(Originally from Suite101, 2008)
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you afraid to say what you think for fear of retribution?
- Have you slowly stopped doing the things you like to do because you know he doesn’t like them?
- If you miss a phone call/text message/email, do you hurry to respond for fear of a fight?
- Does he ignore or reject you as “punishment” for your behavior?
- Do you find yourself agreeing to the things he says just to end/avoid an argument?
- Do you find yourself having to report where you are at all times?
- Even when you deserve it, does he refuse to apologize or admit you’re right?
- Or, even when it clearly isn’t, does he insist that something is your fault?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, and it's an issue on a consistent basis, there is a high chance that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Though the questions refer to a male, keep in mind that men are just as likely to be in emotionally abusive relationships, and may not even know it.
Why emotional abuse is just as bad a physical abuse
Emotional abuse is harder to recognize because it doesn’t have the obvious signs of physical abuse. A raised hand is physical abuse. Bruising is physical abuse. However, emotional bruising, although at times more damaging, is harder to recognize. Once you do recognize it then it’s the first step to improving the situation.
What you can do:
Leave the relationship. There is a reason why this is the first response: people are stubborn. Not only is there a chance that he might not want to change, he could also be very aware of what he is doing and does not find anything wrong with his behavior. You clearly deserve better and this person does not deserve any more of your time. However, if you think the relationship is worth saving, then:
Make him aware of his behavior. Be specific. For example, say, “What you said/did made me feel (insert emotion here) because…” Keeping a log is always a good idea because it gives you specific times and dates. Keep a calendar, and show him how often he exudes this behavior, and make it clear that it is not okay.
Demand an apology. Make him aware that his behavior is wrong and that you deserve to be treated better. And you deserve for him to acknowledge it as well.
Get counseling. Counselors and psychologists are here to help, let them. Address the issue with a professional, and you will be both be better for it.