This Valentine's season, when pairing up, stay clued up! Abuse comes in many forms and subtly grows from the smallest roots. We've all heard of extreme cases and wondered "why didn't they leave earlier?", but when the abuse is subtle, it's harder to recognise. Abusers attack the confidence and self-esteem of their lovers, they cause them to doubt their own judgement and feel incompetent in thought - which leads them to stay and become dependent on the judgement, security and/or validation of their abuser.
Emotional abuse is not obvious because it relies heavily on gradual manipulation, unlike physical abuse which is clearly defined by action. As with any form of abuse, after leaving the relationship, the affects may still last. Abuse of any kind is unhealthy for the sufferer and can lead to, or exacerbate mental illness - especially depression and anxiety disorders. Abuse is about control and domination as opposed to love, love allows organic growth and individuality and accepts it with appreciation, abuse is about obsessively keeping someone else in order and making sure they act according to the will of the abuser. Knowledge of the early signs of abuse is empowerment and can ensure that both parties in a relationship are aware.
Your partner may be emotionally abusive if:
- They are needy. It's cute when a partner makes it clear that they enjoy your company, but being needy to the extent that they get angry when you try to engage in activities that does not involve them, is possessive and abusive.
- They are ignorant of your requests/boundaries. A disregard of your feelings and preferences is invasive and violating. If your partner makes it clear that they will do whatever they want concerning you (this could also be sexually) and your needs, without consideration of how you feel, they are controlling and abusive.
- They are uncomfortable with your organic thoughts. Variety is the spice of life and having opposing views is normal. If your partner cannot stand the fact that you disagree with them on trivial matters and tries to make your thoughts align with theirs, that is abusive.
- They discredit your ideas and accomplishments. Criticism is often a form of concern and love. However, when everything that excites you or makes you proud seems to be a threat to your partner and they constantly decide to offer negative commentary on it in deliberately hurtful ways, it is time to move on.
- They are possessive and paranoid. They have a problem with you speaking to other people - even when it is clearly platonic, there is no indication of inappropriate behaviour and you have no history of infidelity or anything else that could indicate that the interaction may lead to undesirable outcomes.
- They gaslight you. When you complain about mistreatment or make your needs known, instead of acknowledging your feelings, they act as though you are ridiculous for having them in the first place. This leads many to disregard their own emotions and keep quiet about concerns. It allows abuse to continue.
Even when in a partnership, individuality is important. A relationship should not be a prison or a source of fear. If your partner makes you feel worried about your normal everyday activities, makes you doubtful of yourself or makes you feel restricted, inform them. If they care about how you feel, they will change and be more mindful, if not, rethink the relationship. You do not have to sacrifice your mind for happiness.
If you have any concerns, you can speak to our team members here