How can you tell if you are in an emotional abuse relationship?

15 Nov 2010

Most women who are in an emotional abuse relationship have an inkling, or a sense, that things are not as they should be, that their partner’s treatment is not appropriate, or acceptable.  However, they also deeply confused.  They are confused both by what is happening, and by what their partner tells them.  The result is that they don’t even feel they can trust their feelings.

What has happened to make them unable to trust their own feelings?

In an emotional abuse relationship, the abusive partner deliberately sets out to

undermine his partner, and ‘mess with her head’.

He tells her that her view of the world is wrong, and his is right.  He tells her he only behaved badly towards her because she provoked him.  He tells her that she is worthless, and he is wonderful.  He tells her that she is lucky to have him.  He tells her that she is a lousy wife/girlfriend (and mother), and she doesn’t do enough for him – even when she focuses every last ounce of her energy on trying to make him happy.

An emotional abuse relationship is one in which one person spends their time and energy trying to make the other happy, while the other focuses on creating a climate of misery, and fear.

Some of the key indications of an emotional abuse relationship are:

  • The abused partner will tell you how good things were once.
  • There is no laughter and shared happiness. An abuser will make his partner miserable, and constantly on the watch for the next attack
  • The abused partner has lost all her self-confidence.
  • She is punished for an endless series of nonsensical offences.
  • She is accused of crimes that are so ridiculous as to be laughable
  • She is blamed for everything
  • She lives in a state of fear
  • She lives on shifting sands.  There is no consistency: what was acceptable one day, is not acceptable the next.
  • She is never safe: he will attack her, verbally or physically, out of the blue, at any time, including last thing at night, first thing in the morning, when she is just falling asleep, or when she thought that they had just had a good time
  • She shuts off from other people: she becomes too ashamed at what happens in the relationship to be able to open up with other people.
  • She feels that the only way her life will ever improve is if her relationship improves.  If that doesn’t happen then – she feels – her life is over.

An emotional abuse relationship is not unlike being abducted by an alien; an alien who really does not like or value you – whatever he may say to the contrary.  Suddenly, you find you have been snatched away from the world you knew, and dumped in a world that has crazy rules, because it is run by a crazy dictator.  That crazy dictator is your abusive partner.

Leaving that world can be very hard, if you don’t have help.  Because an abuser will not let you go without a fight.  It’s not that he loves you, but he does need you there for his reasons.  With the right help, you can deal with all his attacks, stop believing the awful things he said about you, and start to feel that you are worthy of a life filled with love, respect and happiness.

If you are in an emotional abuse relationship, please understand that it is not your fault.  The only thing you ever did wrong was trying to believe your abusive partner was better than he is.  When you are ready to get out of the relationship, move on, and heal your life, my 10 step Emotional Abuse Healing Journey may be just what you need.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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