All relationships have their ups and downs, and no relationship is ever perfect. We’ve all had fights and arguments with those we love because that’s the normal roller coaster ride of being human, right? Absolutely! However, there are behavior patterns and habits that are abusive, and that are not ok or normal. These are destructive behaviors that are fairly consistent in a relationship and that make the victim feel isolated, controlled and belittled. If these behaviors are practiced over time, the victim starts to see it as their “blurred normal”, not even realizing that they are caught in an abusive cycle.
“Emotional abuse” can a be a term that is thrown around a lot these days, and to show respect for those that are true victims of emotional abuse it’s a term that shouldn’t be used lightly. The following scenarios are not emotional abuse:
- You get into the occasional argument with your partner, and you exchange some harsh words that you both regret. This is not emotional abuse.
- Your partner forgets your anniversary 2 years in a row. This is not emotional abuse.
- Your partner has a bad day and acts cold and distant one evening. This is not emotional abuse.
Although these situations can cause some hurt feelings; as they stand alone, they are not abuse. These are normal human behaviors we are probably all guilty of at one time or another.
Real emotional abuse endures daily battles. For example, living a life of constantly walking on eggshells to make your partner “happy”. Waking up each day worrying what they will be upset about or find fault in today. Feeling emotionally exhausted and drained because you’re trying to make your partner happy, but to no avail. Feeling anxious when they come home each day because you don’t know how they’ll act or treat you.
Here are 5 signs you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:
- Your partner discourages you more than supports you. Is your partner supportive and happy when new opportunities come your way? How about when you discover a new hobby? Or do they scoff at your interests, and say how stupid they are. Do they make you feel guilty for pursuing your own interests and friendships? Do they belittle your job? Your friendships? Your activities? A non-abusive partner will be your cheerleader and not your personal Debbie Downer. They will be happy for you when you are happy…pay attention to these cues.
- Your partner criticizes you. Your friends praise you and say how pretty you are, or that you look great in your new outfit – everyone seems to point out the good things about you, everyone except your partner. If they are constantly making remarks about how you should work out more, questioning your make up, hair color or style, or making snide remarks about your character, this is controlling and emotionally abusive behavior. If they literally call you names in an effort to maintain power and degrade your worth, you are being emotionally abused.
- Your partner is indifferent to your suffering. A loving partner should be a safe place to land when you’ve had a rough day, you’re not feeling well, or you’re struggling with heartache and grief. An emotionally abusive partner will become distant and indifferent during these times, because they don’t like the focus being taken off of themselves. Abusers also tend to be very self absorbed and more concerned about their schedule, their day, their needs, and their feelings more than anyone else’s.
- You feel more chaos than contentment. Every relationship has it’s highs and lows, but if you are living in a constant state of chaos it’s time for serious reflection. Healthy relationships are built on two people striving to retain balance and compromise. If one partner is constantly in need of being in control, and belittles you and even instigates arguments to maintain that power, that is emotionally abusive behavior.
- Your partner is constantly playing the blame game. “If you had just made my lunch last week”, or “done my laundry properly”, or “paid that bill on time”…then I wouldn’t have any reason to treat you like crap. This is what they’ll tell you. Or, if you hadn’t taken that trip with your friends, they wouldn’t have had such a crappy week at work. If you just kept the house more clean, they wouldn’t be so stressed. Is your partner really good at blaming you for their own bad behaviors or bad days? If your partner is constantly blaming you for making their life miserable, and not taking responsibility for their own actions, that is a sure sign that you are in an emotionally abusive cycle. An abuser thrives on control and pride. Always willing to point out the flaws in others, but has a really hard time seeing flaws in themselves.
Don’t short change yourself. Healthy relationships are built on respect, admiration, sacrifice, balance and personal responsibility. No one should ever feel controlled, manipulated, belittled or scared when their partner comes home each day. If your partner doesn’t realize there is a problem, and refuses to seek help, it is time to leave the relationship, for your own sanity and well being. It is not your responsibility to pay for someone else’s brokenness. Despite what your partner tells you, you are worth it.
If you feel like you have nowhere to turn and need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website for more info.