Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Anxiety, Couples & Family, Depression, Emotional Abuse | 0 comments

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

By Jeremy Skow, LMHC, CASAC, MBA

          If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, you know how easy it is to get caught in its web. It often starts out with a simple suggestion like, “Do you think that outfit is the best choice for the party later?” “Why don’t you try ordering a salad.” or “You should get a real job and stop the nonsense about making it as an artist.”


       At first, you take these suggestions as constructive criticism; a reflection of love and concern for you. After all, the comments may not be far off base and you don’t want to appear unappreciative or defensive. As time goes by, however, you notice that your significant other’s opinions of you remain mostly critical and you find that you spend more time fighting than enjoying each other. You begin feeling like you are walking on eggshells all the time.

         Life with an abuser is characterized by constant criticism, false accusations, threats and malicious humor. It is a continuous cycle, not a once-in-a-while event, that is almost never really about you. This behavior is designed to make you feel unworthy, undesirable, incompetent, ashamed or mentally unstable to produce feelings of low self-esteem that make you easier to control. Neglect, withheld intimacy/sex and invalidated feelings are all examples of emotional abuse.

          No one deserves to be emotionally abused, but, if you are part of an emotionally abusive relationship, you have a role in it because you allow it. Emotionally abused individuals tend to have low self-esteem, be non-confrontational, are afraid of the unknown and are afraid of divorce or moving on; in short, they are controlled by their fear.

          Angry and abusive people like feeling that they are the victims because, in their minds, it justifies their victimizing others. Mental abusers are adept at convincing the victim that the abuse is their fault and non-confrontational people accept these behaviors because challenging them could mean a fight. Lying to an abuser often becomes necessary for emotional survival and victims may find themselves lying to others as well out of habit even when there is no need for it.

emotional-abuse          Many people beat themselves up over the question “Why can’t I just leave?” You want the easy answer? You aren’t ready to leave yet. Maybe your fear has you convinced that the abuse doesn’t warrant leaving yet. Perhaps you lack financial resources. Fill in the blank with any reason you come up with. When you are ready to leave, you will be able to leave. However, choosing to stay is not only fine, it can also be empowering if done for healthy reasons. Only you can make that decision.

          If you want to end the abuse, remove the focus from repairing your relationship, or your partner, and placing it squarely on your personal healing. This will give you the strength to seek a relationship in which you are valued and respected.

  1. Get Your Power Back – Rebuild your self-esteem. Be willing to walk away from the relationship. Work towards feeling more valuable andconfident, regardless of what your partner does.
  2. Overcome The Fear – Move forward from a place of power
  3. Set Limits On Criticism And Emotional Outbursts – Be open to hearing their concerns about your actions and how they impact them, but refuse to engage in conversations that attack who you are as a person.
  4. Find people and experiences that celebrate who you are. Reconnect with the powerful person you truly are, i.e. someone that would never tolerate being treated in such a manner. Surround yourself with people that support and love you for who you are.
  5. Avoid Isolating – Being cutoff from others deprives you of any opinionsother than those of your abuser. The abusive statements hurt more if they are the only ones you hear.

          Relationships should be something that support your growth, not diminish it. Decide what behaviors you will tolerate and where you will set your boundaries. Choose to be treated well.  The worst thing that could happen is that you would end up on your own. However, it is only when you are completely comfortable being alone that you are ready to be in a healthy relationship. Until then, you are vulnerable to emotional abuse.emotional-abuse

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