Emotional abuse is as dangerous as physical abuse, and another reason for divorce. It is more difficult to prove, more difficult to talk with the kids as a reason for leaving, but no less destructive in the havoc it causes in the family. Emotional abuse is also much easier to deny and rationalize, which is why many people stay in the relationship too long. The longer you are exposed to emotional abuse, the more harmful it becomes, the more likely it will turn physical, and the deeper it affects your confidence as well as your self-esteem.
The worst part of emotional abuse is you cannot see it. It doesn’t leave physical bruises, cuts or visits to the emergency room, but it is still just as real as physical abuse, and unless you get out of the relationship, there is a very high chance it will turn physical and may turn deadly.
You will know if you are emotionally abused because your partner will do some of these things:
- Blame others and you for everything
- Threaten that they are going to leave you or say that no one else could love you
- Verbally insult you with sarcasm or cuss words
- Have temper tantrums when they don’t get their way or you aren’t home when you say you will be
- Make you feel as though you have no life other than waiting on them or serving them
- Tell you things like you are stupid and insignificant
- Behind closed doors they turn into a completely different person, often times resembling a monster of sorts
If you are a friend or family member of a victim, you may notice that your loved one has feelings of guilt, shame, depression, isolation from friends or family, nervousness, and may also resort to self-blaming frequently. If you see these behaviors in a family member or good friend, it may be helpful if you talk to them about what you are observing. Many times, emotionally abused people continue the cycle because they don’t trust others, they feel embarrassed, it isn’t always bad, they feel that they caused it, and they feel so unworthy that they cannot accept that they have a friend who cares about them.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusive, you need to get out, not only for your own safety and sanity, but also for your children’s. You cannot fix your partner. Your partner is fixable only if they are able to accept that they have a problem. Below are suggestions that will help you make the first move in getting help.
- You need to confide in one other person about what is going on. This person should be someone you trust and someone who is willing to let you come to them prior to or when the abuse is happening.
- A counselor will help empower you, and can help you make a plan. To find a reputable counselor, talk to your primary care doctor. Most physicians have a list of therapists they work with or know of their work that can help you.
- Emotionally abusive people many times have no idea what they say in a fit of rage, so tape recording the abuse may be helpful for you, especially if you need legal help. I have also found that clients need to remember what their partner said to them so they can go through with making necessary changes. Denial and learned unworthiness keep the cycle going…you cannot deny hearing the words recorded.
- Your safety is always a prime concern. Staying away from an emotional abuser and not going back into the situation is the best way to secure your and your child’s safety.
Many of my clients have told me they would have preferred being hit to the emotional abuse, because if you were hit, everyone could see it. They have told me that the most difficult part of emotional abuse is telling yourself you don’t deserve to be treated this way. No one deserves to be treated with disdain or humiliated. When this treatment comes at the hands of someone who says they “love you,” it’s not only sick it is emotionally devastating. You must get out; your staying will actually enable the abuser to get worse. Sometimes, the most poignant way to show love is to leave.