Abuse is not always physical. Sadly, often people don’t understand the toll that emotional wounds have on victims. Since the manipulation is not outwardly violent, people can minimize the trauma and not receive the proper help. Emotional abuse leaves lasting scars and can be difficult to identify. People are emotional traumatized have a marked decrease in self-esteem and motivation, while facing increased social isolation and physical health issues. Victims are brainwashed into thinking this behavior is normal and as such struggle to leave the toxic relationship. By recognizing the patterns of emotional abuse, a person is able to take the critical first step in seeking appropriate care and ultimately, may save their life. We have compiled a list of stages and warning signs of an emotional abuse. We encourage you to seek professional assistance if you recognize any patterns in your life or that of someone you love.
Abusers are often charmers. At the start of a relationship a person can feel swept off their feet by the intense attention shown to them. This new partner will make a point to showcase their devotion and affection. However, the over the tops romantic overtures can serve to make the recipient feel indebted and cultivates a sense of codependency.
Quick Intensification of Relationship
Abusers are desperate for control and as such, want to fast track the path to monogamy. They will be quick to tell this new love of their profound feelings and seek to expediate labelling the romance. The new partner may feel flattered of all this attention and begin to question their worthiness of the romantic overtures. It soon becomes a drug for both parties and the new partner will feel an endorphin rush of this new love and extra mile affection.
With all this attention the partner might be in awe of the protectiveness of the abuser. However, this is the time that the first concerns might arise. It’s sweet that this person wants to spend all their time with you, but is it a really big deal if you skip a night to see your friends? Or perhaps you might find some of the jealousy a bit flattering, but you become concerned when your partner because angry and possessive over the waiter complimenting your necklace. In time this evolved into out right paranoia and demands one be instantly accessible. A missed text or a phone call causes abuser will jump to, at times absurd, conclusions and will attempt to rationalize their point of view by expressing ‘concern’ for their partner’s wellbeing. In time relationships with trusted friends and family erode as one must spend every moment with the abuser, and the whole situation leaves them feeling depleted and lost.
Irrationality and Intense Jealousy
Overtime the jealousy worsens and there are frequent accusations of cheating, disloyalty, or ungratefulness. The partner then must work doubly hard to prove their devotion and trustworthiness to assuage the abuser’s fears. More external relationships suffer due to the overwhelming needs of the abuser. Communication to loved ones is essentially cut off to prevent further conflict. The abuser begins to play the role of a victim, talking about how they are only acting like this now because of previously being hurt by people. The cycle of codependency becomes stronger due to the forced isolation from trusted support systems.
Withholding of Affection
The abuser will begin to be affectionate with their partner only when they feel their needs are being met. If they suspect any disloyalty, they quickly become irritable, and even hostile. To receive love, a partner must conform fully to the needs and expectations of the abuser. If the abuser suspects the partner is about to stand up to the controlling behaviors, the abuser will instantly become cold, and aggressive so the partner feels compelled to ‘get back in line.’ The partner then begins to feel like they must constantly walk on eggshells around the abuser to avoid any conflict and intense emotions.
Tensions are become high in this stage. Arguments are filtered by the abuser so that they cannot be at fault or innocent of any wrongdoing. Others, included their “love” is to blame for the problems in the relationship and in their own life. It may seem like the abuser is always angry about something or constantly in need of letting off some steam. It becomes so intense and so often that the partner begins to self-doubt themselves and begins to think that they actually might be the cause of these problems and feel like these passionate outbursts are proof of the abuser’s deep love and concern. The partner will find themselves using more “if only” statements more frequently.
This is a defense mechanism of the abuser to avoid discussing the deeper issues of control and toxicity in the relationship. However, it perpetuates the cycle of codependency, because the partner will continue to second-guess their concerns and have an even greater erosion of self-esteem.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
For as much tension and negative emotions a couple experiences in private, in public the abuser will continue to act magnanimous and amiable in public. The partner may wonder which of these personas is real. The partner also begins to feel that they can share their concerns about their relationship because no one would believe the abuser could be capable of such behavior.
The abuser is most afraid of being alone, and as such manipulates their partner into staying in the relationship. The abuser could threaten, blackmail or claim intensions of self-harm so their love feels they must stay. Because of their intensity of affection, a partner feels that they are incapable of finding a different relationship or that no one else could love them as much as their current partner. The idea of being single feel unfathomable and some love is better than none, right?! The partner rationalizes that the abuser is capable of changing in the right situation. They focus on the beginning of the relationship and feels that those days can once again happen, so why should they leave.
The first step is recognized any of the behaviors listed above are not healthy. Next, emotional abuse can in fact lead to physical abuse as the abuser becomes increasingly insecure and threatened. A person in this situation must take a leap of faith, share their story and ask for help. Through therapy and the advice of trusted support system steps can be taken to safely leave the relationship. As for the abuser, they must recognize their unhealthy patterns and seek professional help. No one is capable of changing anyone else, unless that person is receptive to self-growth.