I recently ended a 3 year relationship with someone who I’ve realized was emotionally abusive. I started wondering if I was being abused about a year ago, and recently read an article on this website that seemed to detail exactly how I feel and how I was treated. The title of this article is ‘Emotional Abuse and the Impact of Absence.’ He would withdraw without telling me what was wrong, leaving me to guess. He would rarely apologize, and seemed to be emotionally unavailable. Sometimes his withdrawal was due to me being upset about something that had nothing to do with him. He was extremely critical of my children, and my family. He found fault in the way my kids walked too loud, held their fork wrong, a look on their face he didn’t like, etc. and claimed that it wasn’t their behavior that was the problem, but my lack of disciplining them for it. However, it seemed no matter how I responded, he would find fault with it, and I felt like I was walking on eggshells when he was around because I never knew what would irritate him next. In the past, I have tried to tell him how his actions made me feel, and how it affected me, but he responded with defensiveness and I ended up feeling worse, like everything was my fault. I felt like I was accepting any crumb of affection or attention from him even though I knew I wasn’t being treated right. I quit trying to talk to him about my hurt feelings because I feared it would just make him withdraw more, and possibly end the relationship. I’ve told him the situation was emotionally unhealthy for me, but I never confronted him about his actions being emotionally abusive. Now that the relationship has ended, I’m still struggling with all the hurtful things he did, and can’t seem to get past it. Should I confront him and tell him I think he was emotionally abusive and why? I’m afraid if I do, he’ll respond negatively and I’ll end up feeling worse, and if I don’t, it will continue to eat away at me, and I’ll regret not standing up for myself. (age 42, from US)
Based on everything you are saying here, I would not suggest that you confront him again. You shared that when you have tried to speak to him in the past about your feelings he got defensive and you ended up feeling worse. I doubt this would be much different now, and in fact, it may be worse now that you are no longer together. In my clinical experience, I have rarely seen a confrontation of someone who is abusive go well. In this case, I believe it would put you at risk for further abuse. However, it can be very therapeutic to put all your feelings on paper. You can write him a letter and then destroy it or you can have a special journal that you use to write down your feelings about him and the relationship.
You already stood up for yourself by ending the relationship. That took courage and self-esteem. You have nothing to regret. Put your energy into moving on, but know that healing from break-ups take time. Wrap yourself with support and spend time with positive people and you will eventually start feeling better. You can also seek professional counseling to help you through this difficult transition.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Should I Confront My Emotional Abuser?
Holly Counts, Psy.D.
Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.
APA Reference Counts, H. (2018). Should I Confront My Emotional Abuser?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/05/29/should-i-confront-my-emotional-abuser/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 29 May 2016) Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.