Signs of Emotional Abuse

Signs of Emotional Abuse — awareness is the first step to stop abuse

...and what to do if you are being abused

If you are reading this, you are probably wondering if you or someone you love is suffering from emotional abuse or psychological abuse. There are no physical signs on a victim of emotional or psychological abuse, but you may have experienced personality changes in yourself, if you are the victim, or noticed personality changes in your loved one.

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Emotional abuse can (and must) be stopped. Many abusers can learn to be respectful and kind


Why? Because emotional abuse can erode confidence, make a person fearful, and leave them feeling isolated from the rest of the world. Again you may be wondering, how did this happen ?  What does emotional or psychological abuse looks like? Note: If you are in immediate physical danger, call the police immediately.

You need answers now. So you can stop the pain, but don't just listen to what anyone will tell you. You need answers from a specialist, a professional marriage and couple therapist who understands the dynamics of a relationship and who has experience helping couples stop the emotional abuse in their relationship.

I have the credentials and over 25 years of experience of helping couples prevent the breakdown of their relationship. You can trust what I write.

The guide below, is based on solid scientific research and can help you determine if you are being emotionally or psychologically abused.

Read each item, pause, think and decide if the traits of emotional or psychological abuse exist in your relationship or not. Note: I use the words 'emotional abuse' and 'psychological abuse' interchangeably.

Here the 14 scientific signs of emotional abuse

1. Aggressive behavior with the intent to control

An emotionally abusive person fights with his or her partner in order to gain control and dominate her or her. This type of fighting is different than fighting which might occur in a non abusive marriage. In all emotionally abusive relationships, the abuser has the clear intention and desire to humiliate, dominate, shame, and control his victim.

For example, when Donald warns his wife Sharon that she must be ready when he wants to leave for their trip otherwise there will be consequences, he intends to teach her to be obedient and to recognize his authority. Donald is training his wife to comply with his wishes of 'being ready on time,' which includes the message that Sharon should follow every one of his directives all the time. This is emotional abuse.


Do you have a sexless marriage or committed relationship? If yes, watch this!

Anger and emotional abuse in marriage and committed relationships

2. A belief that 'might makes right'

An emotionally abusive person imposes their authority to control their victims. Believing that a strong person can control the relationship, the abuser breaks the will of his or her victim to establish his or her dominance. Once the abuser's dominance has been established, it can easily be used to impose total control over his or her partner.

For example, Michael controls all the money in his family and only gives his committed partner, Susan what he feels is 'reasonable.' His partner is not working so she has no money of her own. Michael believes that since he is the wage earner in the family, that gives him the authority to control Susan. Her opinion on how to spend money simply does not matter. This is emotional abuse.

3. A willingness to escalate the conflict

An emotionally abusive person is prepared to go as far as necessary to establish his or her dominance — normal behavior limits do not apply. The abusive person may take away his or her partner’s car keys, threaten to take away the children, assert that his or her partner is 'crazy' and needs to be committed to a psychiatric ward and use other psychologically abusive mind control games. The abuser’s intent is to weaken his or her partner so he or she can be easily dominated.

For example, Tina threatens her husband Tom that if he doesn’t help her with chores around the house she will leave him and he will lose his contact with the children. This is emotional abuse.

4. Duration of the conflict

An emotionally abusive person is persistent and does not let go of what he or she wants until his or her will has been achieved. It is this dogged determination that shows the true intent of the abuser which is to dominate and control.

For example, Karen would wake her husband Eric up in the middle of the night and repeatedly tell him how disappointed she was in his efforts to financially provide for the family. These attacks often went on for hours and could be repeated for several consecutive nights. This is emotional abuse.

5. Willingness to maintain the conflict

An emotionally abusive person is ruthless in his or her efforts to dominate and maintain control. Remarks made repetitively to the victim, such as you ‘spend too much money,' are ‘interested in other people outside the marriage,'  ‘talk to his or her parents too much,' and the like are used to erode the victim's sense of security and confidence making him or her easy prey to be dominated.

For example, Tony can be irritable. During dinner, he snapped at Sean, his nine-year-old son and told him to put away his phone. Tony’s wife, Melinda immediately chastised him for his disciplining Sean. In the presence of their three children, Melinda continued to ream out her husband. Later in that evening, Melinda yelled at Tony again and told him t a bad father he was. Finally, when Tony got to sleep at 12 o’clock, he was then awoken an hour later by Melinda who continued to berate him for being a 'bad father.'  The next day, Melinda sent Tony a barrage of text messages insisting he take a parenting class. Melinda was relentless in her attacks on Tony. This is emotional abuse.

6. Tyranny

An emotionally abusive person uses threats, intimidation, bodily harm, and treats his or her partner as an object to be manipulated. The abuser denies the rights of a partner to assert his or her will in order to establish absolute control.

