s domineering attitude can lead to their threatening to end the relationship. It’s hard not to feel scared and sad when the person you love threatens to leave, and you can easily become more pliant and accommodating for the sake of protecting the relationship.
7. You have no say in the boundaries of physical intimacy
Few emotional abusers let their partners be equals in the bedroom. Your own needs might be utterly ignored, and you may be expected to have sex when you’re not in the mood or be bullied into performing degrading acts. If you try to avoid sex as a result, your partner may start threatening to look elsewhere.
8. Nothing pleases your partner
Another theme of emotional abuse is communicating that nothing is quite good enough. Every time you think you’re improving something that has been criticized, your partner will find a way to make you feel inadequate again. Whether the bulk of complaints focus on your looks, your attitude, or your approach to life, you may eventually actually feel grateful that your partner puts up with someone who has this many flaws.
9. Your partner seems to have multiple personalities
Emotionally abusive people often make swift changes from a happy, contented mood to an angry or depressed state. In particular, you might feel like your partner is likely to shift to a nastier personality if you raise a contentious issue or object to a decision. Eventually, this can mean that your partner’s mood dictates what is and is not discussed when in reality you should always feel safe raising concerns in your relationship.
10. You have lost touch with friends and family
Finally, it’s important to remember that emotional abusers characteristically isolate their partners. If you have gradually fallen out of touch with people who used to be trusted confidants, take a critical look at why that happened. When you are isolated, you are less likely that your partner’s behavior is out of line, and you become increasingly more dependent on your relationship (increasing your chances of staying in spite of deep unhappiness).