When Love Hurts

Couple on couch with woman's mouth tapedThe media is inundated with stories about domestic violence and the havoc that alcohol or drugs can cause with love relationships. However, there is little attention paid to more subtle types of hurtful behavior like verbal or emotional abuse. These damaging behaviors can occur with partners who are neither physically violent nor addicts. They are partners who may have some other mental illness not so widely understood by the average person. Some emotionally abusive partners aren’t mentally ill at all; they nevertheless have learned to use power and control as a major style of operation within their relationships. Like victims of domestic violence, partners in emotionally abusive relationships suffer quietly. Unlike those that fear physical safety, victims of emotional abuse may have little understanding they are in fact being abused.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to assess if you are in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship:

  • Is your self esteem negatively affected when you are with your partner?
  • Does your partner hurt you financially or spiritually?
  • Do you engage in non-consensual sexual activity with your partner to appease him or her?
  • Does your partner use hurtful or insulting language?
  • Do you mistrust what you know to be reality based on communication with your partner?
  • When you let your partner know he/she has hurt your feelings, do they respond with remorse or empathy?
  • Do you feel you can never do anything right in your partner’s eyes?
  • Do you feel stuck in your love relationship and worry your partner doesn’t love you?
  • Do you obsessively think about whether you should leave your partner or not?

If the answer to any of these is yes, then you may be in an abusive relationship.

Here are some specific signs that you are being abused:

  • Your partner blames you for his/her problems
  • You feel you have no say in major decisions
  • Your partner criticizes or humiliates you frequently
  • Your partner appears confident, even cocky on the outside but you sense he/she is very insecure on the inside
  • Your partner angers easily
  • Your partner believes in traditional strong male/female roles i.e. men should be the primary bread winner and head of the household
  • You are afraid of what he/she will do if you end the relationship
  • Your partner criticizes or interferes with your religious beliefs and/or observances
  • Your partner limits your access to money
  • Has a history of failed love relationships
  • Your partner has difficulty with maintaining friendships and/or family relationships
  • Your partner has extreme mood swings
  • Your partner is jealous of other relationships in your life

Recovery from emotional abuse is possible. I have developed a 7 Step model called Relationship Recovery which helps victims of any type of abuse to heal. The seven steps are:

Cultivation of Support & Self-Care
Value Personal Boundaries
Embrace Grief
Rebuild your Life

Why does the victim of abuse need counseling when they have done nothing wrong but be a target for their partner’s inappropriate and damaging behavior? The answer is repeated exposure to emotional abuse hurts and affects the victim’s functioning. It can rob them of their confidence in the best case scenario, in the worst case scenario leave deep psychological wounds.

Love is not supposed to hurt for prolonged periods of time. Healing from heartache is possible!

© Copyright 2010 by Felice Block, MA, LCPC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Linda

    October 15th, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Thank you so much for this wonderful atricle. There are too many women in this world who sit back and take abuse from another because thye think that this person really loves them. I think that this clearly outlines that when there is behavior like this the other person clearly does not love you, he likes to control you. There is a big difference, and the more women who take a stand against this the more empowered we can be as a whole.

  • jeremy

    October 16th, 2010 at 4:04 AM

    physical abuse was most often targeted at women.but with the empowerment of women this has reduced quite a lot.but the new and harder-to-identify problem is emotional abuse.the sufferers of this are not only women but men too.I have seen this happen all around me.

  • Jon

    October 16th, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    There have probably been some decline in the statistics when it comes to physical abuse in relationships due to the empowerment of women but do not fool yourself- there are still very abusive people out there for whom they like nothing more than wrenching and wielding control over another person. We cannt fool ourselves and believe that this is no longer prevalent because for many families this is the reality that they live in. Abuse does not go away just because there is more of an awareness of it, but maybe the people in these situations will realize sooner that there are better choices and opportunities which are availabel to them to help them come to live in a safer and healthier environment.

  • MARY

    October 16th, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    It is true that things have changed and its not just the women who suffer due to an abusive partner anymore. Things can go any way and it all comes down to the person’s nature and not his/her gender.

  • Sally

    October 17th, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Emotional abuse can be just as crippling and devastating to families as physical abuse. We all see the damage that the physical abuser can wield but cannot see down deep to the core the damage that can be done with verbal anger and emotional abuse. The scars created by emotional abuse are the scars and the injuries which fester and grow on the inside, and sometimes I think that years and years of this simply wears away the soul of the one being abused and takes away their power and their will to fight back.

  • bernard s

    October 17th, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    a person who treats you that way is just not worth it and the relationship cannot be called a ‘loving’ one.maybe i’m just too enthusiastic coz i’m young but this is my belief.

  • chelsea

    October 18th, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    is there a ribbon for this too or just a passing trend to be concerned about? i want to get involved with something meaningful, not fleeting and just the “cause of the day”

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