Emotional Abuse 2: The Signs

When we talk about abuse, people usually think of physical abuse. About 90% of the people assume that if they are not being physically abused, they are not being abused. That is not necessarily true. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.

Emotional abuse can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics like repeated disapproval, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, emotional abandonment, silent treatment, disinterest in communicating, or even silence.

The other forms are: degradation, discounting, negating, humiliation, shaming, blaming, intimidating, dismissing, domination, control, shame, isolation, or neglect.  Whatever form it takes, the effects for the abused individual can be crippling. Initially the victim does not even realize what is happening because nobody expects a spouse to be so abusive.

Signs to look for in abusers

Abusers will do the following:

  1. Tell lies and half-truths to avoid giving an explanation regarding their actions.
  2. Accuse and blame others, especially spouses or kids (who are readily available) to divert negative attention away from themselves.
  3. Change the subject to divert attention from themselves to others.
  4. Constantly criticizes the weight, looks, color, or the way of dressing of the spouse.
  5. Blames the spouse and makes them feel responsible for their negative feelings and/or actions.
  6. Stops the spouse from telling people about the problems between the two. But goes around telling distorted stories showing the spouse in a bad light.
  7. Use silent treatment—-keeps quite when spouse asks a question or some information. The idea is that the spouse should not question their actions.
  8. Expects the spouse to follow the, ask what’s wrong and then pamper them.
  9. Does not apologizes for any mistakes made, instead finds someone else to blame it on.
  10. Tells the spouse to do things rather than asking or requesting them to do them.
  11. Makes the spouse feel guilty when they don’t want to have sex.
  12. Physically and emotionally pressures the spouse into having sex when they cannot or don’t want to.
  13. Doesn’t accept or respect the decisions of the spouse.
  14. Drinks anytime of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). Gets annoyed if someone spots their stock which may even be hidden below the car seat or in the flush?
  15. Show inappropriate emotional out bursts (a form of distracting attention and shifting blame)
  16. Withhold information from those they are abusing. This gives them the control to manipulate future events. 
  17. Avoid acknowledging the feelings of others, while bringing up how their emotions are being affected.
  18. Cut off the spouses when they call them and later give all possible excuses for not taking the call or for cutting it abruptly.
  19. Make the spouse feel worthless by criticizing, humiliating, intimidating, and/or making fun of them.
  20. Ask inappropriate questions or make insulting comments to evoke emotional responses.
  21. Instigate the spouse and push them so hard emotionally, to say things that they want the others to hear.
  22. Humiliate spouse in public situations to show their superiority.
  23. Slander the name, reputation, associations or activities of the spouse if they are unable to control the way they want to.
  24. Pretend to understand concerns and issues (in public) and then disregarding them (at home).
  25. Do all possible things to lower the self-esteem of their spouses.
  26. Threaten or hint of physical, mental, or sexual abuse—“I shall hit you if you don’t listen to me” “I shall kill you if you say this incident to anyone else.”
  27. Show affection and be nice when there is no other option at all, especially when they want to show off to some important person or when they feel they are trapped into a corner
  28. Make digs or jokes at the spouses, yet say “I am just kidding” while still being abusive.
  29. Refuse to accept the perspective of others while irrationally defending their own.
  30. Deny anything that he/she has done wrong (not being responsible and lying to self).
  31. Deliberately forget commitments and promises.
  32. Take advantage of vulnerabilities of the spouse.
  33. Look to eliminate the choices of others, while gathering control for themselves.
  34. Ask inappropriate questions or make insinuating comments to evoke emotional responses from spouse. Then tell others, “see how emotional he/she is”
  35. The actions and promises are out of alignment. They say one thing and do another.

If you have answered yes to even some of the statements (say 5), you need to be aware you are getting into an abusive relationship. If you have answered yes to all, it is high time you take some step either to rectify it (by going to a counselor) or to get out of such a relationship!!

How to quickly identify an abuser?

Some quick indicators of personality of emotional abusers are:

  1. Low self-confidence
  2. Poor self-image
  3. Unable to feel trust
  4. Refuse to do most of the tings requested by the spouse
  5. Often frustrated at nothing
  6. Lying and cheating on a daily basis
  7. Avoids eye contact
  8. Overly aggressive at home
  9. Destructive or cruel to family (spouse and/or kids)
  10. Impulsive in actions
  11. Lacks self-control  in action or speech
  12. Over-compliant
  13. Detached from spouse and kids
  14. Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships
  15. Little enthusiasm in doing activities with family.
  16. Extremely low perseverance
  17. Lack of empathy
  18. Failure to thrive 
  19. Suffers from sleep, speech disorders
  20. Demonstrates compulsions, obsessions, phobias, hysterical outbursts
  21. Alcohol abuse, but blames the habit on spouse
  22. Negative statements about self
  23. Shy, passive or compliant
  24. Self-destructive behavior
  25. Overly demanding

If you happen to see these signs in your spouse or others, you need to understand that the person is an emotional abuser and requires professional help. Most of the time you should be emotionally prepared to leave the relationship.


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