In the fields of psychology and
family law, emotional abuse has become a hot topic. “There are 3 million cases of
domestic violence reported each year. Many more go unreported. Emotional abuse often precedes
violence, but is rarely discussed,” Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT writes in
According to Lancer, it can be hard for people to recognize emotional abuse
because it can be subtle. Also, because the abusers are in the habit of
blaming their victims. If you’ve been emotionally abused in a previous
relationship, it can be harder to recognize. It can almost feel “normal.”
But over time, the emotional abuse will chip away at your self-esteem,
causing you to feel responsible. Causing you to doubt your instincts and
question the way you feel about the toxic relationship.
During peacetime, everything can seem okay. Your abuser may be loving and
dote on you. He or she may put you on a pedestal for the world to see,
so you forget all about the abusive episodes, or you go into a deep state
of denial. Perhaps you’ve never had a healthy relationship to compare
it to. Then, when the abuse happens again behind closed doors, there’s
no one around to witness it. There’s no one to tell you that it’s
not you, it’s your partner who is behaving badly.
What is Emotional Abuse?
You’ve probably heard the term “emotional abuse.” But
that doesn’t mean that every emotional encounter is labeled as emotional
or psychological abuse. It is not a one-time event where you get into
a fight with your spouse and he or she calls you a name for the first
time. It is not emotional abuse to argue with your partner every day.
It is not emotional abuse if your partner sleeps on the couch after a
If you accuse your spouse of having an affair with a co-worker and in spite,
they demand your cellphone so they can read your personal texts and direct
messages – that’s not emotional abuse, even though it can
Remember, we all react out of our own experiences and personal perceptions,
so a single reaction does not define our behavior. Just because your spouse
loses their temper because of something inflammatory that you said, it
doesn’t mean you’re being emotionally abused.
If your spouse yells at you, that’s not necessarily emotionally abusive.
Let’s face it, everyone yells at some point. Everyone. So, what
does count as emotional abuse? “Emotional abuse is an attempt to
control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control
another person,” according to
Andrea Mathews LPC, NCC.
“The only difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical
hitting, kicking, pinching, grabbing, pushing, or other physical forms
of harm. Rather the perpetrator of emotional abuse uses emotion as his/her
weapon of choice,” says Mathews.
Since it’s not “physical violence,” the emotional abuser
has no clue they’re being emotionally abusive. Instead, the abuser
is insecure about their victim’s love for him or her. In effect,
the abuser is compelled to accuse their spouse or partner of cheating.
They’ll blame the victim for their unhappiness, and they may be
driven to constantly check the victim’s texts, social media accounts,
and voicemails – all forms of emotional abuse.
Other forms of emotional abuse include:
- Name-calling (verbal abuse).
- Withholding one’s affection.
- Punishing the innocent spouse.
- Threats of punishing the innocent spouse.
- Accusing an innocent spouse of infidelity.
- Blaming the spouse for the poor relationship.
- Criticizing the spouse harshly.
- Constantly controlling a spouse’s every move.
- Verbally attacking the innocent spouse during arguments.
- Putting the spouse down in front of others.
- Isolating the innocent spouse from supportive friends, neighbors, co-workers
or family members.
- Giving their spouse the silent treatment when they are mad at them.
- Threatening the spouse when he or she isn’t abiding by their every wish.
- Criticizing the way their spouse talks, walks, eats, dresses, exercises,
and interacts with others outside the home.
Are You Being Emotionally Abused?
Many spouses and partners are blindsided by emotional abuse. At first,
their relationship starts off on the right foot – with loads of
affection and romance. But then, after the marriage or after the birth
of a child, things take an unexpected turn for the worse. At first, you
hardly notice it but over time, you become miserable. You start to resent
your spouse and your marriage.
One day, you realize you’re suffocating. You feel like you’re
in a mental straightjacket. You and your family feel like everyone has
to “walk on eggshells” around your spouse and adapt in order
not to anger him or her. Your siblings and your parents may not live under
your roof, but even they can’t be themselves in the presence of
When you’re being emotionally abused, it will go something like this:
Each morning, you’ll be filled with sickening dread as you face
yet another exhausting day of psychological warfare. You’ll search
for ways to get away from your spouse and take advantage of every opportunity
you get to catch a breather, away from your spouse for a few hours.
You will be drained of your energy at all times because you’re always
trying to make your spouse happy, but one day you’ll realize that
all of your efforts are in vain. You can barely do anything right in your
spouse’s eyes. When you interact with your husband or wife, you’ll
often feel nausea, fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of dread. This
is how you feel every minute you spend with your spouse – this is
If you’re being emotionally abused, realize that you deserve better.
You deserve to be happy, and you deserve a loving relationship based on
mutual respect, support and admiration. If you’d like to discuss
your situation with a Los Angeles
contact our firm to schedule a free, confidential consultation.