“Emotional abuse is hard to recognise because…

17 Oct 2013

OMG childsmallEmotionally abused women often say: “It took me years to realize it was emotional abuse. It’s really hard to recognise an emotionally abusive partner’s behavior for what it is, because it’s just so subtle.” 

That’s a common belief, but it’s not helpful. If you believe emotional abuse is really hard to recognise, then you’re at risk, and there’s not much you can do about it – short of becoming very, very defensive. Besides, once you have that belief, you’re less likely to recognise emotional abuse – because the odds are not good of you recognising something that you know is hard to recognise, especially given history… 

The belief that you can’t recognise an emotionally abusive man isn’t going to keep you safe – and happy – going forward. 

That being the case, you’d be better served by ditching it in favor of a more helpful, empowering belief. 

In order to arrive at that, let’s start by looking at you – respectfully, but honestly. You are a trusting person, trusting to the point of gullibility. It’s not a bad thing, inasmuch as it doesn’t make you a bad person. But it is an important factor you need to take into account. 

All emotionally abused women are trusting to the point of gullibility – however cynical they may sound on the surface. That gullibility will leave you exposed to unscrupulous people, especially abusive, manipulative men. 

PPOHSince you’re not going to be able to rid the world of emotional abusers – sadly, that’s one commission the Pied Piper of Hamelin has flatly refused – and emotional abusers have NOT agreed to wear a tag, carry a banner, or have a warning sign tattooed on their foreheads (spoilsports!) it has to be down to you. We need to make the shift from thinking: 

I couldn’t have seen my emotionally abusive husband coming”,


I know exactly what I’m looking out for, I’ve got my running shoes to hand, laces knotted around my neck, ready for action, and I’m cool with heading, at speed, for ‘them thar hills!’” 

So, how do you do it? 

First off, we’ve identified your native gullibility. That’s a good start. 

Next, we have to understand what you’re just not getting. 

Let me spell out for you what you are just not getting, at the moment: 

you are NOT meant to feel bad around a partner. That is not how relationships are meant to work. 

If being around your partner, prospective partner, suitor, or allegedly lovesick swain has you feeling: 

  • lovesickswinesmallsmall
  • stupid
  • worth less, or
  • inferior in any way

that’s NOT “just you“.  


That means something is profoundly W-R-O-N-G.

That is not how a good relationship is designed to be. And if it is not designed to be a good relationship, that’s probably because your unlovely ‘other half’ is setting it up to be a bad relationship. 

Now this should all be perfectly self-explanatory, but…. I’m guessing that it’s not. If you’re one of the many, many emotionally abused women who’s ever said: 

Emotional abuse is hard to recognise because…” 

we have to think why it’s not self-explanatory – and blindingly obvious – for you. 

So, let me share with you the reason why you DON’T find it self-explanatory. 

You’re used to being treated with a signal lack of respect, and consideration. Like the majority of emotionally abused women, you’ve come from a background where, for whatever reasons, your feelings were not regarded as being terribly important. 

You’ve taken that on board. 

All emotionally abused women internalize the belief that their feelings are not important. 

What this means is that you have a belief that it’s okay(-ish) for a loved one to: 

  • speak harshly to you
  • prioritize himself over you, every time
  • point out your flaws and failings to you
  • disregard your feelings – whether or not allegedly ‘in jest’ (as in, “I hate you calling me a ‘Porker’, yet you seem to think it’s an okay to use it as a term of endearment.”)
  • override your needs, and wants
  • silence you
  • tell you who you should, or should not see, and what you should or should not do, as if you were a toddler
  • make demands of you, as in “You’re my wife, I have a right to have sex with you whenever I want
  • lie, and/or withhold information from you
  • treat you as inferior to him: “I’m a man, for Chrissakes!” 

Changing that belief means learning to stop thinking like an emotionally abused woman. 

Changing that belief means treating unacceptable behaviors as deal-breakers. If you want to have a life worth living, it starts with you having the kind of beliefs that happy women have. One of those beliefs is this: 

It is not okay for people to treat me in a way in which I do not want to – or like – being treated. My relationship is conditional on my partner behaving in an acceptable fashion. If he doesn’t, that breaks the deal, and I move on. 

It’s hard to recognise emotional abuse when you’re looking the world through the eyes of someone who – unconsciously – anticipates emotional abuse. 

believe in yourselfsmallYou need to see the world through different eyes. For that to happen your focus needs to be on changing your beliefs about yourself, and your expectations of a partner. Then it all becomes a whole lot simpler. 


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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