Signs of Emotional Abuse

Awareness is the first step to end abuse

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, I know you carry within you deep emotional pain. As well, emotional abuse over time will erode your relationship taking it from one of love, closeness, and trust to one of fear, resentment, and isolation. Living with emotional abuse should not be an option.

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You can trust and rely on what I am about to tell you because I have been working with individuals just like you for over 25 years as a marriage and couple therapist. I have helped hundreds of married or committed couples stop emotional abuse and prevent marriage and committed relationship breakdown.

The injuries caused by emotional abuse, depending on the severity and length of time over which they have occurred, can be severe. There will be a loss of the person you have always been, self-esteem, confidence, sanity, and hope for the future.

If emotional or psychological abuse describes the character of your relationship with your partner, I implore you to do something to change your situation. To allow abuse to continue is unacceptable. 

Knowing the signs of emotional abuse and how to respond to abuse is your first line of defense

Initially, your greatest weapon to stop the abuse is 'knowledge.' You need to know what is happening to you, understand it, and have words to describe it. You need this for your sanity and to get help from others. 

It is not always easy to determine if you are emotionally abused, verbally abused, or psychologically abused. The signs of abuse are often hidden!

Emotional abuse and psychological abuse do not leave cuts, wounds, or broken bones as does physical abuse or domestic violence.

If you are a victim of physical abuse and domestic violence you can learn more here. Note: If you are currently being assaulted call your local police.

As a victim of emotional abuse and psychological abuse, your fear, confusion, and brainwashing may make it difficult for you to recognize that you are an emotionally abused man or emotionally abused woman living in an emotionally abusive relationship. 

Allowing the abuse to 'just continue' should not be an option. You need to take decisive actions to stop your partner's cruelty. Emotional and psychological abuse is a relationship crime. The first step to freedom from emotional and abuse is to arm yourself with 'knowledge.'

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Ruth's story of emotional abuse

Like many young women in their prime, I was looking to get married. My biological clock was ticking and I wanted children, I wanted a family.

I met Doug at a friend's birthday party. We made an instant connection.

Doug, unlike most men, did not seem to care that I was overweight. I was accepted for who I was! That was a 'wow' moment for me!

I felt so grateful that Doug wanted me for who I was, I decided to do whatever he wanted so he would be happy with me. I did not want to lose him in a 'power struggle.' I did whatever he wanted and never asserted my own feelings or needs.

Little did I know at the time that I was setting myself up for becoming an emotionally battered woman.

Doug was gentle and he told me I was pretty. He proposed marriage after a few months of dating and a month later we were hitched— husband and wife.

I felt as if I was the luckiest woman in the world to be married to such an accepting man. He knew of all my flaws and yet he accepted me totally. I was 1,000 percent committed to making him happy.

Looking back, I recall that during our marriage preparation Doug insisted on having it 'his way;' which really meant having it his mother's way. Doug and his mother chose the wedding hall, the photographer, the flowers, the colors, the themes, the band, and the timing. They even chose my wedding dress.

Occasionally Doug would get upset with me. I didn't think much of it at the time. It seemed to me he was under pressure from his mother and it was my privilege to show my love by accommodating all of his wants, to make life 'easy' for him.

I reasoned with myself, I can live with Doug's occasional outbursts, grumpy moods, and forcefully expressed demands. Besides, I thought if I just 'loved him enough' he would settle down, be content, and his anger would subside.

After the wedding things did settle down for a few months.

We both went to work. When we were together we talked about our future and spent many romantic evenings in bed together.

However, a darker side of Doug began to emerge slowly.

Doug was often moody and would criticize me for what seemed to me as very small mistakes. For example, if I left the washed dishes on the counter to dry, that would upset. He wanted me to put the dishes away immediately. If I ever showed I was upset about something he would become furious.

Doug told me I should be grateful that he married me. He reminded me that I was overweight. He would tell me that only he could see past 'my fat' for the person I truly was. He told me he was the only person that could truly love me! Now I am smarter and I realize rather than comforting me he was just setting me up for his next round of criticism and abuse.

Over time Doug became more moody, more angry, louder, and more critical.

Slowly my dream of being 'the happy couple' died, fear overcame me. I no longer knew who I was or what I wanted. I was consumed with thoughts about how to keep Doug happy and content and avoid his painful verbal jabs.

Doug was very close to his mother. She often came over our house. She too would criticize me and tell me what to do.

When I complained to Doug that his mother was too bossy and too involved in our lives, he would fly into a rage and tell me that his mother meant far more to him than I did, and that if I didn't like her coming over I could leave. His words devastated me.

