Mental abuse is often hard to spot, unlike the glaringly obvious marks and scars left by physical abuse. The mental trauma hides deep below the surface, often unseen—sometimes even by the person in the relationship.
I have been in both physically and mentally abusive relationships, and whilst I look back now and can’t believe I ever let a man get away with hitting me, or pinning me to the wall by my throat and raising his fist, I am more shocked by the mental abuse I allowed to carry on for so much longer. When you are in that state of mind, though, and when you’ve been there for so long, it’s very hard to break away from it.
From the outside looking in, it is very easy to give your friends advice when you see them trapped in what appears to be a detrimental situation, for those that have not experienced any level of abuse in a relationship it is hard to comprehend why ANYONE would allow this to happen. I want to be clear that both men and women can be abusive, as a female, I am writing this from my point of view, but please know that this can all happen to men as well and it can happen in heterosexual and same sex relationships, abuse does not have a gender specific mask.
Signs of emotional abuse can be subtle, which is why they can go unnoticed for months and sometimes years. I was in an incredibly controlling and abusive relationship for eight years, from the age of 16 till 24. I was lucky enough to escape, although most of my friends and family were worried I never ever would. The relationship consumed me. I felt trapped and suffocated by it, and though toward the end I knew it was wrong, I had been stuck for so long I was scared to leave. I had become a shell of myself, I lost friends through it, I almost lost family through it. Looking back now, it seems like another life, and with these signs to help you recognise abuse, I hope I can help anyone else suffering, to escape and find a new life.
We all like to know what our other half is up to. That is normal, but there is a difference between asking them to let you know when you’ll be home or where you are, to actively tracking your every move and forbidding you from doing things and going places.
Forbidding your other half from talking to people of the opposite sex is a very common feature in mentally abusive relationships. This is a jealousy and trust issue. If there is no trust in a relationship, there is no point in the relationship existing.
If your partner controls what you do, what you wear, who you see, what time you can come home and where you go, this is mental abuse. You are your own person, you should be allowed to make these choices for yourself and a normal, trusting and loving partner should trust that you can make all these choices yourself.
Being called names is never nice. From being picked on at school through to your adult life, name calling is cruel and belittling. Even in a joking manner, having your partner offhandedly call you a 'bitch' or a 'slut' is degrading and nasty. Though you may be able to laugh it off a couple of times, being called names can get under your skin over time. You start to think of yourself as these titles you are being given by the person that is supposed to love you.
'If HE thinks I'm a slut, what doe's everyone else think?' In my past relationship, 'whore' and 'slut' were used daily, almost jokingly sometimes, and as though they were supposedly pet names. But they made me feel cheap and disgusting, when I brought this up he laughed at me and told me to stop being so stupid.
Which brings me to my next point...
Belittling you is not endearing, it's not cute, it's not loving. It is slowly but surely sucking away at your ego like an energy vampire, taking all your confidence away so that the only person you turn to for reassurance is your partner.
Making comments in reference to your loss, intelligence or job—anything that is backhandedly referring to the fact that you are maybe not quite as great as you think. Maybe they make comments about what you wear to the point where you don't want to dress up anymore, or maybe they comment on your work in a way that makes you feel less important or less intelligent and makes you not want to talk about your work anymore. Belittling is that slow, niggling trait that eats away at you until you become a shell of your former self. Making you feel small and tiny and worthless, and that is want emotional abusers want, because once you feel like that you believe no one could ever want you and then you stick to your abuser like glue, drinking in their painful words that are mixed with mild affection, just to keep you there with them.
Bit of an obvious one, cheating can be a form of mental abuse, especially if the abuser makes excuses and uses those excuses to keep you from leaving them whilst they continue to cheat on you... which leads me swiftly to...
Blaming You for Their Actions
Classic in emotionally and mentally abusive relationships, "Well I only hurt you because YOU DID SOMETHING WRONG FIRST."
For example, (and I will loosely base this example on my previous relationship) you find out they are cheating, you have evidence, you know who, what, when, where but you don't understand WHY? You are distraught, heart broken, ripped to shreds. You confront them and they blame... YOU! Of course it's your fault they tripped, fell and landed on top of someone else... naked. Spoiler alert: it is definitely not your fault.
My ex would blame everything from my job (when I worked in the adult industry, which he also claimed to love) to the distance between us when one of us was away, even though many of the cases happened right under my nose.
Remember this: YOU are not responsible for their actions, no matter what excuse they come up with, they made the active decision to cheat, this is not your fault. AT ALL.
Lying is another obvious one. In mentally abusive partnerships, lying is generally quite frequent. The liar, if caught, tends to switch the situation to make you look bad.
Say you catch your other half doing something they really shouldn't, manipulative mental abusers will often use this opportunity to turn on you by saying things like, "You are acting crazy, I can't believe you don't trust me when I love you SO much" This makes you think, 'Oh god, I'm so horrible how could I accuse him, he loves me!' They make YOU feel guilty for pulling them up on their shit, leaving the door wide open for them to continue doing whatever shitty thing they were doing in the first place!
You ever hear those stories about people that fall in love with their kidnappers? That is like a mentally abusive relationship. It's hard to explain, but they become this all consuming force in your life—what they say goes. They control how you feel and what you do, and you love them for it. They become your lifeline, and you become trapped in a hell hole of a partnership. Somewhere in you, you know it's all wrong and you might even want to get away, because you're desperately unhappy. Your friends and family are begging you to leave, but you can't. You just love them so much! Why?! I don't know, maybe because they have beaten you down so that you feel so pathetic. You think no one else could ever love you, or maybe you've been with them so long you would rather be with them and miserable than alone and trying to get over them. You've wasted all this time, why not waste more?!
If you can relate to the points in this article please reach out to someone for help, if you can't talk to your family and friends there are plenty of help and support systems out there for people in abusive situations. Break away while you still can.
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About the Creator
Born and Bred Londoner, Mother to baby Roman and my two pooches, Plant Eater, Yoga and Aerial Teacher + Learner, Music Maker... was once in Game Of Thrones, was once a Penthouse Pet, used to win awards for getting naked.