You can’t see bruises or broken bones. So you wonder if it is really a serious problem. Emotionally abused women state that one of the biggest problems they face is that others seldom take it seriously. But there are invisible scars that destroy your sense of self and often lead to faulty thinking which negatively impacts your decisions and your life.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Do you feel that something is wrong with your relationship, but can’t describe it?
- Do you feel that your partner controls your life?
- Do you feel that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?
- Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?
- Does your partner get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else or accuse you of having affairs?
- Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your partner’s eyes?
- Do you get mixed messages, such as the reason you are abused is because he loves you?
- Are you told that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?
- Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
- When you try to talk to your partner about problems, are you called names such as bitch or nag?
- Are you prevented from going to work or school, or from talking to others about how you feel?
- If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny, or say you don’t deserve anything?
- After an argument, does your partner insist that you have sex as a way to make up?
- Does he use the children against you in arguments? Does your partner threaten that you will never see the children again if you leave?
- Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?
Emotional abuse is a choice and a learned behavior so it is difficult to say that emotional abuse is caused by any one single factor. It is not gender specific. Women can also emotionally abuse their partners. The following beliefs and attitudes are common for abusers:
- Sense of entitlement
- A belief they should have power and control over their partner
- Belief that they can get away with it
- Learned experience that being abusive gets them what they want
- Belief that their lives should take priority
The effects of emotional abuse:
- Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
- Do you do anything you can to please your partner or not upset him?
- Do you make excuses for your partner’s behavior?
- Are you forgetful, confused or unable to concentrate?
- Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
- Have you lost interest or energy to do the things you used to?
- Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed a lot of the time?
- Have you lost contact with your friends, family or neighbors?
- Have you lost self-confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it alone?
What can you do about it?
- Realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and get help.
- Recognize that emotional abuse is as bad as or worse than physical abuse.
- Take your safety and the safety of your children seriously.
- Know that emotional abuse can lead to physical violence or death.
- Know that you are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior.
- Find people to talk to that can support you. Consider going for counselling.
- Do not give up if community professionals are not helpful. Keep looking for someone that will listen to you and take emotional abuse seriously.
- Recognize you have the right to make your own decisions, in your own time, and that dealing with any form of abuse may take time.
- Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength, and that you already have the tools you need to survive.
My final thoughts focus on your safety if you decide to leave an emotionally abusive relationship. Shelters do accept those who are emotionally abused and have not been physically abused. If you have been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked (followed and harassed) by your partner or ex-partner, you can call the police. Dial 911. If you are considering leaving, especially if you have children, see a lawyer. Abused women are at the greatest risk of being harmed or killed when they leave.
Counseling can help you identify and accept your own definition of normal as part of your journey to happiness. You need to explore your values and needs and recognize how to achieve your goals. With expert guidance and a supportive environment, you will begin to understand the “whys” and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life.
Sources available upon request
Bonnie Harken NCLC, Founder and CEO, of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Visit http://www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com or call 1-800-348-0937.