Two weeks ago, I published an article sharing some things you can do during quarantine, and one thing I suggested is listening to podcasts. I enjoy listening to podcasts because they can be both intriguing and informative. I was also able to share a few of my favorite podcasts, one of which is an episode from Dear Sugars, titled Emotional Abuse.
After listening to this episode, I was prompted to enlighten us on this kind of abuse, the effects it can have on victims who are or have been in abusive relationships, and most of all, ways to deal with emotional abuse.
What Emotional Abuse means
Emotional abuse is a kind of abuse where the victim’s self-esteem and mental health are undermined thereby making them doubt their perception and reality.
In other words, an emotionally abusive relationship is one where there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviors that wears a person’s self-esteem and enervates their mental health.
It is also known as psychological abuse or chronic verbal aggression and can be accompanied by other kinds of abuse like; physical, sexual, or financial. This does not in any way make emotional abuse less significant.
What are the signs of emotional abuse in a relationship?
When examining your relationship, remember that emotional abuse is often subtle and as a result, it can be hard to detect. Also, keep in mind that there are no specific rules to what an emotional abuse should feel/look like. The signs and symptoms vary from one individual to the other and some of them include;
2. Threats and Intimidation
4. Yelling or Swearing
NOTE: If you feel wounded, frustrated, confused, misunderstood, depressed, anxious or worthless any time you interact with your partner/spouse chances are high that your relationship is emotionally abusive.
Emotional abuse, like other kinds of abuse, tends to take the same pattern. In a relationship, this pattern starts when one partner emotionally abuses the other, commonly to show dominance. The abuser then feels guilty, not over what they might have done, but over the consequences of their actions.
The abuser will continue to make up excuses for their behavior to avoid taking responsibility for what happened. Shortly after, the abuser resumes their normal behavior as if the abuse never happened. Most times, they become extra charming, apologetic, and giving, making the victim believe that they are sorry.
This pattern keeps repeating itself until the victim feels trapped. At this point, they are too wounded to endure the relationship, but also too afraid to leave. So, the abuse goes on giving room for worse situations to occur.
Some types of Emotional Abuse
1. Rejection: When your thoughts, ideas, and opinions are constantly rejected.
2. Gaslighting: When they make you doubt your feelings, thoughts, and sanity, thereby manipulating the truth.
3. Verbal abuse: Yelling at you, insulting or swearing at you.
4. Isolation: Limiting your freedom of movement and sometimes, stopping you from contacting other people.
5. Bullying and intimidation:Purposely and repeatedly saying or doing things that are intended to hurt you.
6. Emotional blackmail: Denying an event took place or lying about it.
7. Acting superior and entitled: Talking down at you and acting like they are always right, knows what is best, and is smarter.
How do people end up in Abusive Relationships?
Well, a lot of us go into relationships for different reasons. Often, it might be for wrong reasons like; loneliness or fear of being on your own (which are the most common), financial security, physical intimacy, to boost your self-esteem, to fit in with friends, and many more. Sadly, abusive people tend to prey on those that are emotionally weak.
Some weeks back, I read a story about a lady who was in an emotionally abusive relationship for years. She explained that before she went into that relationship, she was going through a serious breakup, and that took its toll on her. She had tried so hard to get over him but couldn’t. Eventually, she decided that dating someone new might be just what she needs to get over the heartbreak.
A few months later, she started dating a guy she’d recently met. Everything was going well for them (as they normally would at first) and although she noticed some things were off, she convinced herself it was nothing she couldn’t handle. The next couple of months were filled with emotional torture, manipulations, lies, fights, threats and public humiliations.
She was so focused on maintaining the relationship that she lost herself in the process. He was able to control everything she did, who she hung out with, and how she acted when they were together. She was in this position because she had ignored the signs from the beginning.
She talked about how she wasted years of her life trying to prove herself to someone that didn’t regard her as a woman. He was able to manipulate her into sticking with him, promising to change and be a better person for her.
He also made her believe that she was never going to find someone deserving of her as he was, and leaving him would be the biggest mistake of her life. She realized she didn’t have any control over the situation and resorted to enduring the pain that came with the relationship.
After years of being unhappy, she summoned up the courage to talk to someone that she thought could be of help. Within a few months, she was able to build a support team, end the relationship without looking back this time and break free from the abuse.
Effects of Emotional Abuse
The effects of emotional abuse can be both short-term and long-term depending on the length and intensity of the abuse.
Some of the short-term effects are;
- Questioning of one’s memory, “did that really happen?”
- Anxiety or fear
- Shame or guilt
- Becoming overly passive or compliant
- Frequent crying
- Avoiding eye contact
- Feeling powerless and defeated as nothing you do ever seems to be right
- Feeling manipulated, used and controlled
- Feeling undesirable
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Emotional instability
- Sleep disturbances
- Extreme dependence on the abuser
- Inability to trust
- Feeling trapped and alone
- Substance abuse
How Can You Deal with Emotional Abuse?
The first step in dealing with an emotionally abusive relationship is to recognize that it is happening. If you were able to identify any aspect of emotional abuse in your relationship, it is important to acknowledge that first and foremost. By being honest about what you are experiencing, you can begin to take control of your life again.
Other strategies you can use to reclaim your life are;
· Make your mental and physical health a priority
· Establish boundaries with the abuser
· Stop blaming yourself
· Realize that you cannot “fix” the abusive person
· Do not engage with the abusive person
· Build a support network
· Work on an exit plan
Ultimately, make yourself a priority. Learn to love yourself enough to want what’s best for you. Do not continue to endure abusive people for any reason at all. Convince yourself that you are stronger than they think, and take the necessary steps to heal. Above all, seek God’s guidance and be rest assured you will get through it.
Originally published on Omo Jegede Blog