For most of us, love is a beautiful, joyous emotion. Aside from ourselves, it’s the one unshakeable, unconditionally dependable part of our lives. However, it’s not the same for everyone. Unfortunately, some people aren’t able to indulge in this emotion as healthily and productively as the rest of us. 

When those who need help before being in a relationship skip the first step, it almost always has unpleasant consequences. Today, we’ll discuss one subtle yet highly dangerous consequence of incompatible relationships: emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can be like a ninja, sneaking into your life, leaving you questioning your feelings and reality. It’s not always as obvious as physical abuse, so it’s crucial to highlight these hidden warning signs.

Think of these signs as those sneaky little raindrops you might not notice until you’re already soaked. They can be subtle but can also erode your happiness, self-esteem, and emotional well-being.

So, grab a comfy seat, and let’s have an open and honest conversation about these five subtle signs of emotional abuse that can be easy to miss in a relationship. 

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is a somewhat complicated and broad subject. But essentially, emotional abuse is when your partner messes with your feelings and self-esteem in a hurtful way. 

They might criticize you, put you down, or even try to control you. It’ll look like they’re messing with your head and making you feel bad about yourself. This behavior of theirs has more to do with their issues than you; and is done in an attempt to control you.

Anyhow, that’s not cool at all, and it’s important to recognize it and get help if you’re going through it. In a healthy relationship, you’ll feel good about yourself and be treated with respect, affection, and kindness.

It might be difficult to recognize abuse and more difficult still to recognize the early signs of emotional abuse. Anyhow, the important thing to keep in mind is that it’s never too late to let go of something that doesn’t give you joy or satisfaction. On that note, let’s talk about five red flags that indicate that your relationship is emotionally abusive.

5 Red Flags indicating you’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship (that are easy to miss!)

Now, let’s move on to the five subtle signs indicating you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. Remember that alone, only one of these signs might not necessarily be intentional emotional abuse. 

If you can’t determine whether you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, do not turn to magazines and amateur blogs. The best course of action for you would be to consult a qualified healthcare specialist to interpret and advise on the situation.

They criticize, humiliate, and/or degrade you.

Criticism, humiliation, and degradation are forms of emotional abuse where one partner systematically belittles, insults, or undermines the other. These actions often have profound, long-lasting effects on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being.

It’s a highly common yet dangerous form of emotional abuse since it involves tearing down the self-worth of a person subtly, from the ground up, without them even noticing. 

Constant criticism: Emotional abusers often engage in relentless criticism, finding fault with almost everything their partner does. They may criticize their partner’s appearance, skills, or intelligence, making negative remarks about their choices and actions.
Name-calling: Name-calling is a common tactic in emotionally abusive relationships. The abuser may use hurtful labels and insults to demean their partner, like calling them “stupid,” “lazy,” or “worthless.”

Public humiliation: In some cases, emotional abusers humiliate their partners publicly, intentionally embarrassing them in social situations. This could involve making cruel jokes or disclosing personal information without consent.

Demeaning comparisons: Abusers may compare their partner unfavorably to others. For instance, they might say, “You’ll never be as successful as [someone else],” or “You can’t compare to my ex.”

In arguments, they always seem to be right, while you’re always left confused 

Toxic and healthy relationships both have arguments. Disagreements and conflict are bound to happen when two people who’ve lived different lives come together. However, the difference lies in the aftermath: in how both parties handle the issue and how they both feel at the end of it. 

If you both feel a little overwhelmed but understood and acknowledged, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, if it feels like they seem to be the right one in every argument/disagreement, and you’re left feeling disoriented and confused, there’s a chance you’re being emotionally manipulated or gaslit.  

Undermining confidence: A common practice among emotional abusers is that they often undermine their partner’s self-confidence and self-esteem. They may discourage their partner from pursuing their goals or dreams, making them doubt their abilities and worthiness.

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the abuser makes the victim doubt their perception of reality. They might deny past hurtful actions, insist the victim is overly sensitive, or accuse them of imagining or making up the abuse.

Shaming: Emotional abusers often use shaming as a tactic for control. They shame their partner for expressing their emotions or having needs and desires. This leads to the victim feeling guilty for having natural human emotions or expecting the bare minimum. 

Blame-shifting: When confronted about their abusive behavior, emotional abusers shift blame onto their partner, making them feel responsible for the abuse. For instance, they might say, “You made me do this because of your behavior,” or “You made me so angry in the first place.”

They are highly unpredictable and blow hot and cold, especially with you. 

In emotionally abusive relationships, one common characteristic is the unpredictability of the abusive partner’s behavior. They may alternate between showing affection and kindness (blowing hot) and displaying hostility (blowing cold). This behavior keeps the victim off balance and creates emotional turmoil.

Hot and cold behavior: An emotionally abusive partner can be charming, loving, and affectionate at times, making their partner feel cherished and valued. However, this can suddenly shift without warning to hostility, criticism, or neglect. This inconsistency can leave the victim feeling confused, desperate, and anxious.

A cycle of idealization and devaluation: Emotional abusers often follow a pattern of idealization and devaluation. During the idealization phase (blowing hot), they shower their partner with attention, gifts, or compliments. In the devaluation phase (blowing cold), they may belittle, ignore, or berate their partner.

Manipulative control: This unpredictable behavior is a manipulative tool for the abusive partner to maintain control. The victim becomes hyper-vigilant, constantly trying to appease their partner or avoid triggering negative reactions, further solidifying the abuser’s control.

Isolation and dependency: The unpredictability of the abuser’s behavior can lead the victim to become emotionally dependent on moments of affection. This makes it difficult for the victim to leave the relationship, as they may hold onto the hope of returning to the “hot” phase.

Emotional exhaustion: The constant shifting between hot and cold behavior is emotionally exhausting. Victims often find themselves in a perpetual state of anxiety and stress, never knowing what to expect.

Love-bombing: Emotional abusers engage in love-bombing during the “hot” phase, overwhelming their partner with affection and attention. This can make it challenging for the victim to recognize the abusive patterns and maintain boundaries.

They control and dictate your life, including your career and social life. 

In emotionally abusive relationships, one partner may want excessive control over the other’s life and independence. This can manifest in various ways, from making decisions on their behalf to isolating them from friends and family. 

Isolation from friends and family: Emotional abusers often isolate their partners from their support network. They discourage contact with friends and family, plant distrust or resentment towards loved ones, or insist on controlling social interactions. This makes the victim feel entirely dependent on the abuser.

Financial control: In some cases, an emotionally abusive partner may control the finances to limit the victim’s financial independence. This involves monitoring expenses, restricting access to bank accounts, or forbidding the victim from working or pursuing a career.

Dictating clothing and appearance: Some abusers try to control their partner’s appearance, dictating their clothing, and grooming, or even pressuring them to undergo cosmetic procedures. This can weaken/damage self-esteem and identity.

Constant monitoring: A primary indication of emotional abuse is constant monitoring, like checking texts, emails, or tracking the victim’s location. This invasion of privacy is a way to maintain control and instill fear.

Career interference: Emotional abusers may interfere with their partner’s career by belittling their aspirations, demanding that they quit their job, or insisting on making career decisions for them. This can undermine financial stability and independence.

Isolation from hobbies and interests: Abusers may discourage or forbid their partner from pursuing their hobbies or interests outside the relationship. This leads to a loss of personal identity and fulfillment.

Excessive control in a relationship is a form of abuse with serious emotional and psychological consequences. 

Your relationship seems to be going around in a circle instead of moving forward.

In emotionally abusive relationships, partners often get stuck in a cycle of repetitive behaviors and conflicts. It often prevents the relationship from evolving in a healthy and productive way, trapping both partners in an emotional abuse cycle.

Repetitive arguments: Partners in an emotionally abusive relationship might have the same arguments repeatedly without ever resolving the underlying issues. For instance, if one partner constantly accuses the other of not being trustworthy, it may arise repeatedly without any meaningful resolution or trust-building efforts.

Stagnant communication: Communication also often becomes stagnant. Partners avoid addressing important topics due to fear of conflict, or one partner may use communication as a tool for manipulation rather than resolution.

Cycle of apologies: There may be a cycle of apologies where one partner apologizes for their abusive behavior and promises to change, but reverts to the same actions shortly afterward. This pattern can give a false impression of progress, ultimately leading to disappointment and further frustration.

Emotional rollercoaster: The relationship may feel like an emotional rollercoaster, with moments of intense conflict followed by brief periods of peace and affection. This can create confusion and emotional instability, making it challenging to see the relationship’s trajectory clearly.

Understanding signs of emotional abuse in a relationship is the first step in recognizing and addressing them because you do not deserve to be stuck in a stormy relationship.

How to get out of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

By now, you must’ve recognized the warning signs of emotional abuse in your relationship, if there were any, to begin with.

So, depending on how serious the situation is, you must seek to get out of this relationship. However, it won’t be simple. You must be careful and methodic since it has been established that your partner can easily sway you and that they don’t necessarily want the best for you.

The critical first step is acknowledging you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Often, victims of emotional abuse downplay or deny its existence. Recognize that emotional abuse is harmful, and you deserve to be in a healthy and respectful relationship.

Seek emotional support

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist for emotional support. Sharing your experiences and feelings with someone you trust can help you feel validated and less isolated. This is a crucial step many victims undermine, not realizing what they’ve been through is enough for them to be diagnosed with emotional abuse PTSD.

Safety first

Prioritize your safety above all else. If necessary, have a safety plan in place. This plan might include knowing places to go and people to call in an emergency or having essential items packed and ready to go.

Document the abuse

Keep a record of instances of emotional abuse if possible. Note the date, time, location, and details of each incident. Documentation can be valuable if you need legal protection or a restraining order in the future.

Create an exit plan

Plan your exit strategy carefully. Determine where to go if you decide to leave, and make arrangements for your well-being. Ensure access to important documents (e.g., identification, financial records) and have a plan for your finances.

Seek legal advice

If your situation involves shared assets or children, consult an attorney to understand your legal rights and options. They can help you navigate divorce, custody, and financial matters.

Set boundaries

When you are ready to leave, communicate your decision to your abusive partner clearly and assertively. Do not engage in arguments or explanations, which can escalate the situation. Your safety is the top priority.

Go no contact

After leaving, establish no-contact boundaries. Block their phone number and social media profiles, and communicate your boundaries to friends and family to minimize any contact with the abuser.

Remember that leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is an important step toward reclaiming your life and happiness. 

You can always leave, no matter how difficult it may seem

Today, we’ve explored one of the most insidious consequences of an unhealthy relationship: emotional abuse. Often sneaky and hidden, it creeps into our lives, making us question our feelings and reality. Unlike the glaring obviousness of physical abuse, emotional abuse lurks in the shadows, demanding our attention.

If you’ve identified with any of the signs mentioned here, you must act immediately. Turn to trusted friends, family members, or professionals. Remember, you have the strength to leave, no matter how difficult it may seem. Your happiness and well-being are worth it, and there’s a world of healthy, loving relationships waiting for you out there!