Doug insisted that I do everything the way his mother wanted. I was too shocked to be mad or resentful… and Doug and his mother continued to bully and abuse me. 

When I look back at all of this, I realize that as soon as we were married, Doug felt that 'I belonged to him, that he owned me.' From that point onward the emotional abuse escalated.

With each new child, Doug became more possessive. He seemed to be jealous of the children. Instead of appreciating me as the mother of his children, he abused me more.

Doug never hit me. Although we have pushed each other now and then. No, hitting was not Doug's way.

Instead Doug messes with my mind. He tells me I don't know how to think; that I am insane and should be locked up in a psychiatric ward. He threatens that if I ever leave, the judge will give him the kids since it is obvious to all that I am crazy.

I cannot fully describe what he does to me other than to say that after listening to him, I then think he is right. I know it sounds pathetic, but during his anger outbursts he actually convinces me I am wrong — even though any logical person upon reflection, including myself, would realize that he is abusing me, that he is the one who is wrong.

Doug calls me names. I've told him I hate that, and I want him just to call me by my normal name. He does not care. In fact, he seems to enjoy humiliating me. Doug calls me, 'the crying little girl, the complainer, or the bitch'— and worst of all he does it in the presence of our children and his mother.

Doug loves to talk about sex. I'm not prudish, but when he gets into his 'gutter talk' when I am with my family or with friends, it embarrasses me. I am ashamed of the man I married. 

When I share with Doug my concerns about what people think about him, he seems to take pleasure in the fact that it reflects badly upon me and the children.

People wonder what kind of guy I married!

Had I known what Doug would actually become emotionally abusive once were married, I would have never married him. But now what can I do?

Doug has all the money, he knows how to get around in this world, I feel as if I would be totally lost without him and that if I leave him I would be letting my children down for taking them away their father. Also, I fear that maybe he is right, that the judge will know something is wrong with me, and give him the kids.

I am not sure how much longer I can keep trying to live with Doug… each day he finds innovative ways to use psychological abuse to torment me. And each day I think I have reached my breaking point. But then I carry-on…

I know it is wrong, but I often find myself making excuses for Doug. I blame his mother, the fact that he had no father when he was growing up, that he has a learning disability, or for whatever I can think of, as an excuse for his cruel abusive behavior.

For now this is my life. I wish I knew how to make it better. -Ruth, 42 years old

Ruth's story may be your story! True, many details are different. However, Ruth's feelings of being humiliated, shamed, blamed, demeaned, and hopeless describe the feelings of every abused man or woman.

The code of silence

If you are being abused, you may feel as if you are all alone — that it is only happening to you and that nobody cares. This is not true.

We all know those couples who seem to have it all — a loving relationship, happy children, satisfying careers, and financial stability. But we never really know what is happening within the walls of their home. In some of these families, people just like you are being abused.

Domestic violence, emotional abuse and psychological abuse often go unnoticed by friends and family. Fear and shame often make individuals feel they must hide the abuse they suffer.

Your abuser relies on you hiding his or her cruel behavior from others. Unintentionally, in concealing the abuse you have become an enabler.

Speaking out about how your partner treats you is the first step to making your abuser accountable for his or her unacceptable behavior. On the other hand, silence enables the abusive behavior to continue.

Speaking out is your first step toward freedom from abuse.

Speaking with appropriate individuals, trusted family members, trusted friends, competent professionals is the first necessary step to freeing yourself from a life of abuse.

Stopping emotional abuse

The starting point for stopping an emotionally abusive relationship is being able to identify that you are being abused and that being abused is not your fault. Next you need to devise a practical plan to stop the abuse.

If you conclude you are being emotionally abused, you are in a difficult situation. At the same time, there is an opportunity to make your relationship or at least your life better. There is hope!

signs of emotional abuse, verbal abuse, domestic violence, psychological abuse

You need to devise a practical plan to ensure your life now and in the future is a good one, a safe one. Don't accept any form of abuse — emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, financial or any other type of abuse.

Your partner does not have to like you. He or she does not have to spend time with you. The two of you may have arguments at times. And if it is like this, then you have marriage problems — and you should fix these relationship problems or you have the option to divorce. However, your partner DOES NOT have a right to abuse you!

There is nothing you have ever done that can legitimize or justify your partner abusing you. NOTHING!

Relationship abuse is very different from relationship conflict or neglect. Your partner does not have a right to abuse and disrespect you regardless of how he or she feels about you.

Never accept abuse.

Make the necessary changes to make sure your marriage or committed relationship is healthy and that you live with dignity, freedom, and respect. To succeed at this, the decision to act — to free yourself from relationship abuse — must be yours! No one will or can solve your problems unless you are a full participant!

