Sticks and stones may break your bones…..
Thanks to widespread campaigns on social media and television most people know the signs of physical abuse. We know how to spot the bruises on our friends, coworkers, or family members, and we might even have an idea of what to do to offer them help. What is less well known is emotional abuse in relationships, which can be incredibly damaging in a different way. Physical abusers usually use emotional abuse as well, but not all abusive relationships are alike and a relationship can have emotional wounds without physical bruises.
Emotional abuse in a relationship isn’t as obvious as physical abuse if you don’t know the signs. Emotional abuse is used to manipulate and control another person. While the most obvious tools an emotional abuser can use are things like insults or threats or shaming, they can also be more subtle like constant texting or calling when you’re out or guilting you into doing something by saying “If you really loved me you’d…” or “if you leave me, I’ll kill myself.” And, while jealousy can be normal at times in relationships, it should not be a routine part. Many abused partners feel like they’re constantly walking on eggshells to prevent angry or jealous outbursts. An abuser might guilt his or her partner into not seeing friends or loved ones, or even demand cutting off contact with them.
Abusers usually spend a lot of time putting you down. It could be through mean jokes or it could be through (what seem like) heartfelt explanations of your failings and shortcomings. It’s not normal relationship behavior to tell your partner how awful they are at things—partners are supposed to support each other, not make the other feel bad about themselves. Putting you down also lays the groundwork for other abusive behaviors like making you believe things are your fault when they aren’t and making you terrified your partner will leave and, or that you are such a loser, no one else would want to be with you.
Money might also be used to exert control over a partner – withholding it (not for sound financial or budget reasons) as punishment or to limit activities outside the bounds of the relationship, like preventing a trip to visit family or friends. It is all about isolating the partner and making him or her dependent.
So what do you do if you see some of these signs in your relationship or a friend’s relationship? There are resources available to help you. You can see some of them right here on www.ifIknew.org in “Relationships & Abuse Resources” under the “Get Help” tab at the top of the page. Whether it’s physical abuse, emotional abuse, or both, no one deserves to be hurt in their relationship. That includes you.
Written by our contributing blogger, Chris M.