Emotional abuse is often a term we’re less comfortable using than domestic violence, because so often we feel comfortable talking about hurt in terms of bruises and cuts; rarely do we realize that there are scars that the naked eye could never see. According to PyschCentral.com, emotional abuse is “more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.” The worst part about emotional abuse is that it is subtle, and we can oftentimes barely tell if we’re the subject of its cruel lure or not. Having been in emotionally abusive relationships with people in my past, I’ve become something of an expert at spotting the signs that someone is emotionally abusive. If you’re feeling isolated, alone, and pathetic in any sort of relationship—whether that be romantic of platonic—get out. If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re starting to get in too deep with someone who’s not right for you, look for these five signs.
1. They Isolate You
When it comes to emotionally abusive relationships, the first thing they’re going to try to do is isolate you. That way you’re unable to check in with family and friends to get any outside opinions on your relationship. When you’re with someone who’s not looking out for your best interest, they’ll actively try to make sure you’re alone and feel like you’ve got to stay in the relationship and spend all your time with them. After all, they’re your only social outlet.
2. They Withhold Affection
With emotional abusers, oftentimes it’s less about what they do to you and more about what they don’t do to you. For example they may withhold affection and love from you as a power move. They may reject your advance for a kiss, or pull away when you try to guide their hand, either way they’re making sure that their affection is a reward system; something to be given and taken away at their will, and that is no way to have a healthy relationship.
3. They Make You Think Others Don’t Care
Beyond just isolating you, they’ll lead you to believe everyone you know and love doesn’t care about you. It can start with just a few simple comments, such as “Don’t they always flake on you though? Just stay home with me,” and can eventually become so vile they actively try to make you think even your closest friends are your enemies. By poisoning your existing relationships they’re ensuring that you believe they’re the only person to care about you. This type of mental isolation is exactly what they need in order to ensure you’re reliant on them.
4. They Remind You How Much You Need Them
This is the biggest red flag when it comes to identifying someone who is emotionally abusive: the encouraged co-dependence. If your significant other reminds you how often you need them, whether it is financially or emotionally an abusive partner will use your dependence on them as both a weapon and reward. When you’re being reminded that you need them, you may feel hopeless and unworthy of their affection and love. It’s exactly how they want you to feel, as if leaving them would make you unable to live the quality life they’ve given to you.
5. They Flip The Script…..Often
While making you think that they’re the most dependent and stable person in your life and that you need them, they’ll constantly be changing the game on you. One day they’ll love something that you do, the next day they’ll hate it. They’ll keep changing the relationship rules to ensure that you never get too complacent or actually feel safe with them. With emotionally abusive partners it’s all about power and manipulation. The more they see you flailing to figure them out, the happier they are.