I am often asked to define emotional abuse and I always say that it is hard to answer definitively because each case is based on an individual level. It’s easy to believe that derogatory behaviour may happen if couples no longer have deep and loving feelings for each other. Perhaps, irritability or frustration creeps into the equation although, this is never a reason for treating someone badly. But however you wish to define emotional abuse, know this, it is far more common than you might think and, even if you are in a loving relationship, there will be many people around you who are cruel or damaging relationships.
So how do you know if you are a victim of emotional abuse?
Sadly, within a toxic environment, there is often humiliation or criticising behaviour. Sometimes, spiteful comments are wrapped up in humour but of course, this doesn’t detract from the core message, even if it makes it harder to quantify.
It’s easier to comprehend if you consider your own relationship. Does your partner make fun of you, or, regularly insult you in front of others? Does he talk down to you or treat you as if you are a child? Does he make you feel that you are to blame if there is an argument?
If this all sounds familiar, it’s likely that you have questioned this behaviour and you may have been accused of being too sensitive, too silly or too paranoid. Over time, derogatory behaviour can be hugely damaging. It leads to feelings of insecurity and self-doubts and will of course, widen the divide between you. Condescending behaviour is not funny and sarcastic comments designed to hurt are not conducive to a loving relationship.
Where possible, it’s worth trying to fix any issues within your relationship but typically, talking it out doesn’t work. Counselling is a good option if you are both willing to go, but, just having awareness of any abusive behaviour will help to stop the decline in respect of your own self-esteem or confidence. It may be that you can’t resolve your relationship and then, the choice is yours if you wish to stay, but, never let anyone take away your belief in who you are.