Signs you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship
Domestic violence and abuse come in many forms. The unique challenge stems from the nature of the relationship itself: you love the person who is hurting you. This unique circumstance can prevent survivors of domestic violence from seeking protection or assistance, often for years. Physical abuse is mostly easy to spot, but emotional violence (especially from a seasoned abuser) can be more difficult to detect, even by the one being abused. Emotional abuse is still abuse and it can be just as harmful or more harmful than physical violence. It's important to know the signs and be wary of unhealthy behavior from your partner. Remember: abuse, no matter the form, is always always about control. So what are some of the signs that you're currently in an emotionally abusive relationship? First, it's important to note that emotional abuse takes many forms and you likely won't experience every sign on this list. You may also be experiencing behaviors that are not on this list, but which may also be considered abusive. Consider this a starting point, but don't forget that the most important factor in determining whether you're in an emotionally abusive relationship is the way that your partner makes you feel. A good rule of thumb: if you feel like you're being abused, there is certainly a chance that you are. Your feelings are important, and a partner who doesn't respect that likely isn't a partner worth keeping around. Signs you're in an emotionally abusive relationship: 1. Gaslighting
Does your partner do things to make you upset and then pretend they never did them or that it wasn't as bad as you say? Does your partner try to make you feel crazy when you voice your concerns about their behavior? Does your partner make you feel like your concerns about their behavior are probably just a result of your mental illness? Does your partner insist that your version of reality isn't correct? This is gaslighting, and it's a huge red flag. In time, consistent gaslighting will create in even the strongest-willed individuals a creeping feeling of self-doubt. You may begin to question whether maybe you are simply overreacting to behaviors that hurt you. You may begin to think you're going crazy. This makes you all the more susceptible to control by a partner who seeks to control you.
2. "I'm just joking!"
My grandmother always used to say that "there's a kernel of truth in every 'just kidding.'" She was right. A partner who says humiliating or hurtful things to you, even when disguised as a joke, is a partner who is seeking to diminish your self-esteem so they can further control you. Their attempt to pass it off as a joke is so they can further gaslight you into believing that your concerns about their behavior aren't legitimate (see above).
3. They always have to know where you are and what you're doing This isn't always a sign of abuse, but it can sometimes signal that your partner wants to have more control over your actions. It's often difficult to tell the difference between normal concern about a partner's whereabouts or safety, and an overly-controlling obsession bordering on stalking. Good rule: if your partner tells you where you're "allowed" to go and when you're "allowed" to go there, they might have some control issues.
4. Walking on eggshells
If you feel like you have to constantly monitor your own words and actions in order to avoid upsetting your partner, chances are good you've already internalized the subtly abusive behavior that prevents you from being who you are. This is a classic sign of emotional abuse, and certainly warrants further reflection on why you feel the need to "self-edit" your own personality, in order to appease someone else.
5. Hot and cold
Does your partner *love* you one minute and ignore you for long periods of time the next? Does your partner treat you like royalty one day but then act like you don't exist as soon as they leave your presence? This is classic hot and cold behavior, and it's a control tactic. Keeping you guessing and stringing you along is the ultimate point. Over time, this behavior makes you dependent upon their whims. You may feel like you know they really love you because of all the times they've treated you so well, so you're confused when they treat you poorly. This becomes normal and you grow to accept it. Again, it's always about control.
6. Your partner never talks about your strengths, and makes your accomplishments seem meaningless
Every person deserves to be celebrated in their relationship. Your partner should be with you because they think you are *the best* and for no other reason. If your partner consistently makes you feel like your accomplishments aren't that great and your shortcomings are the only thing worth talking about, this is a classic sign that they are trying to diminish your sense of self-worth so they can better control you. Abusers love to make other people feel dependent upon them. Breaking down your independence and making you feel like you can't do anything right are textbook strategies to make you completely reliant upon their presence in your life.
7. Your partner withholds affection or money as a way to punish you
Does your partner make you feel like you have to earn their affection? Like you can only be loved by them if you bend to their will? Will they threaten to withhold money from you in order to get you to comply with their demands? This is just another way of asserting control over you and making you further dependent upon them. Remember: you have agency over your own thoughts and feelings. Anyone who tries to use economic power to make you feel differently about their actions is abusing you.
8. Your partner rapidly changes plans without telling you
They may disguise it as "surprising" you, but if you have a partner who routinely changes plans without telling you first, this is a sign that they are asserting dominance over you in the relationship. They are demonstrating that they have ultimate say and ultimate control. You will go where they want and when they want. Over time, you may come to casually accept this as normal but it is not. Like a toad in boiling water, you often cannot tell that a partner has been slowly eroding your independence until it is too late. This is a classic warning sign that something is amiss. Do you think you are living in an emotionally abusive relationship? Are you ready to get out but don't know your options? Call Skeens Law today. You shouldn't have to live another minute in an abusive situation.