For example, Tim was a successful lawyer. His clients paid top dollar to get his advice about how to solve their legal matters, and his secretaries did his bidding. When Tim came home, he made it clear to his wife that she was to follow his directives. She was not to question him, oppose him, or negotiate with him. If she did, Tim would respond with threats to divorce her, threats to take away the children, threats to tell people what a horrible person she was, and to abandon her and leave her destitute. This is emotional abuse.

7. Not caring for others

An emotionally abusive person is not concerned with the legitimate needs of others and his or her obligations to care for his or her partner. Indifferent to a partner’s emotional, physical, spiritual or medical needs.

For example, Sam had a neurological disorder. Over time, he lost his mobility and became confined to a wheelchair. His wife Amanda would not accept her husband in his compromised state of being. She neglected his needs. She withdrew her care and abandoned him to his own resources which were limited due to his lack of mobility. Often, after work instead of going home and attending to the needs of her husband Sam and continuing in a relationship with him, Amanda would go out with coworkers to enjoy the evening in restaurants and bars. Sam’s medical needs were only attended to by the hired day worker. Not only did Amanda have no interest in what Sam’s doctor said or his prognosis, she had no interest in his emotional needs.  This is emotional abuse.

8. Unaccountable

An emotionally abusive partner rejects taking responsibility for psychologically or physically harming his or her partner. An abusive partner ignores social rules, authority, and rectifying his or her past mistakes.

For example, Charlie loved fast cars. As well, Charlie loved alcohol. Often he would combine the two. Maria, his wife, pleaded with him not to drink and drive, but to no avail. Charlie just ‘blew her off’ and continued doing what he loved. He was reckless, and whenever Maria was in the car with him, he ignored her pleas to slow down. Maria felt frightened and controlled. Worst of all, even when the children were in the vehicle, it made no difference to Charlie. Marie’s pleas to her husband to drive safely and responsibly fell on deaf ears. Once Charlie crashed into a highway barrier. Fortunately, no one was injured. When Marie claimed the accident was caused by Charlie’s speeding and drinking, he turned it around and blamed her for the accident saying she nagged him so much that this caused him to become distracted. This is emotional abuse.

9. Dictatorship

An emotionally abusive person makes unilateral decisions, uses deceptive communication, and is not concerns how this or her decisions affect others.

For example, Harry did not like his job. His solution was simple. He went and got another job in a different state. Without any discussion, he uprooted his wife and their two children and relocated them without considering their needs. Margaret, Harry’s wife, left behind her aging parents and her three siblings. Adjusting to life in a new place was daunting, and she felt guilty leaving her parents. Within a few months, Margaret became depressed. Harry responded to Margaret’s difficulties by claiming she was not a supportive wife. This is emotional abuse.

10. Insensitive

An emotionally abusive does not care about the individual needs, feelings, and opinions of others.

For example, Chantel decided one day to become a vegetarian. Her husband Mark wanted to eat a traditional Western diet which included meat. Without any discussion or consensus, Chantel stopped cooking meat and instead prepared complex vegetarian meals. Mark protested and explained that this 'new food' gave him an upset stomach and made it difficult for him to sleep at night. Chantel responded telling Mark that eating meat was unhealthy and that she didn’t want to eat it, and would not cook or serve it. Rather, Chantel asserted her 'right' to cook whatever she wanted, and if Mark didn’t like it, he could go to a restaurant to eat. This is emotional abuse.

11. Excessive autonomy

An emotionally  abusive person makes no commitments to others and does not acknowledge his or her obligations and responsibilities as a senior member of the family. The abusive person is not willing to integrate strengths and vulnerabilities to form a team.

For example, Jacqueline was pregnant. She felt nauseous, had difficulty bending over, and difficulty lifting heavy objects. All of this made no difference to her husband, Peter. Whatever her responsibilities were before pregnancy, in his mind, they were the same now. He would not help her bring in the groceries from the car or pick up anything from the floor. According to Peter, her limitations were her 'problem.' This is emotional abuse.

12. Harsh judgments

An emotionally  abusive person has no empathy, compassion, and support during loss, distress, illness and emotional pain for his or her partner

For example, Andy lost his job. He is now in his late 50s, and it is difficult to find a new one. His wife, Dawn, has no compassion for him. She demands that he provide her with money and is indifferent to the fact that he is depressed and anxious. Insensitively, she blames Andy for losing his job and not finding a new one. Her feeling is that she should not be inconvenienced because her husband is unemployed. This is emotional abuse.

13. Selfishness

An emotionally abusive person feels entitled to have whatever he or she desires. He or she does not credit the contributions his or her partner makes to the family. And since the abuser is entitled to 'everything,' he or she sees no reason to ever compromise.

