In this article, we will discuss how emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and psychological abuse injures you and your marriage or committed relationship.
This topic — emotional abuse — is personal to you, and it should be.
Like high blood pressure, emotional abuse should not be ignored. Like high blood pressure which is described as a "silent killer," emotional abuse can kill all the good in your marriage or committed relationship and destroy you, and if you have children, injure them as well.
If the problem of emotional abuse cannot be solved there is really only one reasonable solution, to terminate the relationship. That is, if you want to maintain your emotional health, safety, and sanity!
However, terminating your relationship is not always necessary. Fortunately, there is much you can do to stop emotional abuse; reasonable and practical solutions can be found so you can maintain your essential relationship and family togetherness.
In my clinical practice, I have witnessed countless individuals transform themselves from controlling abusers to decent and respectful human beings.
The 7 ways emotional abuse destroys you and your relationship
Mental health, self-esteem, safety, trust, friendship, love, and intimacy, are 7 necessary ingredients for you to be healthy and happy in your marriage or committed relationship. All are destroyed by emotional or psychological abuse. Here's how:
1. Emotional abuse destroys your mental health and generates negative emotions: anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, and depression
Negative feelings are strongly correlated with the experience of being abused. For example, when a person is abused anxiety is present because it is impossible for the victim to feel that he or she has control of his or her life when at any point the abuser can override what is wanted or needed.
Fear exists because emotional abuse is painful and naturally it is feared. Fear is a constant as the abused victim fears the next time he or she will receive an emotional beating.
Shame and guilt are part of the mental confusion that is associated with emotional abuse since the abuser insist the victim has caused all the problems including the abuse he or she suffers from. Even though this assertion of 'blaming the victim' is a false as you will learn more about as you continue to read this book, nonetheless there are times when the victim becomes confused and then feels shame and guilt thinking that he or she is responsible for his or her abuser's assaults.
Not knowing how to stop the abuse, the victim feels powerlessness and defeated. Over time, these feelings of helplessness can easily slip into severe depression. And this is not a "chemical deficiency" in the victim's body. This depression is a natural reaction to living in fear, pain, and helplessness.
If you are depressed or anxious, take a look at your relationship with your partner. Your relationship may be the cause.
Unfortunately, many doctors and mental health professionals do not realize to the full extent how much an abusive relationship injures a person's mental health. And because of this, ineffective treatments are often prescribed.
If you are being abused, taking pills or undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy will do little to restore your mental health. You need to deal with the issue of the abuse in your marriage or committed relationship.
Like a person who has his hand squeezed tightly by a vice, taking painkillers will do little to solve the problem. His hand must be free from the vice, and only this can be the effective solution. So too with an abusive relationship. You either need to fix it or get out of it.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you need to free yourself otherwise you will continue to suffer many mental health problems.
2. Self-esteem, confidence
As a person endures emotional abuse over a long period of time, specific long-term effects will take hold and alter the victim's character.
One of the hallmarks of mental health is strong self-esteem and confidence. These character traits can only develop and exist when a person's social environment is imbued with respect, love, and sensitivity. None of the necessary emotional nutrients needed to build and maintain healthy self-esteem and confidence are present in a relationship frequently shattered by abuse.
In fact, one of the common strategies of abusers is to degrade the victim and break his or her will and spirit. The abuser hopes that a weak and insecure partner will not resist the tyranny he or she is imposing.
A victim exposed to this cruel and degrading behavior repeatedly over a long period of time will naturally suffer a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
Emotional abuse is compared to brainwashing. The abuser looks to rewrite what his or her partner knows about himself or herself and replace that information with 'other' information that gives the abuser more control.
Instead of "lovable," you are now "unlovable." Instead of "capable," you are now "incapable." Instead of "smart," you are "stupid." And so it goes... At some point, you become so changed by the abuse you no longer recognize yourself! Instead of being the strong, capable person you have been in the past, and as others know you to be, you are now passive, weak, and reclusive.
