Do You Feel Trapped In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

12 Nov 2013

trappedsmallHow often have you felt trapped in your emotionally abusive relationship?

Feeling trapped is one of the key aspects of an emotionally abusive relationship.  An emotionally abusive partner works hard to create an illusion of powerlessness within you.  He wants you to have the sense that all your options have been closed down. So you feel you have nowhere to go, nothing you can do, and nobody you can turn to – except him.  

I say an “illusion of powerlessness”, and I understand you may find that hard to accept. Over the years, I’ve worked with so very many emotionally abused women. Every single one of them – including me – could find reasons why we were trapped, and had no choice but to stay.

All of those reasons were compelling. Nobody ever has it easy in an emotionally abusive relationship. We all suffer hugely. We all have real reasons why it’s hard to leave.

Some of us have more of them than others.

But, in a sense, that is not the point. It’s certainly not the point we want to look at today – because it doesn’t help you.

The trapped feeling is the point.

As an Emotional Abuse Recovery Coach, I’ve helped so many women to break free of toxic relationships – despite impossible circumstances. Nobody has ever left an emotionally abusive relationship because their circumstances were easy. They’ve left because they knew that the life they (and their children) had was unbearable.

They made a decision not to be trapped.

They decided to end the powerlessness, and the isolation.

They hoped that leaving would end their suffering.

Sadly, that doesn’t necessarily follow.  That’s something that doesn’t just happen, all by itself.

One thing that maddens me is the lack of understanding about how emotional abuse works.  The popular misconception is that we only have to walk away, and one of two things will happen:

A) we will bounce back – or forward – to become Ms Supremely-Confident-and-Together. Just like that.

B) We collect a label like PTSD, or depression; which validates everything we’ve been through, and leaves us feeling… a mess.

Option A isn’t going to happen, because we have been systematically brainwashed by an emotionally abusive husband.


Brainwashing is one of an emotionally abusive partner’s specialities. He systematically undermines your ability to think for yourself.  He devalues you as a person, and undermines your belief in all your abilities.

The point about brainwashing is this: when you’ve been effectively brainwashed, you don’t even know you’ve been brainwashed. You think what you feel, and what you’ve been taught to believe, is the truth. If you believe it, it must be true, right? Like Father Christmas, and the Tooth Fairy, and Beauty and the Beast…

Option B may well be true. You’ve been through a lot. Having a label validates your experience. It’s an appealing alternative to constantly asking yourself: “Was it me? Was it my fault?” At least, if you have PTSD it’s an acknowledgement that you must have been on the receiving end of something awful.

If you have depression it means you are deserving of some consideration.  Depression is a legitimate, handicapping state caused by  painful life experiences that you have been through.

The problem with Options A and B is that they don’t help you to move forward. They don’t open the way to you getting a clear sense of your own value, and your own possibilities.

Rather they become reasons why you can’t move forward.   It’s a well-known fact that if you suffer with PTSD, and/or depression, you can spend a long time just treading water.  (Worse, these two misfortunes are not even mutually exclusive Rather, they are the perfect double whammy.)

Once you have a label pinned on you, sadly, it doesn’t even buy you a lot more comprehension, or empathy.  You can still be judged because other people – in their infinite wisdom – belief that you should bounce back.

Would they, if they were in your shoes?

Who knows?

One thing is for sure: in their humble opinion, they’d make a much better fist of being you than you ever have done.  They get compassion overload.  Very quickly.  They soon tire of hearing about your problems.  (You think you’re the only one with problems??!!)

When I was a kid, I was the family mosquito repellent. We’d holiday in places that were teeming with mosquitoes. The mosquitoes – who may, or may not share a similarity, or two, with emotionally abusive men – ADORED me. They loved me so much that they devoured me, leaving me an unhappy, blotchy, itchy little bunny. They left the rest of my family in peace.  My mother would tell me that the moment I got on the plane home, all my bites would magically stop itching and disappear.

Did it happen?

Of course it didn’t. 

mosquitocontrolsmallThat’s the same kind of crazy logic that says that once you leave an emotionally abusive relationship, the destructive beliefs just vanish from your system.

They don’t.

They’re a lot more toxic than mosquito bites.

They have a long, long life.  They hang around until you actively deal with them. With the right treatment, they fade away pretty fast. Without it, they can hang around for years.

The bottom line: we stay in an emotionally abusive relationship because we feel trapped. The real trap is the emotionally abused feelings.  

Ditch them now!


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.

2 thoughts on “Do You Feel Trapped In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?”

  1. I need help getting out. For several years I’ve been trying. Each time I call all these resources for domestic violence I get the same repitious list of phone numbers and when you call those phone numbers I get another set of numbers I’ve dialed. I’m continually referred. They have spaces for women with children. I’m without kids as far as leaving. Every dynamic of my relationships with my family/ or work/ others has been sabotaged. I need legal help too. Your article is spot on about emotional abuse. I always get the question: Is he physically abusing you -?-and they rate bad..**they determine your situation is on a scale to see if you qualify for help shelter. I need help out. I feel trapped.HELP. PLEASE. I’ve called hotlines. I’ve called and called and called resources here.

    • That sounds terrible.

      Obviously, you do need help. I’m wondering where you are in the world that they don’t yet realise that emotional abuse IS a form of domestic violence. If you can share that, it might help either me or someone who lives where you are to offer some constructive advice.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd