Most of us have been taught to avoid and not tolerate physical violence. We know how to recognize when we are being physically harmed by someone. And we have probably all been taught that if someone hits us, it’s abusive. But, emotional abuse is often much more confusing and difficult to spot. And typically, physical abuse starts off as emotional abuse. It’s something we rarely talk about and probably were not taught to identify. Yet, it can impact us just as much as physical violence – sometimes even more.
If your partner is emotionally abusive, you have likely already started to suspect that something is wrong. You probably already know that you are not in a healthy relationship. If you suspect your partner is abusive, trust your instincts. Every relationship is different. And the only person who can know for sure whether you are being abused is you.
The following statements are intended to help bring clarity to your feelings about your relationship, and help you decide what to do moving forward. If you experience any of the following, you are likely being emotionally abused.
- Your feelings are rarely validated. When you express concerns to your partner, s/he makes light of them or ignores you completely. You feel as if your opinions, complaints, and needs do not matter. You feel frustrated, unappreciated, and not heard. Eventually, you may stop asking for what you need at all.
- Your partner often accuses you of cheating or flirting. S/he is mistrustful of you for no reason. In the beginning, you may have thought their jealousy was sweet and showed that they cared. But, eventually, their jealousy turned into interrogating you about where you’ve been and who you talked to. You feel obligated to explain your interactions with people to prove that you are being faithful. You may avoid talking to people all together, just to keep from upsetting your partner. It seems like nothing you say or do is enough to relieve their concerns.
- You feel like you can’t discuss problems in your relationship. You often feel like you are walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting your partner. You want everything to be perfect, so that s/he won’t be upset. You are often nervous about going home, or going to see them, but you pretend to be happy. You feel anxious and worried about how they may react to what you’re wearing, how you act, or what you say. You feel like you can never do or say anything right.
- You feel stuck, confused, and unsure what to do most of the time. You question whether this relationship is really right for you. But, it seems that every time you feel ready to leave, your partner does something sweet, and reminds you why you fell in love with them in the first place. You sometimes feel hopeful that things will get better, but other times you feel like nothing will ever change. You are constantly confused about whether to leave or stay.
If you are realizing that you may be a victim of emotional abuse, please know that you are not alone. And not all relationships will feel like this. A healthy partner will hear and validate your concerns and opinions. They will trust and respect you. And they will work on themselves, to make sure they are the best possible partner for you. In a healthy relationship, you will not feel constant confusion and shame – you will feel peace and safety. If you are receiving less than that in your relationship, you absolutely deserve better. Even if your partner has not hit you, emotional manipulation and control is still abuse. And eventually, s/he may also become physically violent.
You do not have to stay in a situation where you are not respected or appreciated. And you do not have to go through this alone. Contact the National Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to locate an advocate near you who can talk with you about options and resources.
Remember, you deserve to be loved and respected – all the time.