Emotionally Abusive Relationship: Signs, Effects And Tips To Get Out Of It

Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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Research indicates that emotional abuse is as severe as physical abuse. In fact, emotional abuse is far damaging as it morphs your belief in yourself and shakes your very identity. Emotional abuse acts like a slow poison, where the victim is unaware of being abused. Needless to say, emotionally abusive relationships are unhealthy and damaging. But there’s a solution for every trouble, and there’s one for this too.

MomJunction helps you understand what emotionally abusive relationships (EARs) are, their signs, effects, and how to walk out of an emotionally abusive relationship.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

When someone constantly puts you down, threatens you, makes you feel worthless, and makes you think you can’t do anything right, then you just need to understand that it is emotional abuse.

In an emotional abuse, the abuser controls and dominates the other person through subtle ways such as manipulation and intimidation leaving the victim used, powerless, and threatened. The victim also loses identity and sense of self-worth.

The abusive behavior can be attributed to the abuser’s childhood, where he may have been abused and didn’t know how to deal with the resulting distress and anguish. As a result, these people are inadequate at having positive and healthy relationships. They feel hurt, angry, and are incapable of controlling their emotions. And, impose those emotions by being emotionally abusive.

If you are in an abusive relationship, there’s nothing wrong with you. The abuser is angry with himself and shows that on you. In certain cases, emotional abuse is accompanied by physical abuse.

Unlike in physical abuse, where the scars are visible, emotional abuse has no scars to see but only a deep mental impact. So, how would you know that you are in an EAR?

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[ Read: Emotionally Unavailable Husband ]

Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

“Broken bones heal faster than broken spirits.”

Emotional abuse is subtle and deceptive. The people involved might not even be aware that they are in an EAR. The following signs, can, however, be your wake-up call to take charge.

Here is how an emotionally abusive partner could behave with you:

  1. Emotional abusers manipulate and control you They constantly argue and humiliate you in front of others.
  1. They criticize you for whatever you do and judge you. And if you are hurt, they might pass it off as a joke.
  1. They are always sarcastic in their remarks and make you feel bad about yourself. They never miss a chance to point out your mistakes and weaknesses.
  1. They are jealous of you having good friends, and try to isolate you from your friends and family.
  1. They envy your dreams and aspirations, and want to control every aspect in your life. When you discuss your achievements, they put you down and belittle you.
  1. They start isolating you from your family and friends, and become alone, totally dependent on your partner.
  1. They lack empathy and compassion because they cannot be in control when they empathize.
  1. They ignore and disrespect your needs and wants, and treat you like their slave.\
  1. They cannot laugh at themselves or tolerate when someone disrespects them.
  1. They blame you for everything that is wrong in their life and avoid taking responsibility for anything.
  1. They withdraw and stop talking to you to get your attention or for whatever they want.
  1. They argue about routine things and escalate them to the extent of physical abuse.
  1. They can threaten you physically and show their dominance and control over you.
  1. They are emotionally unavailable because they don’t know how to deal with their own inadequacies.
  1. Certain times the abuser even controls the partner’s private space including the phone, car and personal time.
  1. They make you feel responsible for their abusive behavior by saying, “You are too sensitive” or “If you weren’t so dumb, I wouldn’t have yelled at you”.”

If you are the one who is being abused, then:

  • You are anxious and nervous in front of them.
  • You feel trapped and helpless forever in your relationship.
  • You want to remain silent even when you are angry just because you don’t want to antagonize your partner.
  • You are afraid to tell even trivial things such as your phone repair or a bill payment because you don’t know how they would react.
  • You feel you have to take their permission to go out or do anything.
  • You feel ashamed or guilty most of the time.
  • You tend to isolate yourself from others because you don’t want to feel ashamed when the abuser criticizes you.
  • You blame yourself for the abusive behavior.
  • You justify their behavior irrespective of the situation.
  • You walk on eggshells. This means that they play it safe and do not offend their partner and avoid confrontation. In other words, they encourage the abuse subtly.

If you see any of these signs in your relationship, you must accept that it’s happening to you. Remember that the stress of emotional abuse can manifest into anxiety, depression, and emotional trauma. Let’s see the effects of emotional abuse.

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[ Read: Signs Of Narcissistic Spouse ]

Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Effects Of Emotional Abuse

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“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” – Aisha Mirza

That simply sums up the impact of an emotional abuse. It can be as severe as physical abuse and sometimes even greater. The emotional trauma can leave scars on your mind that can affect the rest of your life.

Sometimes victims blame themselves and try to underplay the abuse by thinking, “at least he didn’t abuse me physically”. But, that doesn’t reduce the adverse effects. Let’s see the short-term effects it has on the victim.

  • They always feel anxious and nervous.
  • They feel powerless, out of control, manipulated, and forever trapped.
  • They become overtly passive, compliant, or aggressive.
  • They avoid eye contact.
  • They are afraid to talk about the abuse to anybody.

When the emotionally abusive relationship continues for a long time, the effects are permanent and dangerous. They go to the extent of believing all the negative things that abuser says about them. The long-term effects of emotional abuse include:

  • They have low self-esteem and self-worth.
  • They develop learned helplessness.
  • They become emotionally unstable, and blame themselves. They believe that their spouse became abusive because of them.
  • They have sleep-related problems.
  • They tend to withdraw from people, and isolate themselves because they don’t want to feel ashamed or be embarrassed in front of everyone.
  • The emotional stress manifests in the form of physical pain.
  • They have suicidal thoughts.
  • They develop an unhealthy dependence on the abuser.
  • They are unable to trust people anymore.

There’s no reason why you should stay in such an unhealthy relationship when the negatives outweigh the positives. But, the victims still cling on to their partner.