Self-esteem is often very localized. You may be very accomplished and respected in your chosen profession or work. In this niche, you may have healthy self-esteem and be very confident. However, when it comes to family relationships, you are transformed into the opposite — unsure of yourself and weak.
The cornerstone of every healthy relationship is feeling safe when you are with your partner. Sadly, feeling safe in an abusive relationship is NOT possible.
Being put down, criticized, insulted, threatened, and more are the weapons that are used to coerce the victim of abuse. Under such circumstances, it is not possible to feel safe?
Fueling most expressions of abuse is anger. Anger evokes in its recipient fear. Fear and feeling unsafe go hand and hand.
Anger is expressed in many different ways. It can be bombastic and aggressive, or it can be hidden in sarcastic jokes or refusals to talk and everything in between. Most relationships, including those that cannot be categorized as "abusive," deteriorate because of anger.
As a victim of abuse, fear of your abuser has seized your mind and left you mentally paralyzed when in his or her presence. Likely you fear his coming home from work; her critical comments; his threats; her rejection. It is understandable why you feel unsafe while at the same time you feel trapped not knowing how to avoid these unpleasant feelings.
Your relationship at one time was loving, and it has now turned from a feel-good experience to one of conflict and emotional pain.
Each human being is entitled to live in safety. Safety is not something that should require effort or is bestowed only on those individuals that deserve it. Safety is a human right; a God-given right — and we are all entitled to it freely and unconditionally.
You feel unsafe with your partner. You brace yourself for the next explosion of anger or cutting criticism or bitting insult — you are fearful and insecure. This is normal, and this is because your partner has abused you and continues to do so.
Feeling unsafe in an abusive relationship is a given. Solve your emotional abuse problem, and you will once again feel safe!
You were born trusting.
However, if someone hurts you repeatedly and shows no remorse... how can you ever trust them?
Trust is necessary for every healthy and successful relationship.
Relentless emotional attacks without remorse is an everyday occurrence in an emotionally abusive relationship.
When somebody disrespects you, criticizes you, disregards your feelings, how can you trust them? How can you trust someone who has so little regard for your well-being? You can't.
Trust is rooted in the perception that the "trusted individual" has one's best interest at heart. Mutual trust is based on mutual care and concern for each other's well-being.
On the other hand, emotional abuse is an entirely selfish affair. The of abuser wants his or her way and has little if any interest whatsoever regarding the needs and well-being of his or her partner, the victim. Each time the abuser makes an effort to control the relationship, the proof is self-evident that the abuser does not care about his or her partner. Rather, he or she only cares about what he or she wants, and the victim is merely a means to an end — a steppingstone to walk on to achieve a selfish purpose.
The victim experiences the abuser as a person not to be trusted, which is often then extrapolated into a belief that "no one can be trusted." When this occurs, the victim's isolation is expanded to all spheres of his or her life.
Not being able to trust anyone can lead the victim to feel extremely alone and trapped. Because of this feeling, it is not uncommon for a victim of emotional, verbal, sexual, psychological abuse to fear reaching out to others for help. Because of this, it is often difficult to break the cycle of abuse and free the victim.
Trust is necessary for people to connect in meaningful ways. Abuse destroys this opportunity to use the natural trust we are all born with and is an essential resource required for relationship building. This is one of the primary reasons why children who are abused often find it difficult to develop healthy relationships as adults. They cannot access their natural trust and use it to connect deeply with others. Even though the abuse happened many years ago, and in some cases the adult abused as a child can no longer even recall the childhood abuse they suffered from, nonetheless, the abuse continues to impair their adult relationships.
Living in an abusive relationship will seem surreal to you. You experienced love and care at one time... and now you feel only fear and loneliness. You may be expected to 'make-love' to the person that is hurting you. Such opposites and extremes may even lead to you not only not trusting your abusive partner, but also not trusting yourself. Abuse injures in many ways!
