How To Stop Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the most difficult kind abuse to recognize, both for the abused person and that person's friends and family. Often, this behavior is one-on-one behind closed doors. So friends are not there to see it happen. But it is often difficult for the person being abused to recognize the abuse.

This is because emotional abuse is a form of brainwashing. It tends to reinforce negative emotions and self-perceptions that may have already existed within us. When our own irrational thoughts are reinforced, it turns the world on its ear. Up is down and right is wrong, so that we come to believe what our loved one is confronting us with every day.

"Loved one" is a dicey term, of course. What makes emotional abuse so insidious is that it comes from the person we invest the bulk of our emotional energy into. We love this person, but he seems to find us lacking in every way possible. If you naturally have self-esteem issues, then the natural reaction is to fight to be "worthy" of your partner's love.

This is exactly what the abuser wants. The emotionally abusive partner wants control over the relationship. This person tends to be narcissistic and controlling. Once again, "narcissistic" is an important word. This means the person is thinking more about his or her needs than your needs, or the needs of the relationship. The abusive person is disinterested in whatever needs you bring to the relationship, and wants to control your life in order to fulfill his or her needs alone.

Spotting Emotional Abuse

Recognizing abuse is a huge part of stopping abuse. When you are able to tell yourself, "He's wrong" or "This isn't right" you are half the way to saying "Stop this behavior". So a good part of this article is going to be about spotting abuse. Afterwards, I will discuss about ending the abuse itself.

Types of Emotional Abuse

1. Verbal Threats

If your loved one is prone to threats, this is a form of emotional abuse. Your partner might threaten you with leaving the relationship, leaving the house or staying gone all night. This is a bluff meant to keep you in constant dread of what personal disaster might happen next.

Note that threats tend to get worse over time. Verbal threats might eventually turn into physical threats, as your abuser gets a better feel of what you will accept. This won't get better of its own accord.

2. Fits of Anger

The abuser is prone to fits of anger. This is a means of cowering one's partner, to make the person feel they have committed some grave error or lapse of judgment. Once again, this is an attempt to control the other person.

You have to realize that this is actually childish behavior, no matter how threatening it is. Your partner is throwing a tantrum, the way a child might. You also need to understand there is never justification for this, that nothing you may have done justifies your partner's anger.

3. Constant Criticism

If your partner finds fault with everything you do, this is a form of emotional abuse. An abuser wants to ruin a person's self-image. By constantly criticizing a loved one's characteristics and actions, one can begin to restrict and control their actions out of a desire to avoid displeasing this person.

Criticism might center on the clothes you wear, the food you cook, the television shows you watch, the friends you keep, the opinions or beliefs you hold, the job you work, the hobbies you enjoy, or almost any other thing which defines you.

Soon enough, you'll begin to believe this nonsense.

It would be irrational for your loved one to stay in the relationship, if he or she really believed all of this. It's an attempt to make you believe he or she is doing you a favor just staying around. Once again, this is an attempt to control every aspect of your life.

4. Making You the Butt of the Joke

This goes hand in hand with the above. This is an attempt to trivialize your life. He wants to diminish what it is you do, making you nothing more than an object of derision.

When confronted about this, the standard reaction of the abuser is that you are too sensitive and can't take a joke. Once again, this is an attempt to control your behavior, so you feel guilty even taking up for yourself.

See that there's a pattern forming. The pattern is that you are not worthy of love and should therefore be happy with whatever he says or does.

5. Name Calling

This one is simple. If your love one has a habit of calling you names, you are being emotionally abused. This is a direct attempt to undermine your self-esteem. There's no justification for this.

Once again, name calling is childish. If your child called you a name, you wouldn't stand for it. There is no reason to stand for it when your partner does it.

6. Whatever You Say Is Wrong

If your loved one counters everything you say, this is an attempt to blunt your every initiative. I've heard of men who ask where a woman wants to eat, then refuses to go eat there because it's a bad idea. This might happen, even if this is normally the man's favorite restaurant.

Countering is a common form of emotional abuse. This might be something more than simply eating habits, but can include any idea, emotion or opinion you have. If your partner seems to disagree with any opinion you hold, this is a form of emotional abuse.

