10 Warning Signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
by Nancy Nichols for YourTango

Have YOU experienced any?

If you’ve never been involved with a cunning, pathological lying, narcissistic, abusive partner, you may not know what you’re dealing with.

When you date an abusive personality, you may buy into his charm, braggadocio and phony façade while downplaying his inconsiderate and questionable behavior. Or you mistrust your instincts that your boyfriend or husband is lying to you, demeaning and controlling you. Worse yet, you may think you are overreacting and crazy — as he claims you are.

NOTE: You can be in an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, male or female friend, family member, boss or co-worker.

An abuser’s goal is to affect and control the emotions, objective reasoning and the behavior of his victim. Covert abuse is disguised by actions that appear normal, but it is clearly insidious and underhanded.

Abusers methodically chip away at your confidence, perception and self-worth with their subtle hints, unnecessary lying, blaming, accusing and denial.

Abusers foster an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability and unpredictability. They steadily push you to the edge with their deception, sarcasm and battering until you erupt in anger and then you become the “bad guy” giving them the ammunition they need to justify his hurtful actions.

If you are experiencing any of the following things, you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship: 

1. Accusing and blaming: They shift the responsibility and the emphasis onto you for the problems in your relationship. They say things, like: “It’s your fault.” What’s wrong with you?” “You didn’t remind me.” “Nothing I do is ever enough.”

2. Punishment by withholding: They refuse to listen, ignore your questions, withhold eye contact and give you the silent treatment.” They’re punishing you! They may refuse to give you information about where they are going, when they are coming back, about financial resources and bill payments. They withhold approval, appreciation, affection, information, thoughts and feelings to diminish and control you.

3. Blocking and diverting: They steer the conversation by refusing to discuss an issue or they inappropriately interrupt the conversation. They twist your words, watch TV, or walk out of the room while you’re talking. They criticize you in a way that causes you to defend yourself and lose sight of the original conversation.

4. Contradicting: They disapprove and oppose your thoughts, perceptions or your experience of life itself. No matter what you say, they use contradicting arguments to frustrate you and wear you down. If you say, “It’s a beautiful day,” they’ll say, “What’s great about it, the weather’s crappy.” If you say you like sushi, they’ll say, “Are you kidding, it’ll give you parasites.”

5. Discounting: He denies your experience of his abuse. He tells you that you’re hypersensitive or that you’re imagining things or that you can never be happy. His disfigures the truth, causing you to mistrust your perception and the reality of his abuse.

6. Disparaging humor: Verbal abuse is often disguised as jokes. The abuser teases, ridicules and humiliates you with sarcastic remarks about your appearance, personality, abilities and values. They make fun of you in front of your friends and family because they know you will avoid a public confrontation. If you tell them to stop, they tell you that you are too sensitive or you can’t take a joke.

7. General crazy-making: They use a combination of distortion, blaming, forgetting, stonewalling and denial to confuse, frustrate and drive you to the brink of insanity. They deny the truth and twist your words, putting you on the defense. They want you to second guess yourself, doubt your reality and your ability to reason.

8. Judging and criticizing: They harshly and unfairly criticize you and then they pass it off as “constructive” criticism. If you object, they tell you they are only trying to help in an effort to make you feel unreasonable and guilty.

9. Undermining: They break their promises and fail to follow through on agreements. They minimize your efforts, interests, hobbies, achievements and concerns. They trivialize your thoughts and suggestions. If you suggest a restaurant or a vacation destination, they say, “The food is awful at that place!” and “Why would you want to go to Florida; it’s nothing but a tourist trap!”

10. Forgetting: They “accidentally”  forget the things that are important to you. They forget to pick up the dry cleaning, to make a household repair or buy tickets to the movies. By doing this, they’re saying, “I’m in control of your time and reality.”

Abusive behavior is not always verbal. Your partner may use body language or gestures to control and diminish you. For example:

  • Refusing to talk or make eye contact
  • Sulking, strutting, posturing and stomping out of the room
  • Boredom-crossed arms, showing disgust, rolled eyes and frowning
  • Inappropriate sounds, deep sighs, words like, “Soooo!”
  • Hitting or kicking something or driving recklessly to scare you
  • Withdrawing or withholding affection to punish you
  • Patronizing, laughing at your opinion, mimicking or smirking
  • Interrupting, ignoring, not listening, refusing to respond
  • Distorting what you say, provoking guilt, or playing victim
  • Yelling, out-shouting or swearing to shut you down
  • Starting a sentence with, “Forget it”

Now that you know the conniving, covert signs of emotional abuse, what are you going to about it?

Is your boyfriend or husband deceiving, cheating or verbally abusing you? Understand the covert tactics of an abusive personality in Never Date A Dead Animal: The Red Flags of Losers, Abusers, Cheaters and Con-Artists by Nancy Nichols.  Sign up for more dating insight from Nancy.

This article was originally published at Nancy Nichols: Know It All Nancy and YourTango: “Every Single One of These 10 Things Is Emotional Abuse – Yes, Really.” 

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One Comment

  1. This is such a great and important read. As someone who was in an emotionally abusive relationship, I really appreciate seeing this. We can’t forget that abusive relationships are not just physical, sexual, or verbal, but can also be emotional and leave just as much damage. Thanks for posting.

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