Emotional abuse is possibly more destructive than physical abuse, but then again I guess it depends on the victim. Emotional abuse takes a long, long time to recover from - if ever. You need all your mental strength, massive support and a shedload of happy pills (if you are anything like me).
There are signs, symptoms, whatever you want to call them, to watch for, to help you understand whether you are being emotionally abused. There are also many avenues for getting help. I am not going into that here, although I am sure you can find where to get help from your doctor, or even Googling mental health websites and asking for contact numbers. Just remember, whatever the abuse you are suffering, you are not alone. It's fine to turn to family for help, but often family don't want to know, for various reasons. So a medical person is the obvious first port of call. You can also call the Samaritans, or Lifeline - who will give you every help and support.
The stereotype abuser is a male, but it isn't always the case, as women are just as likely to be emotionally abusive. It also doesn't matter whether you are married, living together, in a same sex relationship or even just going out together. Whatever the case, it is totally unacceptable behaviour, which will only continue and sometimes escalate into physical abuse as well.
If your partner has done something physical to you, pushed you, hit you, thrown things at you, be aware that these are signs that the violence can escalate, and probably will. Any partner with a nasty temper that they don't control, and who has done something like smashing things, punching the wall, fighting with outsiders - any violent reaction like this - might come to the point where they physically abuse you.
Are you being isolated from family and friends?
Abusive relationships are all about control and power over another. If you are being prevented from seeing your friends and family, are being 'punished' for going out (example, your partner sulks or threatens, shouts at you or insults you), this is a controlling behaviour. Your partner might be deliberately rude to friends who call on you, and/or say demeaning things about your friends and family. You may go out in a group, but he/she will make the evening miserable by being rude or sarcastic. And then you will be punished again when you get home, with the insults or threatening behaviour.
Does your partner make you feel afraid?
Isolation and fear are two of the very nasty tactics used by an abuser. You feel afraid that you are going to be physically hurt, which keeps you in line. The abuser can use many tactics to make you feel fear. Feeling fear around your partner is an extremely bad sign.
Does your partner blame everyone else, but never take responsibility for his/her own actions?
This is typical of the abusive personality, nothing is ever their fault, it is always the fault of someone else. The blame very often falls on you for things that don't go right, or the way the abuser wants them to go. She loses her job but it is the fault of the new supervisor, not her fault for being rude at work. He is handed a default ticket for his car but it isn't his fault - it's the fault of the Police and their stupid rules, or your fault for not having the car fixed.
Is your partner jealous - of you, your friendships, your goals, career and the like?
Another very nasty trait is jealousy. On a personal note here, my ex was jealous of his own daughter. He wanted me to dance to his tune exclusively, and couldn't handle the fact that my attention was divided. He was livid that I chose to work when we married, and I now see that this is because he had lost control over that part of my life. He went into a rage when I passed my driving test, then sulked and wouldn't speak to me for a week. Jealousy is indeed an evil creature.
Are you expected to wait on him/her hand and foot?
Abusers typically swan around thinking the world owes them, and acting as though they are a cut above everyone else, especially you. The abuser will expect you to do everything, and will do nothing in return.
Does he/she manipulate you into doing what he/she wants?
The abuser is a master at manipulation, using sulks, threats to leave you, and other emotional punishments if you don't go along with her or his idea of how things should be. If you do try to assert yourself, you will be made to feel guilty.
Sometimes the abuser will act remorseful, and loving, but it won't be long before he or she is back to normal - as soon as he or she feels they have you back where you belong the cycle will start again.
Do you live your life being afraid of his/her hair-trigger temper?
The temper can erupt for any reason, and has you tip-toeing around, trying desperately to keep things calm and on an even keel. God help you if his coffee is too cold.
Are you always making excuses for his/her behaviour?
He’s tired. He had a hard week. He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s only like that when he’s had too much to drink. Sure, these excuses may explain the rare social gaffe and could, in fact, be true. But if you’re regularly trying to explain away rude, violent or disrespectful behaviour, you could be emotionally abused.
We put up a wall called denial when we are in a relationship, often not seeing or wanting to see what is in front of us, or what is right and wrong. You should never have to excuse or explain away someone else's behaviour.
Does he or she make snide 'jokes' at your expense?
" Although boorish and rude, the occasional zinger isn’t an automatic ticket to the Abusers Hall of Fame. "
However, shooting you with poisonous remarks and then trivialising it " what's up? can't take a joke?" - this is NOT respect. It is more about emotional distancing, which can rapidly lead to abuse.
Emotional abuse can become physical with very little notice. Just ask Aimee, 41, of San Francisco, who was in an abusive relationship for eight years – while working at a battered women’s shelter! It was so subtle, says Aimee (whose name was changed to protect her privacy). “It went from unhealthy to pathological in such tiny increments that I accepted every little increment completely.”
By the time it crossed over into physical abuse, “I couldn’t name it. I was in absolute denial,” she says.
My ex would say that I was 'common' or 'uneducated' and think absolutely nothing of the slap in the face it was to me. He would also use lecturing behaviour to control me, i.e., how I should behave, what I should/should not say, what I should wear and the like. It is all demeaning. It is all abuse.
Does he/she control the money?
This is a zinger because it is the ultimate in controlling you - you have no access to your own money, or credit card. He can do what he wants with it, and you get a meagre allowance, if any. He has you where he wants you - which is dependent on him.
Does your partner 'get in your face' when you fight?
Every couple fights now and again, but if your partner follows you when you are trying to walk away, or gets really close to you when you are arguing, that is a sign that he or she is extremely frustrated, so frustrated that he or she could hit you in an eye blink.
Does he or she raise a hand or fist in anger?
If he or she manages to stop before you are hit, will they be able to control themselves as much next time it happens?
Has your partner ever become physical - even just the once?
If you have been treated roughly physically, this is abuse. Don't just brush it away. If you have been hit, punched, pinched, slapped, had your hair pulled - any physical rough treatment is abuse.
This is all domestic violence, and domestic violence escalates, as I have pointed out above.
“The woman who loses her life probably started with name-calling, a push, a shove, hair pulling or something like that.”
Has your life been threatened?
My advice is to believe him or her, and leave. Right now.
Even if he’s never kept his word before, you don’t want to be there when he decides to follow through.
When a person is brash enough to make threats, we need to take it at face value. The reality is, if he said it, he probably meant it.
There are no statistics about how often threats translate into homicide, but the following situations increase the odds that an abused woman will be killed by her partner:
- He has a weapon and has threatened you with it before.
- He’s threatened your children.
- He’s unemployed.
- He’s forced you to have sex.
- He’s jealous and controls most of your daily activities.
- He says if he can’t have you, nobody can.
- He’s threatened or attempted suicide.
- You believe he could kill you.