Emotional Abuse 8: What to Do?

When you realize that you are the target of emotional abuse, the priority is to get your self-esteem and confidence back. back on track is a priority. Often, we allow people into our lives who treat us as we expect to be treated. If we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, it is quite possible we treat ourselves the same way.

  • Remember, no one ever deserves to be abused, specially not you.
  • Realize that it is a serious problem. It can be as bad or worse than physical abuse.
  • It can eventually lead to physical abuse too—it is not possbile to handle both problems.
  • Consider the issue of safety—your own and that of your children. Such people are usually mentally unstable.
  • You are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior. That’s his or her problem. You are perfectly normal.
  • Don’t feel trapped in the relationship.
  • Learn to love and care for yourself.
  • Remove thoughts such as I am no good or I never do anything right.
  • Increas your self-esteem and be confident.
  • Take the help of your near and dear ones. Find people to talk to, who can understand and support you.
  • Consider going for counseling. If possible, convince your spouse to go as well.
  • Trust yourself and your own perceptions. Believe in your strengths.
  • Remember that you are not alone and help is available.

Handling Emotionally Abusive Relationship

In minor cases of emotional abuse, two other options may be available.

  • Resisting: Standing up against the emotional abuse and no longer being a willing to be a part of to it may eventually lead to a change. Remember, for the abuser, the ultimate victory is when they have control of your happiness, can create sadness, and upset in you at any time with ease. They get a high when are able to control your emotions like a yo-yo on a string.

So, all you have to do is be emotionally strong in front of that sick person. Show that their actions don’t affect you at all, don’t break down, weep, or ask them to change/keep quite. That is exactly the reaction they what to see. Don’t give them that happiness. Learn to resist. But unfortunately, in 80% cases, by the time the abuser realises that he/she into an emotional abuse, it is just too late.

  • Counselling: Couple counselling and/or individual counselling, may address the destructive emotionally abusive dynamics in the marriage/relationship. Unfortunately, counselling will help only if the abuser realises that there is a problem.

Unfortunately, most abusers don’t think there is a problem with them. According to them the problem is with the others. This is a mental disease which does not seem to have any solution. Hence, the most obvious and simple way of handling an emotionally abusive relationship is by coming out of it. In simple words it means leaving the marriage/relationship. Depending on how far the emotional abuse has gone, this may be the only option.

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Emotional Abuse 7: Are You a Victim?

Are you depressed, sad, annoyed, anxious, and tired most of the time? Have you noticed changes in your eating or sleeping habits? Have you lost self-confidence and are unable to make decisions for yourself? If that is the case, chances are you are a victim of emotional abuse.

Here are some signs you will feel in an emotionally abusive relationship:

  1. Much as you want to, you avoid talking to your partner about a normal happening of the day—the tensions at work, your medical issues, problems with kids, renovation, purchases, etc, because you are not sure what reaction you might get.
  2. When you take an effort and talk to your spouse, he/she puts you down, asks you to shut up, or does not listen to you, and makes you feel stupid for the effort you put in.
  3. You make yourself available to your partner no matter what the personal cost, just to avoid a confrontation.
  4. You cringe at the thought of friends/family get together, because you are afraid he will criticize and humiliate you in front of your loved ones yet again.
  5. You start going into isolation. You want to avoid family reunions and meeting with friends because your partner is bound to say things to make you upset and unhappy. Any a tiems the spouse ends up convincing you that they are the ones who are abusive to you by not taking your side.
  6. You find yourself rushing to the defense of your spouse whenever anyone says negative about him/her in a conversation. You make excuses for their behavior regardless of the situation.
  7. You begin to believe that you are the crazy one or that that you are probably the one with the problem.
  8. When you or someone else talks about your accomplishment—-a promotion at work, or or something exciting, your partner sneers at you, putting you down, mocking your achievement rather than celebrating it.
  9. You feel helpless and trapped in the relationship.
  10. Your partner treats you like an object, like property, not like a person with real feelings.
  11. Your partner keeps a tight control his/her things, specially money and phone.
  12. If you fight back, your significant other blames you for the abusive behavior. “If you weren’t so dumb, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”
  13. You’ve begun to see yourself as worthless — just like your partner tells you are.
  14. You will go out of your way to please your spouse, no matter how much you have to sacrifice. If that means staying up all night to scrub the floor or spending hours trying to cook an elaborate meal. It beats the emotion atyachar.
  15. You sometimes feel as though you deserve to be treated badly because had you been a better person, you wouldn’t make your spouse so mad.

