Emotional abuse is sometimes harder to recognize than other forms of abuse. For me, it was becasue the abuse started off slow. In the beginning he would start off making jokes at my expense, and later made passive aggressive remarks, later turning into psychological torture. It changes so gradually, that it is often hard to notice, even as it escalates.
I heard from one woman that she didn’t have a story to share, because he never hit her. She went on to tell of some of the controlling and hateful words that were spoken to her, and as she heard herself say the things that had been said to her, she understood the power those words had.
Just because someone does not place their hands on you, or leave a bruise on your body, it does not mean they did not harm you. Words have so much power behind them. Words alone can destroy a person. Through all of the abuse I lived through, the scars I am still healing come from the damage done from someone else’s words.
Some signs you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship include when a partner:
- Calls you names, insults you or continually or criticizes you
- Refuses to trust you and acts jealous or possessive
- Tries to isolate you from family or friends
- Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
- Demands to know where you are every minute
- Traps you in your home or prevents you from leaving
- Uses weapons to threaten to hurt you
- Punishes you by withholding affection
- Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets
- Damages your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
- Humiliates you in any way
- Blames you for the abuse
- Accuses you of cheating and is often jealous of your outside relationships
- Cheats on you and then blames you for his or her behavior
- Cheats on you intentionally to hurt you and then threatens to cheat again
- Attempts to control your appearance: what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.
- Tells you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them
I have lived through every one of the above examples, plus many more. After a while of hearing the same thing, repeatedly, it is difficult to believe anything else. The abuser knows this, and intentionally gains control by stealing your self worth. Little by little, you begin to become the person they say you are. You lose sight of who you are, and what you believe. You become what they tell you. You see what they see. You are a slave to their hatred.
All it takes is a glimmer of hope to start to see things differently. One kind word from a stranger. One look in the mirror, to remember who you really are. Layer by layer, you start to uncover the truth, your truth, and you see. You see the lies that have been fed to you. You see the damage that has been done, and you take the first step. Sometimes that first step is all you are able to take, but you know you deserve more.
Not everyone is able to see, or take that first step. But, if you are, take it. Take it as slowly, or as quickly as you safely can, and rebuild your reality. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be respected. You deserve to see the truth.
Be patient with the ones who are not able to see yet, or ever. Breaking free isn’t easy. The timing has to be just right. And, as outsiders, we don’t know when that is. Just be a friend. A safe space. No judgements, just love.