10 Signs of Emotional Abuse in Relationships

Emotional abuse can be complicated and tough to understand, navigate, and identify. Unlike physically abusive relationships, where there is concrete evidence of violence and distress, emotional abuse is more sophisticated—the warning signs may seem ambiguous, psychological but it is just as damaging.

Emotional abuse, also known as ‘Psychological abuse’ is any act that involves verbal assault, intimidation, or behaviour that may diminish an individual’s sense of identity, and self-worth. Individuals who suffer from emotional abuse tend to have low self-esteem and may become anxious, depressed, or even suicidal. Emotional abusers are often charming and manipulate their partners into thinking abusive behaviour is romantic but it is not.

  • Yelling

    Yelling, screaming and directing anger outbursts at you is a way to intimidate and make you feel inconsequential.

  • Name-calling

    Emotional abusers often name-call and use abusive words at their partners, they don’t mind having fights with you or even making fun of your inadequacies in public. The irony is they will try to win you over again with exaggerated gestures and pleas for your forgiveness.

  • Pushing your buttons

    This involves knowing something that annoys you but still bringing it up to any chance they get. They also put down your interests, telling you that your hobby is a childish waste of time.

  • Texting and calling you constantly

    This involves repeated requests to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with. If communication with your partner feels unavoidable, then that is a red flag.

  • Refusing to respect your boundaries

    Emotional abusers do not have boundaries because they are insecure, so they find it hard to respect other people’s personal space.

  • Trying to control the people you spend time with

    Emotional abusers always criticize the people you choose to spend time with or ask you to forego social plans. It is important to note that tending to our social lives outside of romantic relationships can help to make those relationships stronger.

  • Withholding emotional intimacy

    Withholding emotional intimacy is when a partner shuts down nonverbally as a way of exerting control or manipulating the situation or the other person. It’s not okay to shut down on your partner without explanation and leave them in the dark, wondering what they did.

  • Speaking for, or over, you

    It’s cool when your partner stands up for you. However, it’s abusive when they speak over you or for you, as if you’re so incompetent you can’t do it on your own. Acting as your spokesperson in a conversation when you are right there is a red flag.

  • Gaslighting

    Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which your partner leads you to mistrust your own interpretations of reality. For instance, you try to talk to your partner about their anger issues, rather than listen to your concerns, they say, “You’re being way too sensitive.” Then the conversation leaves you scrutinizing what you may have gotten “wrong” rather than how your partner’s actions made you feel.

  • Pressuring you into having sex with them

    Coercion is a form of abuse, and nobody ever has to have sex when they don’t desire it. Part of a healthy relationship is having sex only when you want to, not because your partner is pressuring you into it. It is equally abusive if your partner is intentionally withholding sex or physical intimacy from you as a means of manipulation.

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