Emotional Abuse: What Are The Signs?

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Emotional Abuse Doesn’t Leave Marks But It’s Just As Damaging As Physical Abuse

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Emotional abuse can happen to anyone

Emotional abuse can happen to anyone

Women in abusive relationships are not stupid. They’re not weak. They’re not pathetic. They’re intelligent, strong, capable women who have ended up in the wrong relationship.

But how? If someone hits you, you leave, right? If your partner put you down and treat you badly, you walk away.

If it were that simple women in abusive relationships would just walk away, but it’s never that cut and dry, especially when it comes to emotional abuse.

Broken bones and bruises are obvious. The signs of emotional abuse are not. They’re subtle and they creep into a relationship so gradually and insidiously that they can be easily missed, excused, or explained away.

If your partner is controlling and manipulative
If your partner criticises you and makes you feel worthless
If your partner blames you for situations outside of your control
If your partner makes you feel inferior and belittles your thoughts and feelings
If your partner humiliates you and tells you you’re being too sensitive when you get upset
If your partner tells you that you can’t leave because without them, you have nothing…

You are in an abusive relationship.

Abusers will blame you for their actions. He will tell you that you made him angry, that it’s your fault he lost his temper. But it’s not your fault. It’s his fault. The way he treats you is a choice he makes. He is responsible for his behaviour. Does he speak to his friends or work colleagues the way he speaks to you? Would he act like that in front of his boss?

Your partner has the ability to control his actions. He chooses not to. Why? Because when he belittles and manipulates you he feels powerful and he likes feeling that way.

But as unhappy as you might be in this relationship, no relationship is 100% bad and you’ll still feel a strong pull to stay. You’ll wonder whether he can change like he’s said he will and whether things can get better. Maybe they can, but when you look at where your relationship started and where it is now – is it getting any better or has it slowly gotten worse? Has your partner given any indication that he’s capable of change? Not just by saying that he wants to, but by actually changing his behaviour, and for longer than a few weeks?

You’ll worry that leaving could be a mistake and that you won’t be able to cope on your own. But where have you heard those words before? Are they your words or his attempts to make you too afraid to leave?

Having doubts and being afraid to leave is normal, but know your fear. You’re not fearful because leaving is the wrong decision, you’re fearful because you’re making a decision without his permission and that feels unfamiliar. You’re not conflicted about leaving because he is a wonderful and devoted partner, you’re conflicted because you’re not used to putting your own needs ahead of his.

The decision to end an abusive relationship is one of the scariest decisions you will ever make. Leaving will feel impossible, but is it any more impossible than staying?

You are strong. You are capable. You are smart.

There is always a way out and people to help – you just need to ask. It’s scary, but leaving may well be the best decision you ever make.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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