The 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
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, therapist in Lake Zurich, Illinois. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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