11 Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in Relationships
You never really know someone until you’ve tried to leave them.
Many women who witnessed various forms of physical abuse and domestic violence in their parents’ marriages swear they will never settle for the same kind of treatment in their own relationships.
However, many are so focused on physical forms of abuse that they too often miss the warning signs of emotional abuse, at least, until they find themselves caught in the trap of an emotionally abusive relationship or marriage themselves.
Having set the bar at physical abuse, which is where our society still keeps that bar to a large extent as well, women in these situations often feel that if they aren’t being hit, they aren’t being abused, and they therefore have no right to complain, let along initiate a divorce or breakup.
If you were raised in an environment of abuse, you may feel more comfortable living within a cycle of violence, which includes emotional forms of violence such as threats to your privacy and control of resources, than you realize.
And even if you do realize this and feel certain that you want to get divorced or leave the toxic relationship, abusers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for making you believe that doing so impossible.
You can leave, and you should and you will, but before you do, you should know what to look out for so you can be as prepared to deal with it all as well as possible.
Here are 11 signs of emotional abuse in relationships and marriages, and how each may affect you in a divorce or breakup.
1. Withholding Affection.
Withholding affection from a partner is a way to punish the partner and to exercise power and control. This is done intentionally and is sometimes stated to the partner by saying something like, “No kisses until you can be nice again.”
Some partners withhold affection after a disagreement because they don’t feel connected or they don’t feel like offering loving gestures in the moment, but in such cases, the behavior happens only occasionally, rather than on a frequent basis.
An abuser might threaten to expose you in a way you find embarrassing, or they may threaten to take something important away from you, such as money, your home, or even your own kids.
Some might threaten to leave you if they don’t get their way, or they may say they will tell your friends and/or family something personal about you, which is doubly damaging, as not only are they threatening you, but they are implicitly stating that there is something so wrong with you that you should feel ashamed.
Ultimatums are really a covert threat, with the abuser placing the blame for “having” to make you decide about something back on you.
The way they see it, the fact that they are giving you a choice through which you can rectify the situation (by doing what they want you to do) is a way in which they are actually being “generous” to you, and that, therefore, all blame for the situation and any possible consequences are entirely your fault.
4. Lack of Respect for Your Privacy.
This is often a subtle sign of emotional abuse. Your partner may check your private messages or voicemails, either by hacking into them or directly insisting you give them the passwords for all of email and social media accounts.
They might even go so far as to insist your share email and social media accounts, so they can analyze everything you do and say.
5. Property Damage.
This skirts the line between physical and emotional abuse. An abusive partner may break or “lose” something they know is meaningful to you as a way to punish you and remind me you of the power they hold over you.
6. “Magic Tricks.”
Many emotionally abusive behaviors are “magic tricks”, meant to distract you from the reality of the ways in which you are being mistreated, i.e., “Look at this here (so you don’t notice what my other hand is doing there)!”
This might take the form of redirecting blame for their bad acts back to you, starting fights, and firing accusations at you immediately before or after being especially nice and loving, but the sole purpose of all these things is to distract from the abuse that they are subjecting you to repeatedly.
7. Playing the Blame Game.
Partners using power and control in a relationship often aren’t insightful enough to notice the profound effects of their own behavior, nor are likely to ever be willing to taking responsibility for any of it.
Instead, they prefer to blame you, saying things like, “If you just hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had to act that way in response.”
Abusive partners often want to control who you are allowed to have meaningful connections with, and how deep those connections should be allow to run. This means that, over time, you may feel as though you have lost some of your most supportive relationships with friends and family, because your partner didn’t approve.
9. Excessive Gift-Giving.
Some abusers give gifts following a fight as an indication of how much they care about you — or, as a threat reminding you of all their generosity you might lose as a consequence should you choose to leave.
In such cases, you may hear them say things like:
- “Of course I love you. I bought you this ______.”
- “I buy you so many nice things, even though you don’t appreciate anything I do.”
- “Everyone else sees what you have and wishes their spouse was as giving as I am.”
- “If you leave me, you will never have this ______.”
10. Controls of Resources.
Partners may control financial or other resources as a form of punishment or as a way of maintaining control in the relationship, causing you to believe you won’t be able to care for yourself (and your children, if you have them) if you try to leave.
The resources in question aren’t necessarily limited to money. An abuser might limit your access to your car, your cell phone, health insurance, and more.
Micro-cheating is considered by some to be ways in which your partner connects with others and hides it from you.
This can take the form of secret messages, code names in their phone’s contact list, going out and refusing to tell you where he’s headed, or giving attention to someone else while withholding attention from you.
You never really know someone until you have divorced them.
Often, we see an even worse side of our partner when we try to leave the relationship. Sometimes divorces and breakups are amicable, however, if you’ve experienced emotional abuse during your marriage or relationship, you can expect these tactics to continue long after you leave.
Leaving partners who are emotionally abusive requires more planning and more support than typical, and it often requires the advice of professionals as well.
If you detect these signs in your relationship, reach out for help from friends, family, a therapist, or a counseling network.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 11 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In Relationships — And How Abusers Try Using Them Against You If You Leave.
Guest Author, P. (2018). 11 Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/11-warning-signs-of-emotional-abuse-in-relationships/