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[ Read: Codependent Relationship ]

Why Do People Stay In Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Why Do People Stay In Emotionally Abusive Relationships

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To an outsider, it may seem easy to suggest ways, but people who are in an EAR know how difficult it is to call it quits:

  1. Financial dependency: The victim might be dependent on the abuser for finances and that makes it difficult to leave the relationship.
  1. Fear of consequences: The abuser threatens of grave consequences such as hurting the family members and children or tarnishing the image of the victim.
  1. Children are an impediment: Separation of any sort becomes difficult when children are involved. The victim might not be in a position to support the children financially, or feel guilty of separating the children from their parent. It could also be that the children are too young.
  1. Feels abuse is normal: The person feels that being abused is normal as they might have themselves grown up in an environment where one their parents abused the other. With limited emotional skills, children do get confusing and mixed messages, and they are likely to carry the confusion to their adulthood. They might end up choosing someone who repeats the complicated emotional dynamics.
  1. Feels responsible for the partner: When the abused is financially dependent on the victim, the latter may not want to leave the former without support. In some cases, the victim feels responsible for the abuser’s behavior.
  1. Hopeful of seeing change in the partner: The abuser hopes to see some change in the partner. So, waits patiently for an uncertain period.
  1. Inability to let go: Many EARs start off on a good note with a lot of love and understanding, and then evolves into abuse. This leads the abused person into disbelief and they deny the abuse at face value.
  1. Has low self-esteem: If the victim has been in an abusive relationship for a considerable time, then their self-esteem reduces to a point where they do not see it as an abuse anymore. They are used to it, accept it and it becomes their way of life. The abuser might also make the victim believe that the latter cannot survive without the former.
  1. Abuser prevents them from leaving: The abuser can go to great extent to prevent their partner from leaving. They might isolate their partner, and cut off their ties with family and friends. They might provide limited finances just enough to manage themselves.

Taking help from friends and family can reduce the emotional burden of the victim. There are many other ways to deal with an EARs.

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[ Read: Arguments In Relationship ]

Ways To Deal With Emotionally Abusive Relationships

If the abuser isn’t willing to change and you are not able to walk out of the relationship, then here’s what you can do to deal with an EAR.

  1. Put your needs first: There’s no point in sacrificing your needs when the other person doesn’t acknowledge or appreciate you. Put your foot down and take care of yourself first.
  1. Have boundaries: Setting boundaries can help avoid emotional and physical abuse. For instance, if your partner criticizes you or puts you down always, then tell them, “I will walk away or leave the house if you yell at me or criticize me”. Be firm when you say this and stick to your boundaries.
  1. Keep your calm: If your partner tries to argue, don’t lose your cool. Don’t even try to justify or explain yourself. Just keep your calm and walk away.
  1. Don’t try to change them: The only way you can change the abuser is by waiting for them to realize their damaging behavior. Your repeated attempts at trying to change them will yield no results, and you will be disappointed.
  1. Don’t blame yourself: If you have been in EAR for quite some time, you tend to feel that the other person is not treating you right because it’s your fault. But it’s not about you. It’s the other person who is being abusive. So, stop blaming yourself and build your self-esteem.
  1. Take help: If you find yourself trapped in the relationship, there’s nothing wrong in taking help from family, friends, or even a counselor. Spend more time with people from whom you can get support.
  1. Make a plan: EARs are unhealthy and are difficult to be in. Therefore, act early. The moment you get a hint of it, make plans to leave even if it means having to divorce your spouse. Start saving and planning for your future.
  1. Socialize with others: Abusers tend to isolate the victims from others either because of jealousy or to control them. Break the cycle by spending time with people who love you, make you happy, support you, and let you be yourself without judging or criticizing you.
  1. Be financially strong: Abusers use finance as a means to control the victim. The big step to stop the abuse is to be financially independent. Get a job and start saving so that you are not dependent on the abuser for money.

The key to resuming your dignity and self-esteem is to analyze the reasons for staying in an EAR. Identify them and find ways to leave or quit an EAR. Here’s how you can get out of it.

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[ Read: Toxic Relationships ]

How To Get Out Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Life is too short to be wasted on someone who doesn’t respect you, disregards your needs, and makes you feel worthless constantly. You are the only person who can decide whether it’s worth staying in the relationship or not. And, if you want to get out of an EAR, here’s how you can do it:

  1. Regain your confidence: Build your confidence levels, believe in your worth, and your capability to reach your goals — personal or professional.
  1. Connect to your inner self: It’s never too late to reconnect to your original self. Be the person who you were before you were in this relationship. Be the ‘real’, ‘happier’, and ‘carefree’ you.
  1. Be open and honest with yourself: What is that you want from your relationship? If the bad things outweigh the good ones or if the good things are insignificant, then it’s time to walk out.
  1. Understand your partner’s issues: Are you willing to help your partner change? Is there anything that is bothering them? Ensure that you sync these interests with your personal interests and integrity. Don’t try holding on to your relationship just because you want peace. Do what’s right for you.
  1. Resume your power: If the emotional abuse goes beyond your tolerance threshold, just walk out of the relationship, and take charge of your life.
  1. Have the courage to say ‘no’: All you need is to gather the courage to stop yourself from being abused. Say ‘no’ to your partner and just stop yourself from being abused. Tell him, “If you continued the abuse, I will leave.” And do that if things do not work out. Do not stick around hoping the person would change. Standing up and speaking for yourself is a big leap towards stopping the abuse.

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[ Read: Boundaries In Marriage ]

Relationships have their ups and downs. But, they should also be strengthening, supportive, and happy. You should be able to celebrate each other, and not face abuse. If it is otherwise, then call it quits and walk out. You can do that.

Seek professional help if need be.

Have any experiences to share? Leave them in the comments section below.

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