Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
Emotional and psychological abuse may not leave marks on the body but it's destructiveness can be the most difficult type of abuse to understand. We often draw a line in our values that if our partner physically harms us, THEN we will have the permission to consider our own safety and leave the relationship.
Unfortunately, because individuals don't often consider that verbal and emotional abuse is equally, if not more destructive, they stay in the relationship until their spirit is so beaten down they can't see any other option. In fact, by the time a relationship becomes physically abusive, the spouse has been so emotionally abused they rarely have the confidence to leave as they planned they would.
Emotionally abusive relationships don't have to turn physical, in fact, there is a large population of marriages that suffer from emotional abuse everyday and stay in the marriage of fear of judgement from God or others if they were to leave. So let's shed some light on what emotional abuse is.
Here are a few signs that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:
1. You are afraid to talk to your spouse about normal life problems (schedule changes, the car breaking down, dinner being late, etc) for fear of their response, tantrum, and verbal assault targeted at you.
2. When you try to talk to your partner about problems or your relationship, it escalates and they put you down, demean you, belittle you, and often blame you as the source of the problem. You may feel your words are twisted back towards you leaving you confused.
3. You go to extreme measures, complete a "list" of tasks to keep your partner happy, regardless of how much effort it asks from you, because it is better than the lecture or argument that may come up if you don't.
>4. You feel like you are the problem, you may even read books, watch programs, etc. "If I fix what is wrong with me, then it will fix the relationship."
5. You take on as much parenting as you can so your partner doesn't blame, demean, or belittle your children.
6. You feel you cannot take your partner with you to events, out with friends, or with family because of how he/she might treat you, how they may react around others, or especially treat you afterwards.
7. You feel trapped and worthless.
8. You feel your partner treats you like property or an object, sexually, or emotionally.
9. Your partner controls the money, the house, who uses which car, whether or not you can go out, and who your friends can be.
10. You think you might be in an abusive relationship, but are waiting for it to get worse or saying, "He hasn't hit me, yet."
11. Your partner rolls his eyes or sneers when you talk about you, your feelings, or opinions.
12. Your partner threatens to leave you or hurt you whenever you bring up problems or conflict escalates, but never does.
13. Your partner has left you literally stranded, or walked away/out without telling you when they will come back.
14. Your partner keeps an outside image that everything is fine (perhaps asking you to keep appearances too at events), but wants to keep the chaos of home a secret. They may threaten you if the secret is exposed.
15. They say all the right things after an episode (agree to go to marriage counseling, read the book you mentioned, or buy you gifts, say they will change), but you continue to live in fear when it never happens.
16. You are often afraid while they are driving that someone will provoke them into a road rage that makes you feel unsafe.
17. Doesn't value your spiritual beliefs, laughs at your values, or belittles your heritage instead of embracing it or adding to it.
18. Your family and/or friends have expressed concern for you and you find yourself defending or excusing your partner's behavior for him/her.
When it comes down to it, a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship feels they are often responsible for the reaction and behavior of their partner. Many feel unable to leave because they lack the confidence and have been treated as if they are worthless long enough that they believe they are worthless.
Children are most often victims in the home as well. Because children do not have a sense of power or an ability to change their surroundings, they will attempt to control anything they can as they feel so out of control. A spouse who is a victim cannot make up for the love and attention the children are not getting from their other parent. The best thing a spouse can do is get help from a professional who can help build confidence, awareness, and develop plans for the family to live and flourish in a healthy and safe environment.
If you think you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, God never intended for you to be controlled, demeaned, or devalued. More importantly, if you have children, He has entrusted your children to your care and has given you the responsibility of caring for their emotional well-being and safety. Get the help you need to see your circumstances clearly and make a plan to live as you were created- safe, valued, loved, accepted, and worthy of connectedness.