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5 signs of an emotionally abusive relationship

Approximately 35% of women have been involved in emotionally abusive relationships at some point in their lives.

We tend to take the philosophy to heart that making mistakes in relationships is part of our evolutionary process of growth. But what’s the difference between mistakes and being emotionally abused? And can we recognise the signs, before the damage is irreparable?

1.  The Blame Game

‘What do you want me to do about it? It’s your fault I’m acting badly.’

According to author Martha Brockenbrough, the blame game begins early in a relationship and is often ‘couched in a compliment’ to avoid suspicion. Brockenbrough provides the example of a man who blames his ex-girlfriend for his bad behavior while sugarcoating his accusatory tongue by saying ‘You’re nothing like that bitch, I used to date.’

Overtime, you may notice that this type of blame results in a partner never taking responsibility for his/her actions and ultimately blaming you for their behaviour.

2.   Manipulation

‘You’d do it, if you loved me.’  Guilt tripping, threatening to leave, threatening to self-harm and even punishing a person for exercising any kind of assertion are all key signs in defining an emotionally abusive relationship.  Immediate remorse may instigate temporary change but once a person realizes they haven’t lost the object of their affection for good, the cycle of abuse may begin again.

3.   Playing the victim

‘I’ve been treated so badly in the past, is it any wonder I am the way I am?’  Deep seated insecurity and inadequacies may result in a person taking on a victim mentality in order to excuse passive aggression and volatile mood swings.  In an emotionally abusive relationship, there is little room for your own concerns and feelings and only enough space for empathy and commiseration.

4.  Uncontrollable Jealousy

‘Aren’t I good enough?’

Jealousy is a human emotion that ordinarily brings couples closer together, however, in an emotionally abusive relationship, jealousy becomes peppered with subtle nuances of obsessive distrust and paranoia.  According to Dr. Steven Stonsy, this form of jealousy occurs from a ‘painful feeling of unworthiness’ and has the potential to cause isolation and in some cases, ‘psychosis.’  Characteristics of this type of jealous related abuse include being belittled for your sexual history, being wildly accused of infidelity, having someone act overly demanding, possessive and even, deceitful at times.

5.  Breaking the cycle

‘If we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, or treat others in negative ways, it is possible that we also treat ourselves similarly.’  Breaking the cycle of emotional abuse begins with the acknowledgement that any behaviour which aims to devalue, belittle or degrade us is unacceptable and redirecting our focuses and values in life may just be our way out.

According to Stosny, the end to emotional abuse begins with ‘a commitment to compassion.’ The author explains that this involves acknowledging that whenever you feel resentful, angry, hurt or anxious, that your partner most likely feels the same way, if not worse.   The vicious cycle that occurs when two lovers hurt each other continuously can be curbed, simply by realising what a devastating impact their words are having upon each other and making a concerted effort to think before they speak.

Repeat after Stosny, lovers: ‘I will not control, manipulate, coerce, threaten, or intimidate you or purposefully make you feel bad in any way and I will be the best person I can be.’

Sounds like simple advice, but a daily dose of walking in someone else’s shoes does our conscience quite good, with the constant reminder that a happy, healthy and loving relationship comes with no abusive strings attached.

By Sophia Anna

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