I find this a very important topic to have a lot more discussion about. Although we all are raised, and hear all around us, that it is wrong for men to hit and that is abusive, the topic of emotional/verbal/psychological abuse seems to be often over looked. The damage done emotionally can last even longer than physical abuse, maybe even a life time.
We always wonder why a woman would tolerate a physically abusive man. It seems crazy to us…someone hits you – you leave – pretty simple. What people commonly don’t know is that physical abusers start as emotional abusers. By the time a man becomes physically abusive, he’s torn the woman down emotionally so bad or for so long, she’s not sure which way is up. I know most women think they can spot this guy without any more information and this goes into the “it would never happen to me” category. All I can tell you is I have an engineering degree, held good jobs, always had healthy self esteem, know better than to let a man treat me bad, and I still woke up one day to find myself in an abusive situation.
Emotional abuse can be much more complex and devious than just tearing you down, telling you that you aren’t attractive, stupid, etc. I’d like to share a short story with you to better explain how the manipulative emotional abuser works his ways.
My boyfriend at the time and I planned a long weekend vacation. I was really excited about going on vacation with just him and myself. The day we were set to leave I was sitting in my boyfriend’s house, with his roommate, waiting on him to get home so his roommate could drive us to the airport. I noticed his roommate had his bags packed and asked where he was going for the weekend. He looked at me like I had two heads and said, “I’m going with you guys.” I was shocked, hurt, and mad my boyfriend hadn’t talked to me about his roommate coming with us. I wouldn’t have bought plane tickets if I had known it was a “group” trip. When my boyfriend got home I pulled him off to the side and calmly asked him why he hadn’t discussed it with me. He told me “We discussed it last Wednesday. Don’t you remember? You were sitting right there, he was sitting here, and I was sitting over there and we all agreed.” I was really upset because I still didn’t like the situation and was no longer excited about the trip, but what was wrong with me that I couldn’t remember the conversation? It must have been my bad memory that my ex sometimes picked on me about. No matter how upset or hurt I was, I only had myself to blame. I must have agreed and not remembered.
It wasn’t even until I left him that I realized that conversation with all three of us never happened and he was just messing with my mind. It was always like that. “I already gave you directions, don’t you remember?” “We already talked about this, don’t you remember?” “I told you to bring xyz!” I felt dumber and dumber and dumber in that relationship. I thought I had a horrible memory, and sometimes I can be a little forgetful so I bought right into it. He made me dependent because I surely couldn’t depend on myself with how absent minded I had become! The entire time I was with him I never questioned it. He always put so many details around the lie it never occurred to me that I couldn’t trust the words of someone telling me that they loved me. I couldn’t imagine lying like that and thought abuse was easier to spot, like just telling someone “you are an idiot”, instead of slowly convincing them that they were stupid in such a manipulative way.
Your biggest defense against manipulative people and emotional abusers is to trust yourself no matter what the situation. Had I trusted myself and trusted the facts in my head, rather than what he was telling me was fact, we would have dated around three months instead of ending up married. Had I been educated on how emotional abuse really works, I never would have ended up in that scary situation.
The list below is signs that you may be in an abusive relationship. It’s a good list to keep in the back of your head for friends, family, or children too so you can quickly recognize red flags. This list has been taken from www.drirene.com: If you answer “yes” to more than a few, you may want to take a closer look.
Does your partner:
ignore your feelings?
ridicule or insult you then tell you its a joke, or that you have no sense of humor?
ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class?
withhold approval, appreciation or affection?
give you the silent treatment?
walk away without answering you?
criticize you, call you names, yell at you?
humiliate you privately or in public?
roll his or her eyes when you talk?
give you a hard time about socializing with your friends or family?
make you socialize (and keep up appearances) even when you don’t feel well?
seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’t get?
tell you you are too sensitive?
hurt you especially when you are down?
seem energized by fighting, while fighting exhausts you?
have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason?
present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders?
“twist” your words, somehow turning what you said against you?
try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes?
complain about how badly you treat him or her?
threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out?
say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad?
ever left you stranded?
ever threaten to hurt you or your family?
ever hit or pushed you, even “accidentally”?
seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other?
abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object?
compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure?
promise to never do something hurtful again?
harass you about imagined affairs?
manipulate you with lies and contradictions?
destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances?
drive like a road-rage junkie?
act immature and selfish, yet accuse you of those behaviors?
question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence?
interrupt you; hear but not really listen?
make you feel like you can’t win? damned if you do, damned if you don’t?
use drugs and/or alcohol involved? are things worse then?
incite you to rage, which is “proof” that you are to blame?
try to convince you he or she is “right,” while you are “wrong?”
frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding?
treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel?
Your situation is critical if the following applies to you:
You find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of when and how to say something.
You long for that softer, more vulnerable part of your partner to emerge.
You find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior?
You feel emotionally unsafe.
You feel its somehow not OK to talk with others about your relationship.
You hope things will change…especially through your love and understanding.
You find yourself doubting your memory or sense of reality.
You doubt your own judgment.
You doubt your abilities.
You feel vulnerable and insecure.
You are becoming increasingly depressed.
You feel increasingly trapped and powerless.
You have been or are afraid of your partner.
Your partner has physically hurt you, even once.
Another great resource is the bookThe Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans. It is often quoted as the top book on emotional abuse and may be helpful for you or someone you know needing to educate his or herself on emotional abuse.
Remember that abusers are often well liked, intelligent, well respected people and only mistreating their partners while alone. If you have someone in your life, who is in a relationship, and seems to be cutting off contact with you and other friends, have a heart to heart if you are close enough. I know I may not have listened right away, but if I had people I loved telling me “It’s not okay, ever, that he did this or that.” or “You deserve a man that acts like this or does that.” or even just shown me that list, I might have woken up sooner rather than later.
Never forget that your life is your choice. Only you get to decide what you will and will not tolerate. Click here to purchase Hear my Heels bracelets to remember to keep going towards the life you deserve. Please forward this information to all the women you care about.
20% of profits will go to domestic abuse charities.
Molly Pennington – About the Author:
Hear my Heels ~ The sound of you walking away, smiling, towards something better.I am the owner of Hear my Heels. Hear my Heels creates products for anyone who has found or looking to find the strength to go after everything they deserve in life. We donate 20% of our profits to domestic abuse charities. No man, woman, or child deserves to suffer at the hands of an abuser and it is our mission to remind everyone of their value, strength, and self worth.
- Mental Abuse Information (mediumsworld.wordpress.com)
- How To Recognize When You’re Emotionally Abusing Yourself (mediumsworld.wordpress.com)