Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse can be hard to identify in a relationship. It starts small with a few cruel comments and evolves quickly into a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see a pattern emerge when you’re deeply attached to the person you’re dating. Our natural instincts are to make our partners happy, making it easier for us to question our own validity when the person we love begins to abuse that relationship. It’s harder to draw the line between compromise and manipulation.

Though every situation is unique, here are seven of the telltale signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

Couple in bed

1. Your partner gaslights you

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that often kickstarts an abusive person’s reign of terror. Like many forms of abuse, gaslighting is on a spectrum from moderate to severe. A gaslighter will manipulate your perception of reality by denying your thoughts, feelings, and version of events.

Often times, the abuser will use demeaning language like:

  • You’re crazy.
  • You’re lying.
  • You made a mistake in the past, so what I did doesn’t matter.
  • It wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

These subtle statements have one intention: To undermine your self-confidence. This form of emotional abuse breaks down your security of self and if not handled properly, has long term effects on your mental health.

2. Your partner punishes you

Punishment doesn’t have to be physical. Withholding affection or deploying guilt trips is another form of emotional abuse that is often found in toxic relationships. It implies that if you don’t act the way your partner wants you to, they have the right to punish you. If your partner denies you common decency when you’re late to dinner, you should take it as a red flag.

3. You’re afraid to talk to your partner

No one should be afraid to talk to their spouse about their thoughts or feelings. If you find yourself walking on eggshells around your partner for fear of triggering their temper, you’re experiencing a form of emotional abuse.

Often times, emotionally abusive partners will manipulate the situation by:

  • Raising their voice or calling your names
  • Refusing to listen to your concerns
  • Threating to commit suicide if you leave them

Couples will argue and sometimes, one of you will raise your voice every once in a while but that doesn’t mean that every fight warrants a blowout. If you can’t have an honest conversation with your partner, it’s time to examine whether or not the two of you should continue the relationship.

4. Your partner cheats on you

Sometimes people make mistakes. Other times, people make habits. If your partner is having extramarital affairs or simply sleeping around on you need to leave the relationship. This is especially true if your partner tries to scapegoat you for their shortcomings. Do not allow anyone to make excuses for cheating or lying to you, regardless of how much you love them.

5. Your friends and family don’t approve

There’s a difference between your mom not liking your boyfriend’s car and your mother concerned about the way he talks to you. If your friends and family don’t approve of your relationships, you should take it as a sign that this relationship may not be healthy. Those closest to you are the first to pick up on when your behavior changes. More importantly, they genuinely care for your welfare. Trust their instincts (or at the very least, consider them).

6. You’re miserable all of the time

Every relationship has a rough patch where you may find yourself miserable more than usual, but no relationship should be a constant source of misery. Emotional abuse is a heavy weight that doesn’t go away when you leave for work in the morning. It finds a way into every area of your life. You should not be spending the majority of every day fixated on your relationship and how it makes you miserable.

7. Your partner is possessive

If your boyfriend or girlfriend insists on knowing where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with- they’re being possessive. This presents in the following common ways:

  • They try to control how you dress.
  • They need you to constantly update them on your location.
  • They become jealous when you talk to other people.

If you try to argue their possessive tendencies, they have a tendency to remind you how you are everything to them or downright tell you they have the right to act this way.

If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, we implore you to find a way to end it. Though you may have a tendency to feel like you can fix the relationship, an abusive partner rarely changes their ways permanently. Reach out to your friends and family for support. If needed, enlist the help of a mental health professional to help you learn how to confront and conquer your abusive relationship.

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