They will help you identify if you are being emotionally abused, and provide some ideas on what you can do about it.

 What can you do about emotional abuse?

The priority is to get your self-esteem back on track is a priority. Often, we allow people into our lives who treat us as we expect to be treated. If we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, it is quite possible we treat ourselves the same way.

  •  Remember, no one ever deserves to be abused, specially not you.
  • Realize that it is a serious problem. It can be as bad or worse than physical abuse.
  • It can lead to physical abuse.
  • Take the issue of safety—your own and that of your children seriously. Such people are usually mentally unstable.
  • You are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior. That’s his or her problem. You are perfectly normal.
  • Don’t feel trapped in the relationship.
  • Learn to love and care for yourself.
  • Remove thoughts such as I am no good or I never do anything right” dominate your thought.
  • Increasing self-esteem and makes it more likely you will have healthy relationships.
  • Find people to talk to, who can understand and support you. Consider going for counseling. If possible, convince your spouse to go as well. Take the help of your near and dear ones.
  • Trust yourself and your own perceptions. Believe in your strengths.
  • Remember that you are not alone and help is available.

Emotional Abuse 6: Types (2)

9. Emotional blackmail: The abuser will play on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, and other emotional buttons to get what they want. This could include threats to reject you, abandon you, end the relationship, or even commit suicide. Such people will use any type of fear and emotional tactics to control your emotions. When they realise that these tactics won’t work, they move to the next stage, the silent treatment.

 10. Silent treatment: silence is another form of denying. It includes refusing to communicate and emotionally withdrawing from the other person as punishment. Hence it is called the silent treatment. In this case, all your effort to make a connection with the person, will be met by silence.

Sometime, you will not get an answer to even simple questions like, Do you want tea? The problem is after half an hour, after you have made tea for yourself, the person will come strolling in and will throw a bigger tantrum for not getting tea. It can include:

  • Distancing/isolating from a person, for example, by walking out of the room immediately after the person enters a room or shortly thereafter.
  • Not replying to your queries or questions and locking in a separate room.
  • Walking around as though you don’t exist at all.
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Looking at the person with an air of disgust. Although “not speaking” is a manipulative tool often favoured by narcissists, not everyone that uses silence abuse is a narcissist.

The victim is usually unaware that it is a highly destructive form of emotional abuse. The abuser withdraws affection, love and respect from the victim for an indefinite period. This behavior will go on for a day, a week, a month or even longer. At the end of the torture, the person expects you to accept him/her with open arms without any complaints or queries. The only way to counter this behavior is to look happy and not affected by the behaviour. If the abuser knows that you are being affected, he/she will increase the duration of the silence and do it more often to disturb you more.

11. Money game: If you are a home maker (and have no income), your spouse will keep sole control over all of the money. If you are working, you will find that there will be a “my money” and “your money” type discussion. Initially you might give in, because you are used to the concept of “our” money. But later on you will realize that you are the one who is spending money for all the requirements—your’s your spouses, your kids, and house hold expenditure.

The moment, you realise what is happening and try to get things into control, the abuser gets out of control. He/she will refuse to make any expenses for you or the kids. Might spend some money in groceries or things they like, but otherwise, they openly crib about money.

Example: Suraj and Bijli both are well-to-do professionals working with well known MNCs. Suraj appears to be a charmer, but in reality is an emotional abuser. Bijli realised it only after the birth of their child. Till then she did have the feeling that something was wrong, but could not pin point the problematic area.

Now, Bijli takes care of all her expenses and that of her teenage son’s. Every time they plan a vacation, Suraj agrees to it under the condition that she pays for herself and their son. According to him he has no bank balance, and Bijli has absolutely no idea about his financial condition. Recently things got so bad that Suraj refused to pay up or support in funding for his daughter’s medical coahing class. According to him she should do home science instaed of making them spend money on coaching classes snd professional courses.

On the other hand Suraj gives counselling to his sister and brother regarding  their kids further education and tells them how a good coahing class can make all the difference for cracking an enterance exam.

With this kind of dual behaviour, no one will actually believe that Suraj is not bothered about about his daughter’s studies when he takes so much time and effort to counsel his nephew and neice.  

12. Irresponsible behaviour: Doing every chore and duty in the marriage is the responsibility of both the partners. Not assisting in any work relating to the household, family, or children. Adding to the burden by making cutting remarks about how poorly you manage the children/household. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking. Sometimes, the abuser also displays drastic mood changes which is damaging specially to the kids.