This is a systematic attempt to wear down your sense of self-worth. No opinion you hold is correct, so how can you be qualified to make any decision in our relationship?

7. Stop Consulting You on Decisions

This last behavior will eventually lead to life decisions being made without your consent. Emotional abuse is meant to gain control of a relationship, so the end result will be to take all decision making out of your hands.

If your loved one does this once or twice and you let them get away with it, then it opens the gate for more of this behavior. An abuser is like a child testing the bounds of the relationship. This person is a bully. If you let a bully get away with it, the bully is encouraged to do it again.

8. The Silent Treatment

If your partner stops talking to you as a punishment for something you supposedly did, this is a form of emotional abuse.

Once again, this is a way to modify your behavior. This is the flip side of the verbal threat; it is the non-verbal threat. It is meant to imply the same idea. It is telling you to stop doing whatever it is you're doing, or else I will withdraw from the relationship altogether.

9. Discounting and Denial

Does your loved one discount or deny any of the actions above?

This, too, is a part of the emotional abuse. Your partner is prone to lie, so why should he or she fess up to their actions?

When you begin to recognize emotional abuse and want to end it, you have two choices. One, you get out of the relationship. Two, you stay in the relationship and try to end the abuse.

In the latter case, you will have to confront your abuser. You will have to say that you recognize what's happening and you aren't going to take it anymore. Invariably, your abuser will deny what's going on.

It's the case of "believing me or believing your lying eyes". Trust yourself. If several of the behaviors listed above are going on, then you are being emotionally abused. If that's the case, it needs to stop. Otherwise, you will never be in the relationship you want and deserve.

How To Stop the Abuse

Once you have spotted emotional abuse, it is time to face up to it and stop it. In most cases, I would suggest that the abusive person is not going to change, so it's better to get out of the relationship. If you decide to remain in the relationship, then several things are going to have to change.

Confront Your Abuser

Whenever abuse happens, you need to confront your abuser. You have to say, "This is abusive behavior". The abuser will deny it, of course. But you can't be convinced you are being sensitive and humorless and making things up.

Stand your ground and let your partner know that know better. This brings the relationship back into the real world, instead of the world of lies your partner is trying to construct.

Set Boundaries

You have to let your abuser know you will not be emotionally abused. You have to be adamant about this. If his terms for continuing the relationship is to control and dominate it, then you aren't going to stay.

It is not too much to ask that our partner respect us. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Respect is an essential component of "true love". No person is going to agree with every opinion or action you take; but respecting your actions and opinions is essential.

Just remember; the natural order of things is that our loved ones respect us. Any deviation from this order is your abuser's fault.

Build Your Self-Esteem

If you have been in a relationship where everything you've done is wrong, then your self-esteem can't be high. You have to keep telling yourself that the world doesn't work that way.

We're all flawed human beings. Not everything we do is rational and wise. On the other hand, not everything we do is irrational and wrong.

You're going to make mistakes. Join the club. That doesn't mean you are unworthy of love and respect.

If he or she doesn't like the music you like, the t.v. shows and movies you watch, the friends you keep, this is no reason for your loved one to constantly berate you about it. Life is too short to overanalyze trivial stuff. Unless these are somehow harmful to you, it's a matter of personal taste and preference. If something which does us no harm brings us enjoyment, it can't be all that bad.

If any person's life is held up to a magnifying glass, we could be made to look the fool. So don't internalize every little criticism. It's easy to focus on the negatives. Focus on the positives, too.

Talk to a Friend About This

If you think you are being emotionally abused, talk to a friend or family member about it. An abusive relationship distorts your perspective. It's good to get an outside perspective, to know if you're imagining things.

Besides, it helps to talk about these things.

Take Responsibility For Your Life

Finally, if you recognize that you are being emotionally abused, make certain to change this. You deserve better, no matter what your abuser is telling you. Don't linger in an abusive relationship. Don't be a victim.

If you try to end the abuse and it doesn't change, then you must get out of the relationship. Behavior might change for a few days, but you need to make certain your abuser understands the bounds. If in a month or two the abuse continues, you must leave the relationship.

We get into relationships to satisfy our need for companionship, to find someone who will support us and fill our many needs. If your companion is incapable of doing that, it is time to find one who can.

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