Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship? Chances are you may not even have noticed being the victim. Emotional abusers are subtle masters of manipulation and while this (and many others) kind of girl would never tolerate physical abuse, we often fall unsuspecting prey to psychological abuse. Just like physical abuse, emotional abuse becomes a vicious cycle that gets harder to break the longer it is tolerated. Emotional abuse is not a lesser evil, it is plain evil and the scars it leaves take longer to heal because they are on the inside.
Emotional abuse characterizes itself in many ways, primarily verbal aggression, dominant and jealous behaviors. Not all abusers overly belittle or aggressively attack their partners, most are smooth and hard to spot owing to their employing of the ‘carrot and stick’ method. They spice their abuse with acts of generosity and support as a way of passive-aggressive emotional manipulation. They do this to confuse their partner, who often is blindsided by the abusive side, into thinking they did something to provoke and deserve it. The longer you remain with an abuser, the more you start to question yourself, your actions and eventually your beliefs. It is the abuser’s goal to make you believe that you deserve their random bursts of cruelty; that it is a response to something you did, therefore can stop it by trying harder.
HOW TO SPOT AN EMOTIONAL ABUSER
While most are very intelligent and good at disguising their abusive side until it’s too late and uko ndani ya box, there are a few warning bells.
It is certainly NEVER their fault. It is always about what someone else did TO them. Abusers are perfect at mimicking the victim. They often attempt to establish intimacy through the early sharing of deeply personal information that is generally of the “hook-you-in-and-make-you-sorry-for-me” variety. Initially you may perceive this type of person as very sensitive, emotionally open and maybe a little vulnerable. This is not to say what they are sharing is a lie, but ask yourself why they chose to share this sensitive information. Guys know all too well that we ladies are almost addicted to fixing things that seem broken. Don’t take the bait, keep a safe distance and observe a little first because with abusers there will always be a problem or a crisis to overcome.
Will your partner never deal with an issue directly? Do they talk behind you balk and put others in a position of telling you what they would not directly say themselves. They tell you what you want to hear and then do some asshole stuff to undermine it. For example, okay honey go out for a drink with your friends. You get back and find them sullen and you only get one word responses to your attempts at conversation. Then, they go do something dramatic in retaliation. They rarely initialize direct confrontation but goad you into ‘starting it’ at which point they will make you feel crazy for yelling or breaking down in tears. Dare you call them on such behavior they will call you dramatic or over-sensitive, turning the situation around on you. Run, because this person has mastered psychological warfare.
They overcome their buried self loathing with an over compensating narcissistic complex. They genuinely believe you should know know how they feel and what to to make them happy, without being told. They believe they deserve to be treated better (no matter how good you try, try better) and given preferential treatment and be at the top of your priority list. they are masters of back handed compliments, designed to subtly hurt but masked as concern or a joke. They may order you a salad for dinner and suggest innocently that you seem uncomfortable with your body.
They can make you feel guilty for almost anything. They rarely speak out their needs and expect to get what they want without asking for it. When they do finally speak out, it is to criticize you for something you did wrong or fault you for a desire you did not telepathically fulfill. Nothing you do is right or good enough. They will hamper your personal development by not letting you achieve your dreams. They make you feel like the best thing they did was take pity on you and love you (which they genuinely do not). With enough time you will feel undeserving of time and love, theirs or anyone else.
They appear to more than happy to help. They make verbal assertions supporting your goals and dreams, but the follow through is impossible for them since they didn’t mean it in the first place. When the time comes for them to back up their words with actions the heavy sighs and remind you how they’ve already done for you ( in the process pointing out a thousand of your shortcomings). If they do ever finally do something substantial for you, they will NEVER let you FORGET about it despite the fact that you are always catering to their incessant needs.
If this person is unhappy, everyone in the room can feel it. They have the ability to impact the emotional climate of those around them and invoke someone to equalize the climate by making them feel better through fixing the problem for them. Soon enough you will be so busy solving whatever emotion they are silently propagating that you forget you have needs of your own which also deserve attention.
I wish I could say that there is a way to solve emotional abuse without leaving the abuser, but there isn’t. If really want to save the relationship, save yourself first and give the abuser space to battle their internal demons. For the abuser, it is about control, trying harder won’t stop them from being mean only show that their tactics are working. Abusers, physical or emotional, are abusive because of their internal issues and self loathing not because of anything you did. No amount of work or attempts to please will stop an abuser from abusing, only they can recognize their problem and work on their issues (with a shrink). You must have the courage to distance yourself from the relationship and avoid contact with the abuser before you forget who you were and define yourself only in their terms. No matter how much you change for them it will never be enough(or even appreciated).
I believe life is too short to spend trying to convince a giant baby to grow up and not just old!