An abuser can change for the better if he or she wants. He or she can learn how to treat you with respect and kindness.

Positive relationship change — eliminating emotional abuse — can take time. Victims of emotional abuse need to be patient and understand this. 

Slow and steady progress towards a more respectful and harmonious life with your partner is definitely worth the effort, time, and sometimes money to pay for therapy.

If your abuser won't change— for whatever reason— you can leave the relationship. If this is your path to stopping the abuse, make sure you and your children are safe. If needed, get friends to help. Get support from the police when necessary.

Stopping the abuse and reconciling is only possible when the abuse does not include violence. If there is violence — hitting, pushing, etc. — you need to separate immediately from your abusive partner. The decision to return and live together should only be made after you are certain the violence will not reoccur.

Whatever road you take to STOP the abuse, understand you can't know all the details of your journey with only your first few steps forward. Things will evolve over time, and with careful planning, the right help, you will find your way to a better life.

If you are in an abusive relationship, take action NOW. 

Wishing you and your family the best,

Am I Being Abused?

The 7 ways emotional abuse injures you and your relationship

Emotional Abuse? Take the Free Quiz

Need more help? Purchase this professional guide on how to free yourself from emotional abuse.

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Abuse and what it is? [according to government facts]

Domestic violence

The U. S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics defines domestic violence as “any harm inflicted by intimate partners, immediate family members, or other relatives.”

Domestic violence is inflicted by those who are living in close quarters with the victim, making it especially easy to hide from outside parties.

Without intervention, domestic violence and abuse can last for months or years.

Physical and sexual assault

When people think of abuse, they often think of physical forms first. Physical abuse is arguably the easiest to identify, as it can leave physical marks on the victim’s body (bruises, burns, etc.). Physical abuse includes hitting, punching, kicking, choking, hair-pulling, burning, and any other physical acts intended to harm.

Sexual abuse can leave physical marks as well but can be harder to identify. Sexual abuse includes any unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact.

Emotional and psychological abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse is meant to control the victim without physical acts. Actions, communications, and interactions, in general, can be used and take different forms, such as isolation, manipulation, slander, blame, intimidation, and mind games.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is not spoken about as often as other forms of abuse, but it can be just as serious. In this case, the perpetrator denies his or her partner adequate access to finances and thereby controls his or her ability to gain independence.

Susceptibility to abuse

Just as there is a wide range of abusive behaviors that can be used, there is a wide range of potential victims. Some demographics may be more susceptible to abuse than others, but anyone can become a victim of domestic violence or abusive relationships.

A person can be a victim of domestic violence or abusive relationships regardless of gender. Roughly 1 of 4 women and 1 of 7 men will be a victim of domestic violence at some time throughout their lives.

Abuse does not discriminate based on race, just as it does not discriminate by age or gender — every race has a statistic for abuse and violence.

Here is a list of agencies and informative articles that deal with emotional or psychological abuse.

Abe's "recommended" resources to help you STOP emotional abuse

 Don't get 'lost' looking for the best self-help products to FREE yourself from abuse 


best self-help books, fix a broken marriage, marriage builders

A best self-help book for men and women looking to stop emotional abuse in their marriage or committed relationship — by relationship expert Abe Kass, author of this site and certified marriage and family therapist:

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Written by emotional abuse expert Abe Kass, the author of this website. This easy to read The 15 Essential Facts Victims of Emotional Abuse Need to Know, will tell you what emotional abuse is and what to do about it.

Click or Tap to learn more: A best self-help book for women and men looking to STOP emotional abuse in their marriage or committed relationship

Additional supportive books below:

Find out what goes on inside the minds of angry and abusive men!

Lundy Bancroft knows abusive men. He has worked for years as a senior counselor reforming and transforming abusive men into kinder, more gentle, and respectful versions of themselves. Lundy has a huge fan club of individuals that recognize and appreciate his pioneering work and this classic volume he has written.

The worst type of abusers enjoy hurting others!

Unlike most therapists and researchers, Thomas makes a distinction between psychological abuse and emotional abuse. Emotional abusers have the capacity for empathy for those whom they hurt, unlike psychological abusers who actually enjoy hurting others. Shannon Thomas’s book provides a roadmap for those who have suffered psychological abuse and seek to recover and rebuild.