13. Sexual. Most of the time, the abuser, especially the husband treats his wife like a sex object. He is rough, self centered, degrading, an/or forceful in expressing his sexuality. If his wife shares an opinion about certain behavior, he will ensure to do it—so that she does not complain further.

Example: Jasmine is extremely allergic to cigarette smoke and she the smell of alcohol repelled her. So she requested Imran, her husband to avoid coming to her in the night smelling of a cigarette or of alcohol. She also took the efforts to explain. Unfortunately, the sick man did not even try to understand why she made the request, inspite of knowing her condition pretty well. Imran ensured to go to her smelling of a cigarette and alcohol. As a result of which Jasmine would go on a sneezing bout as soon as he came close to her.

What Imran did not understand is that Jasmine wanted to make life easier not only for her, but for him as well. Instead, he thought of this as a command from her (rather than a request and a suggestion) and ensured to do what she requested him not to, to show her who the “boss” was. When a husband exerts his power and control sexually, it is both physically and emotionally abusive! It is a total turn off!

Emotional Abuse 4: Consequences

The effects of emotional abuse are cumulative and hence it keeps increasing over time. In an emotional abuse, the attack is on the self esteem of the victim. Over a period of time, self-esteem, self-confidence, and patience are worn down. As a result, you will wonder in confusion about what is real and true.

  • Are you who your spouse says you are?
  • Are you stupid, foolish, and an idiot as your spouse says?
  • Are you lazy and a failure as a wife/husband?
  • Are you incapable of making good decisions?
  • Are your perceptions incorrect?

No, not at all, but that is what you being to feel and you also start questioning your on capability. Do you engage in self-blame and turn your anger inward? Are you angry about the injustices? Do you feel depressed, lack of concentration, de-motivated, helpless, hopeless, worthless, unloved, inadequate, incompetent, and very anxious? If yes, you are probably victim to emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is crippling. It robs you of your self-esteem, the ability to think rationally, confidence in yourself self, and your independence. Slowly you start blaming yourself for all problems and fights. You move out of the real and true world as reality faded away, and lies take root. You feel that you have all the deficiencies, causing the problems, and hence tend to excuse the abuser, and eventually accept your suffering as what you deserve.

If words and behaviors of your spouse have caused any of the following feelings it is time to seek help:

  1. You have to do excessive follow up on your spouse even to get an important thing done.Example: You have to remind your spouse time and again about paying children’s school fee, doctor’s appointment, picking children from school, going for a birthday party, renewing passport, paying electricity bill, etc).
  2. You feel a sense of depression and anxiety most of the time. You don’t remember the last time you were genuinely happy.
  3. Anything you do or say will be first met with dismissal and with anger.  So, you constantly live in the fear that anything you do or say will be met with either with anger/dismissal.
  4. Your feelings and/or desires just don’t seem to matter at all. You feel like that that’s your problem. When he or she does not feel good, it is your problem too.
  5. You constantly think about saying or doing the right thing so that your spouse does not become upset and change the calm atmosphere existing in the house.
  6. You are unable to plan ahead because of your spouse’s disinterest or non-response to any plans or ideas you have, even if it about inviting friends over.
  7. Any action you take is criticized unless it is one of compliance to his/her desires.
  8. You feel as if you don’t have the energy it would take to fight back against their controlling behavior.
  9. You often live in the past—there is an inclination to review past incidents with the hope of determining what went wrong.
  10. You start distrusting people and keep maintain only the relationships where there are absolutely no issues.

One consequence of emotional abuse is that the self-worth and self-confidence of the victim is completely worn down, sometimes to the point of total hopelessness and despair. The victim may have difficulty discerning the truth. They may begin to wonder if they really are a failure, confusion is rampant. The victim begins to wonder who she can believe or who she can trust.

Emotional Abuse 3: Spotting Abusers

It is very difficult to spot the people who involve in emotional abuse. Most of the time, the abusers live a dual life—an abuser in private and a charmer in public. The abusive personality is characterized by:

  • The wish to control and dominate others.
  • The tendency to blame others for their own problems and to release their frustrations on other people
  • Verbal abuse and silent treatment.
  • An overwhelming need to take revenge and to make the others suffer for imaginary insults.
  • Always demanding respect but not respecting anyone.
  • Insisting that their needs are very important but are blind to other people’s needs. 

Apart from these, there are a few few characters you can observe and then decide to yourself:

  • Charmers in public: Many people live with resentful, angry, or abusive spouses who are charmers to the rest of the world as they have a totally different personality in front of the public. So much so that if their spouses complain, people often conclude that they are unreasonable, hysterical, liars, or even abusive. Such people have no trouble at all playing the sensitive, caring person when in public. But in the privacy of their homes they are the most difficult person to live with.

