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 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 gets 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 celebrating 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 quiet 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 every 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 tend 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 household 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 words 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 insulting of his wife (or making a joke of her).

Apart from this, he used disrespectful language with the kids. He made fun of his kids in public and 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 are 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 the spouse asks a question or some information. The idea is that the spouse should not question their actions.
  8. Expects the spouse to follow them, ask what’s wrong and then pamper them.
  9. Does not apologize 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 the 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 the 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 things 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 the 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.

Emotional Abuse 1: What Is It?

When you enter into a marital relationship, you expect your emotions to be respected and nurtured. You expect to be loved, respected and cared for (and the vice versa). In a successful relationship you will find that the partners love, care, and respect each other. Even if one of the ingredients is missing, the marriage is not successful in the true sense. But what happens when abuse becomes one of the ingredients instead of these three?

Abuse is any behaviour that controls another person by means of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, manipulation, etc. 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 by their partner, they are not being abused. That is not necessarily true.

If you are in a relationship that is draining something from you, you are undergoing some type of abuse. Emotional abuse can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics like repeated disapproval, non interest in communicating, or even silence.

Does it sound Familiar?

My husband wants to do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants. He is emotionally absent even when he is home. To date, my husband has not shown or expressed love or affection saying that he cannot display affection. But he does that with other people.

He refuses to resolve the smallest of conflicts. Infact he denies there is a conflict. If I gently try to express hurt, he denies he has done wrong. He is a master at making excuses. He is generally indifferent towards me—not caring about what I did in a day’s time, not interested in the things I say, and certainly has no desire to share anything about his life with me. But at the end of the day he wants (and often demands) to be treated with care, love, affection, and with load of respect.

If I suggest an alternative idea to any of his plans, he perceives me as trying to control him. He does not like to be questioned or challenged. It annoys him. He is self-absorbed—his time is his time; his activities are his activities, things purchased by him are his, etc. His definition of family is his parents and siblings. I wonder what importance my kids and I have in his life. I take care of our (mine and my kids) expenses and requirements.

If he spends any money on us, he reminds it time and gain in front of friends and relatives, but does not mind purchasing expensive gifts for his family (brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews).  He also forgets to mention that he rarely spends any money on us. His life is centered around making calls to his friends and “family”. So, to the outside world, he is caring, a charmer, a communicator.

 This does not mean that only men behave this way. I used “husband” as the villian in this example, probably because I am a woman and also becuase I have seen men indulge in kind of behaviour.

Emotional abuse is defined as behavior designed to degrade/humiliate someone by attacking their self-value. It takes place in the form of shaming, blaming, intimidating, dismissing, and/or making threats.  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.

Emotional abuse in a marriage is such a covert form of domestic violence and abuse—you may not even recognize that you are a victim or be aware that your partner has stripped you off your self-esteem respect, and happiness. You may have a feeling that something is wrong. You may feel stressed out, unhappy, unimportant, isolated, disillusioned, and depressed. Yet, you can not quite identify what is causing those feelings. This state of confusion is usually caused due to emotional abuse.

Married couples often fight, but emotional abuse is different than an occasional outburst of anger.  In case of a fight, the person responsible for the fight is usually  remorseful after the encounter is over. The angry person offers a sincere apology later, in an attempt to heal the rift that the hurt (due to argument) has caused. This is not the case in an emotionally abusive situation.

Cycle of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is a cycle or pattern of behavior designed to control, manipulate, or force submission. Emotional abuse often follows a pattern.

    • Phase I: The abuser breaks down all forms of communication. This builds-up tension in the relationship.

      Any attempt on your part to talk or communicate with the person is futile—it is faced by absolute silence. To maintain this silence, they just walk away, lock them selves in the bathroom/bedroom, or make all possible attempt to instigate you into an argument which you want to avoid.

    • Phase II: This involves the actual incidents of verbal and emotional abuse.
    • Phase III: It involves reconciliation. The abuser offers lame excuses, blames the victim, and denies the abuse occurred.

      The abuser will try to prove that you has got it all wrong—blame it on misunderstanding from your part or anything else. “you did not understand what I said“, “your didn’t understand the language and hence misunderstood what I said“, “I was trying to be funny”, “it was a joke, but you don’t understand jokes, “you are not intellegent enough to understand what I say“, and lots more.

    • Phase IV: In this phase, there is calm. The victim tries to forget the incident and get along with life.

Then, after a few days, the cycle repeats itself.

Hope you are now able to spot the people who involve in emotion abuse. If you are the victim, try to analyse the stuation and get some help. Read on…. https://sajithajayaprakash.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/emotional2-sign