Get professional guidance to heal from emotional abuse

Beverly Engel benefits the reader with concrete advice gleaned from her years of clinical experience working with women struggling to overcome the challenge of living in an emotionally abusive relationship. She has written a book that offers the reader powerful strategies to stop emotional abuse and when possible, how to fix an emotionally abusive marriage or committed relationship. 
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Learn how to "emotionally detach" from your partner's toxic behavior

What we can be is compassionate and “contribute” to another person’s well-being. However, to take on the burden to “make another person happy” cannot be achieved and if you try, you will be left feeling depleted, fearful, and incomplete. This is further complicated when your partner is abusive. You end up enmeshed at the very time in your relationship when you need to be emotionally independent and a free agent to stop the emotional abuse.

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Anger Management Audiobook

Anger fuels emotional abuse. Stop anger — stop emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and domestic violence! YES, its that simple! Get the anger management book that has already helped thousands of good people learn how to stop anger and build positive connections with others.

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Assertiveness Training to Stop Emotional Abuse

The ability to assert oneself is critical to protecting yourself from emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and verbal abuse. Typically, abusers are bullies. Standing up to them keeps you emotionally healthy and keeps the abuser in check. Learn how to be strong in the face of abuse.

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Anger Management Workbook to Stop Abuse

Typically, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and domestic violence are fueled by anger. When this is the case, the only way to stop abuse — emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and domestic violence — is to greatly reduce or eliminate completely all expressions of anger. This easy to use anger management will teach you how.

Freebies to get you on the path to ending emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and psychological abuse

Here is a collection of self-help tools to use to stop emotional abuse. These tools can benefit both the victims of abuse and those who behave abusively.  Make your family a healthy, loving, and happy place to live and this can only happen after the abuse has ended! Don't live with abuse — stop it or explore your other options.

Our "relationship tools and resources" are listed in the following sequence to help you find what you need: 

1 - Videos
2 - Quizzes
3 - Guides
4 - Essential Information

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An abuser can change to be a respectful partner — when he or she wants to and knows how!

Abusers should always be given at least one chance to denounce their abusive ways and reform themselves. In this informative video, an abuser and his or her partner can learn the steps necessary to recover from past abuse.

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VIDEO - Anger, Emotional Abuse, and a Sexless Marriage

Anger is the primary tool to maintain emotional abuse. When abuse is repeated many times it will eventually lead to a sexless marriage.
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QUIZ - Free and Confidential Emotional Abuse Test

Learn the TRUTH about your marriage or committed relationship... and if there is emotional abuse, what to do and where to get help.

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QUIZ - Free and Confidential Verbal Abuse Test

Take the free Verbal Abuse Test. Learn the 14 telltale signs of verbal abuse and why your abuser is ALWAYS wrong! Immediate results, no email required. Respect and kindness are a human right! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Knowledge is your first step to defeating abuse!

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QUIZ - Does Anger Fuel the Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship?

For some abusive individuals, anger may be there the "tool" of choice to maintain control over the target of abuse. In such cases, "stopping anger" is a necessary part of stopping emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and verbal abuse. Take the following free Anger Management Test that will help you determine if you have a serious anger problem or take this Anger Management Test and answer the questions describing the behavior of your partner.

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QUIZ - Can Emotional Abusers Change?

If you are a victim of abuse (or you are an abuser) you will want to know, "Can abusers change?" Answer 15 questions to learn if your abuser can stop abusing. 

GUIDE - The 14 Scientific Indicators of Emotional Abuse

Learn what are, according to science, the 14 most common signs of emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Learn what emotional abusers can do to change for the better.

GUIDE - Parent Alienation is Child Emotional Abuse

Parent alienation is emotional abuse being that it is a systemic and deliberate effort by a parent to control and impose his or her agenda over and above the needs of the child and the natural and legal rights of the other parent.

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GUIDE - Emotional abuse can lead to divorce. Learn what you need to know about divorce before you take the 'plunge.'

For some couples, a divorce is an option to stopping emotional abuse. Here is a Free guide that will give you the facts you need to know before you move forward with a divorce.

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GUIDE - Anger Identification to Prevent Abuse

Emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and physical abuse are typically fueled by anger. Stopping abuse requires learning to control anger. And "anger control" starts with learning how to identify anger. 

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GUIDE - FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Anger Management Tips

Being anger-free is the "only" way to be... Start by eliminating extreme anger using our FREE Anger Management Tips.

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GUIDE - FREE Emotional Abuse Infographic

Here is a FREE emotional abuse infographic. Print it for yourself and share it with others. Based on scientific research, this chart describes the common dynamics found in emotionally abusive relationships.

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INFORMATION - Emotional Abuse in Marriage and Committed Relationships Information

This blog is written by the owner of this website, Marriage and Family Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT CCHT. Get the latest research, thinking, and solutions to emotional abuse.