If your spouse is a charmer in public, his/her resentment, anger, or abuse at home is designed to keep you from getting close enough to see how inadequate and unlovable (s)he really is. Such people use their charm and social skills to avoid and cover up their flaws. But unfortunately, this masquerade falls flat in an intimate relationship.

In fooling the public, they make a fool of you, but in the end, make an even bigger fool of themselves. Hence, when someone get to see the real them, they distance themselves from them.

  • Liars: Usually emotional abusers are compulsive liars. They say one thing to their spouse or force them to do something and say just the opposite to the others, especially to show their spouse in a bad light.Example: Staying in a nuclear family, Rani wanted to celebrate all the festivals and follow religious rituals so that the children understand them. Rani was looking forward to celebrate Diwali. She prepared a list of what needs to be purchased—clothes, diyas, groceries, etc. Rajesh, her husband refused to purchase saying that things are expensive and they should not spend money unnecessarily.

Ranji was hurt by this. She could have walked out and bought the things. But she kept quite because she did not want to have an argument and spoil the environment at home. On Diwali, when friends and relatives called to wish them, Rajesh told very one, “Aree, So nice that babhi prepared all that. We are not celebrating Diwali. We have not prepared anything at home and so I ordered food and sweets from out. I envy you guys” Relatives felt sorry for him and the kids and blamed Rani for not organizing things and being lazy. Not once did Rajesh say that it was his idea and not Rani’s.

Here, Rajesh forced the idea of not celebrating Diwali, but showed the outsiders that he was envious about them that they did. It also showcased Rani in a bad light which is what he actually wanted to do. It also showed the other how inefficient Rani is. According to Rajesh, he did not lie to his family or friends. He just told them about the condition at home. What Rajesh refuses to understand is that not telling the facts is lying.

  • Inferiority complex: In general, spouses who are abusive often have a profound sense of inferiority. They feel worthless and unsuccessful. Hence to prove themselves, they greatly desire the approval of their peers and others around. They strongly feel that they have a right to have their own way. They are hypersensitive to the words and actions of their own spouses and interpret their actions and words as disrespectful.

Since they may not be able to earn praise for their abilities form the others, they usually will try to show to the others how useless and worthless the spouse is. This is the only way they can “show” that they are better. When people close to them slowly see through goodness in the spouse and praise the spouse, these people tends to pull them down even more.

Example: Sunita came from a close knit family—her parents were strict, but showered love and affection on her and her brother. When Sunita got married, she wanted to do all the house hold work along with the career which managed very well. She cooked, cleaned the house, spend some time every week dusting and cleaning up the house, did the laundry, ironed the clothes, helped the children with their studies, spend quality time with them, etc.

Since Sunita did all the activities in the house, she wanted Anmol, her husband to help out with the groceries. All he had to do was buy them. Sunita prepared the list, and when Anmol got the stuff, she sorted and stored them. All their friends admired Sunita—the way she ran the house, looked after the kids, encouraged their hobbies, and managed her career.

Anmol could not digest the praises Sunita earned. So whenever they had company and someone praised Sunita, Anmol would talk about how inefficient she is as she never stepped out even to buy grocery for the house and ho he had to struggle with this duty.

  • Demands respect: People who emotionally abuse their spouse demand respect and feel no need to earn it. In turn, their behavior conditions their family to fear, despise, and disrespect them. But unfortunately, they refuse to understand the reality that their own behavior is not right because of which they are losing the respect of their spouse, kids, or friends.

Example: David, Mary’s husband used to publically criticize, humiliate, and intimidate her. He never left a single opportunity to insult her in public. Infact even when friends had a few of appreciation for her, David used to turn the talk in a negative direction. According to him, he tries to create a good environment by making a joke. What he refused to understand is that he was making joke of his wife.

Apart from this, he used disrespectful language with the kids, made fun of them in public, praised their friends instead, shooed them away if they wanted to talk to him, etc. Because of his behavior towards them and their mother, and the embarrassment he deliberately caused them, the kids did not respect him as they should respect a father.

Unfortunately it is difficult to make such people understand that to gain respect from others, they need to change their attitude and respect the others too. If they make this little change, respect will come to them on their own. After all, respect and love is mutual—give and take.

Like other forms of violence in relationships, emotional abuse rests on the premise of power and control. It eventually brainwashes the victim and wears away their self-confidence, self-worth and trust.

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.