Friendship is for those couples who are loving, caring and respectful with each other... abusive relationships have none of these qualities.
No one wants to be around a person who makes him or her feel bad? Not you and not I!
To achieve his or her purpose of dominating and controlling, abusers have many tools that hurt and intimidate, all of which destroys a friendship.
If your partner causes you pain, you will not be his or her friend. Yes, it is that simple!
Even children know to avoid mean classmates! If your partner is repeatedly hurting you, you will certainly not consider him or her a friend. Enemy yes, friend NO!
Healthy relationships exist precisely because two individuals feel a camaraderie with each other — a friendship. They want to be with each other, share with each other, play with each other, and grow old together. An emotionally abusive relationship has none of this — it is the opposite of a healthy relationship.
Friendship and emotional abuse are mutual exclusives! Stop the abuse and with effort "friendship" may return.
Love... forget about it! If you are being abused, there can be No love.
I don't need to tell you how important love is to a relationship... it is everything. You know that.
It was because of love you agreed to join together with a "stranger," with the feeling and hope that you could build a loving and happy life together.
Abusive relationships have no love... they only have fear and disappointment. Emotional abuse is bad relationship chemistry!
If the abuse ends, over time it is possible to recover the love... maybe? The mind has a talent for holding on to negative memories. It is possible to recover from emotional abuse, but it is not given.
Love is like a delicate flower. Taking good care of love is the best way to ensure it stays beautiful and sweet. If emotional abuse has caused your love to wither, know that you are running out of time to solve your abuse problem before it becomes too late to change things around for the better. Once an egg falls and smashes, it can never be put together again — often the same is true for love.
If the abuse stops and you choose to stay together, you may sadly have to settle for a marriage of convenience. Staying together may be worth it, but your marriage will never have the purity and passion it once had.
The sooner you can solve your emotional abuse problem, the sooner you can get to work to see if you can rekindle the love you once had.
7. Sexual and emotional intimacy
Sexual desire has physical and emotional components.
When emotional abuse enters a relationship, the sexual nature of the relationship may become strained, even though physical attraction remains present. This is in part due to the broken trust between the victim and abuser, as sexual acts involve trust between two caring partners.
Relationship intimacy is the sharing of the most private parts of an individual with another individual. Healthy relationships have a sanctity precisely because of the intimacy — the privacy that is not shared with anyone else other than one's partner. This is why for example, infidelity is so devastating to the betrayed partner. With infidelity, the intimacy that is intrinsic in the committed relationship has been violated, it has been thrown away!
Emotional abuse also violates intimacy in many ways since the privacy of a marriage or committed relationship is used as a means to hurt one's partner; rather than build safety, trust, friendship, and love.
It is possible that your abusive partner does not realize that he or she has killed the intimacy between the two of you precisely because of his or her abusive behavior.
Intimacy is for those individuals who are blessed to be in a healthy and happy relationship. If your marriage or a committed relationship is marred by abuse, there will be no intimacy, and likely your marriage will be sexless — unless sex is being forced which in this case is another form of abuse and is an additional assault upon your relationship.
For many couples, — especially young ones — sexual love is one of the greatest form of intimacy. It is also the greatest casualty of a relationship that is emotionally or psychologically destroyed by abusive.
If you are to have a healthy and satisfying sexual love-life, you need to have a healthy and satisfying emotional relationship that includes safety, trust, friendship, and love.
With your partner of choice, intimacy is the goal and abuse is the obstacle. Remove the abuse, and intimacy has an opportunity to take root, grow, and over time blossom.
As well, emotional intimacy cannot develop when there are anger and oppression in a committed relationship. Emotional safety as a prerequisite to a healthy sex life is especially true for women. Women need to feel emotionally connected with their partner before they can comfortably enter into a sexually intimate connection.
Men who abuse often end up in a sexless marriage or suffer from mechanical sex that often only comes through coercion and more abuse. What these abusive men need to understand is that their female partner requires emotional closeness before a love-making.