Within healthy and unhealthy relationships, people may become angry. They may make major mistakes. They may yell and say things they later regret. They may even suddenly end a relationship despite the other not being ready to let go.
The difference between a difficult relationship and an abusive one is the issue of control. A relationship is abusive when one member is purposefully trying to control the other.
Below are 10 signs that a relationship may be emotionally abusive. This is not an exhaustive list, so please feel free to reach out if you’d like to talk further about your particular experiences.
Emotional blackmail - You can only receive affection or support if you act on their terms. You may become convinced that you are selfish for having your own needs.
Privacy violations - You are not allowed a private space for your thoughts, feelings, and communications. They may insist on having access to your phone, computer, or journal. They may always want to know where you are and who you are with.
Abusive language - Even healthy relationships can become heated at times, but language that is purposefully cruel or demeaning is abusive. Particularly within an intimate relationships, words matter.
Isolation - Although it’s natural for some relationships to become more important than others, it is not natural to be pressured into giving up meaningful connections because of constant jealousy or imagined threats to your relationship. Nor is it natural to be denied the right to work, go to school, or see a doctor or therapist.
Financial control - Being cut off from your finances or being threatened with financial abandonment is abusive.
One-sidedness - Your life becomes about making this person feel safe or calm. You have to dramatically, or in numerous micro ways, alter your behavior and life to soothe their insecurities or face the repercussions of the emotional fallout. They may threaten to harm themselves if you upset them.
Intense scrutiny - They believe (and maybe even convince you) that they know how you should dress, speak, socialize, and live your life. They are disdainful or purposefully cruel to coerce you into meeting their expectations.
Gaslighting - They make you question your sense of reality by repeatedly lying, calling you crazy, or insisting an event happened in a direct contradiction to how you experienced it.
Manipulation of others - This can be part of gaslighting. They tell others that you are crazy or insane with jealousy. Rather than work with you on genuine problems, they involve others in creating a reality in which you are always wrong. They may brag to you about all the people who now see you in a negative light.
Fear - A relationship that uses fear to ensure control is abusive. Whether it is the threat of physical violence or emotional abandonment - this is a clear sign of emotional abuse.
For many people the idea of being in an abusive relationship is at odds with their identity. You are not weak or foolish if you have been emotionally abused. You have instead been drawn into a distorted world with an emotionally unwell or cruel person.
Recovery can take time and come in many forms. Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to talk about what you have been through and how to reconnect with who you are and what matters most to you.