Kurt loves sports; he loves playing, going to sporting events, and watching sports on TV. Everyone in the family has to accommodate Kurt’s 'love of sports.' When it is a Sunday, no one is allowed in the family room while Kurt watches a sporting event. He is indifferent to his wife Becky’s pleas to participate in  family activities. Simply, Kurt tells her that he works all week and he is entitled to relax and that everyone else should 'just get a life' and leave him alone. This is emotional abuse.

14. Rejecting

An emotionally abusive person does not accept the needs of his partner, the abuser is flexible with rules and agreements when they pertain to him or her, but is unwilling to accept the limitations of others.

For example, Thomas had agreed to give the children baths nightly. Sharon, his wife, appreciated Thomas helping with the children. One day one of Thomas’s friends managed to get exclusive box seat tickets to a major sporting event. He invited Thomas to join him. Attending the sporting event meant that Thomas would miss one night helping Sharon with the children. Sharon rejected Thomas’s request to be excused from child care so he could attend the sporting event. He tried to reason with her and even proposed that she could take a day or two off and he would do all the child care himself. Sharon rejected all of her husband’s requests and his proposed compromises. She insisted that he be home and simply miss the event he wanted to attend. She threatened him that if he went to the event, when he would return in the evening she and the children would be gone. This is emotional abuse.

[The 14 Signs of Emotional Abuse are adapted from INTIMATE JUSTICE: CONFRONTING ISSUES OF ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPECT, AND FREEDOM IN TREATMENT FOR ABUSE AND VIOLENCE, The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.]

After you have read the 14 signs of an emotional abuser and you conclude that your partner is an emotional abuser and that you are in an emotional abusive relationship, then you need to take some decisive action to free yourself from your abusive relationship.

Yes, you are in a difficult situation. At the same time, there are ways to make your life and relationship with your partner better. There is hope!

The 12 decisions you need to make to free yourself from emotional abuse or psychological abuse

1. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to humiliate, shame, degrade, curse or threaten you.

2. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to intimidate, control or force you to do something you don't want to do.

3. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to trivialize your feelings, ideas, or values.

4. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand not to accept the 'silent treatment' from your partner. It is an act of hostility and emotional abuse.

5. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not surrender your independence and autonomy by submitting to your partner's will.

6. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand to not accept extreme selfishness from your partner to the point where his or her selfishness is dismissive of your needs and wants.

7. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to isolate you from family or friends.

8. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to withhold money, confiscate your personal belongings such as car keys, your phone, or other personal property. Do not get into a physical altercation to prevent your partner from seizing your belongings. Rather, look for a solution that removes you or protects you from this situation.

9. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to touch you in a hostile way, or to threaten you with his hand made into a fist, or to get very close to your face with his face, or any other menacing and threatening way.

10. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will not allow your partner to behave in an extremely jealous and possessive way that impacts on your peace of mind, challenges your dignity, and restricts your freedom.

11. Make a decision for yourself and take a firm stand that you will NOT REMAIN SILENT. This is what your abuser wants you to do! Don't cooperate and unintentionally allow the abuser to continue his or her abusive behavior! There is no need to feel shame, you did nothing wrong. Speaking with trusted family members, close friends or  trained relationship specialists can get you  the help you need. One good place to locate a trained and certified relationship specialist is: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

12. Make a decision for yourself and a take a firm stand that you will not live as an abused person. If you want, you can leave your abusive partner. If you decide to leave, get help if needed to ensure your safety as you tell your partner of your plans or as you organize and implement your exit. Family and friends can help. The police are available to ensure your safety. In some situations, it is advisable to consult a family law lawyer.

If you would like information on how to implement these new behaviors which will free you from emotional abuse tap or click on the link for my book or tap or click link for the other books that I recommend, that you will find at the end of the article. They give more detailed information than is possible in an article.

Make the necessary changes so your marriage or committed relationship is healthy and so you can 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!

Positive relationship change  -  eliminating emotional abuse  -  takes time. Victims of emotional abuse need to be patient and understanding.

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

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 you abusive partner. The decision to return and live together should be made after you are certain the violence will not reoccur. 

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.

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Read more:

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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Buy this book on Amazon. Click or Tap the book cover above for more information.

 

 

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 Books by Abe:

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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!

To read more about how to Stop Emotional Abuse go to our blog...

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VIDEO - 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 - 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. 

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QUIZ - FREE Verbal Abuse Test

Learn the truth: Are you being verbally abused? What are the signs of verbal abuse? How should you deal with verbal abuse?

Get started in stoping verbal abuse by taking this free Verbal Abuse Test.

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VIDEO - Assertive Communication

Are you in an abusive relationship? If yes, then you need to defend yourself from abuse. Assertive Communication is a powerful relationship tool to protect your self-esteem and self-worth.  As well, Assertive Communication will help you have the confidence to get outside help if needed. Learn more about Assertive Communication.