Emotional abuse can be very hard to spot. Abusers do not want to be discovered. They are after control and power in the relationship and use tactics like criticizing, insulting, belittling, blaming, threatening, isolating and withholding affection or money.
Abusers use these methods to “tear down” the independence and self-confidence of those they are in relationships with. The biggest risk to the abuser is getting caught. It could be they are so invested in their confusion and don’t want change such as a breaking off of the relationship or being forced to admit their weakness of character.
“Emotional abuse is insidious!” says therapist Sharie Stines, who specializes in recovery from abuse.
Be sure that in a healthy relationship you are validated, reassured, heard and understood.
Abusive relationships don’t start out as abusive. There is an initial loving and caring, then it slowly goes downhill. Sometimes the kindness the other person is offering is only a “hook” to win over your trust. Emotional abuse could quickly escalate into physical violence. There is a language that most perpetrators who engage in abuse use and this takes the focus off of the abuse:
- “You are too sensitive.” Do you hear the sense of “shame” in that saying?
- “You are impossible to please.” Do you hear the focus shift away from the abusive perpetrator?
- “Your friends don’t have your back like I do.” Do you see they are trying to get you to trust them more than others?
- “Your friends don’t have your best interest at heart”. Its subtle manipulation in most cases to get you to doubt the value of others. This creates a feeling of isolation. This phrase keeps you from wanting to be with your friends.
- “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” Abusive partners ignore issues at heart and flip them backward instead.
- “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” This makes you question your own judgment, memories and sense of reality.
- “My ex was so much better than you.” Unfavorable comparing challenges self-esteem. It’s disparaging and used to diminish a partner’s spirit and confidence.
Oh My! What do we do?
There is no one fix for all responses and situations. But some of these ideas may help a bit.
First, please evaluate if that relationship is what you want for the rest of your life. If you inject the idea that the other partner will change – don’t expect that in reality. In most cases, abusive, “gaslighting” behaviors don’t carry with them the “ideal to change”. The person inflicting these behaviors does not want to be caught.
- Keep Safe! It’s important to know when you are not safe. Have a plan to stay safe. Don’t give up on being safe. It is your right as a human being. You may need to trust your gut feelings.
- Know “how” you are being played. Look for patterns that confirm your gut feelings. Establish some proof. You may have weak spots in your personality that are being challenged. In a healthy relationship, those “weak spots” are built up not challenged to where you feel negative about yourself.
Abusers will exploit your good nature.
- Explaining yourself will not work against an abuser. Their focus is much different than yours. While you may want restoration, their purpose is to not get caught on something that they have said or done that you do not know about. If you must respond, try this to defuse combative escalation: “Thank you for sharing your thoughts about me. I don’t agree.” Make a decision to stop arguing with the abuser. Healthy relationship boundaries allow for discussion without insults.
- When you are feeling defensive, try to disengage from the conversation. Call a friend, journal, do anything other than defending yourself. The abuser may feed off of your defensiveness and the situation could escalate into physical abuse.
- Plan for a relationship change status after you recognize abusive behavior. Once patterns are figured out, it may be a time for change to keep you safe. This will require a step back and escape from the relationship in order to make the abuse stop. Not all things can be fixed into what we want it to be. Being invested heavily into a relationship makes this hard. Bringing in outside parties to get that safety and some distance from the relationship may be necessary.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpine.
More information can be found at www.LoveIsRespect.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800.799.7233 or online at www.TheHotline.org
Disclaimer: There are indeed situations where a partner or friend has mental health issues. Chefsville encourages abusers to “STOP” verbal abuse and get professional help. The prize is a loving, kind, and rewarding relationship that encourages exhorts and fosters growth. There are also situations where chronic forms of selfishness, ego, stubbornness, inability to admit wrongs, or uncontrolled thinking are present. This writing assumes that there are no mental health issues or extreme willful behavior present.
Chefsville exists to reduce family violence, abuse and neglect. There is much abuse that happens in the kitchens. The kitchen used to be the command center of the family. Now it has in many cases degraded into a place where family abuse is conducted. The kitchen has become a place where kids are manipulated, intimidated and coerced. Let’s regain the kitchens to a place where love, trust and good communication are dispensed. The kitchen was always a place where family members could be built-up and encouraged. Retake your own kitchen! Let loving kindness reign in your kitchen with everyone.