How to Spot An Emotional Abuser By Their Conversation

09 May 2017


How do you spot an emotional abuser by their conversation?  What are the signs that – if only you had been able to spot them early on – could have saved you a ton of unhappiness and trouble? (As well as a mountain of hurt, humiliation, and mental, emotional, and financial expense.)

First off, let’s look at why you – and I – did not spot an emotional  abuser by their conversation. There are a few good reasons why that abuser slipped past your defences.

#1  Nobody had taught you that you need to screen for emotional abusers.

#2  Your guard was down. Your expectations of the scenario in which you found yourself did not include checking for someone who, in the not-too-distant future, might set out to destroy you psychologically.

#3 They presented themselves as a bit of a “catch” – in a good way.

#4  They seemed to find you special – which had to be a good thing, right?

#5 They had a bit of an “Us and Them” thing going on and they included you in their “Us”.  (Powerful, or what?)

#6   They portrayed themselves as your rescuer/protector.  (Especially if you never had someone you could rely on, in childhood, for rescue and protection that can look pretty appealing.

#7 They quickly made lavish use of your favorite words like “love”, “together, and “forever”.

So, where did it all go wrong?

Certainly, it was never your fault for not knowing what nobody had ever taught you to look out for.  We are taught how to dive blindly into relationships. Why are we not taught  the Rules of the Relationship Code.

Things you might be looking for

When I think back to my first conversations with my emotionally abusive husband, it could have been obvious from the start that he was Red Flag Man. Except for the fact that the wasband replicated the conversations I’d known from childhood, with a twist.

That twist was the difference.

The difference was the thing that first hit me. I found it very attractive. The wasband was rather brighter than my family of origin – and I hungered to be around intelligent people. He could talk, more intelligently, about a broader range of subjects than they did. He could – and often did – think things through.

I thought that that one difference guaranteed him being different from them in every respect. Sadly, it didn’t work like that.

The wasband was definitely both brighter and more emotionally intelligent (not too hard) than my family of origin.  However, he shared their unbridled love for power and control.  (Guess who he most loved exerting power and control over?) 

Despite his apparent differences, the wasband replicated the tenor of conversations I’d known from childhood on in 4 key ways.

4 Key ways to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation

#1 Way to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation – The Black and White Worldview

For an emotional abuser, there is “The Right Way”, and “The Wrong Way”. Obviously, the abuser ALWAYS has Right (and Might) on their side. Anyone not going their way can only be going The Wrong Way”. The Wrong Way will, allegedly, take you to hell in a hand-cart, in a nanosecond.   .

 #2 Way to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation – Doom- & Gloom-Mongering

An abuser will always tell you that The World is a scary, hostile place, where bad things are  guaranteed – to you – unless

  1. You have him to protect you.
  2. Everything gets done His Way. (Frank Sinatra had nothing on him!)

#3 Way to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation – The Arbiter of Worth and Acceptibility

The abuser, alone, decides who and what is worthy and acceptable – which is exactly how it worked in my family of origin, also. My one – slim – chance of ever achieving worth and acceptability lay in living my life His Way 24/7 (all the while showing my gratitude for having such a wonderful absolute ruler of my life to defer to).

#4 Way to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation – Ork-Spotting 

You can’t be a True Arbiter of Worth and Acceptability without a hostile world of Orks to stand out against.  Beyond the teeny-tiny Charmed Circle where an abuser dwells, live  Orks )aka Other People) who are all horribly flawed.  My childhood experiences had taught me that safety lay in being part of the allegedly charmed circle (actually, the charmless circle).

It took me the longest time to realize that safety, happiness, and well-being lie in putting as much psychological distance as possible between yourself and the kind of person who feels he has a right to judge and condemn, relentlessly.

When you think back, do you remember your emotionally abusive partner playing Ork-Spotting?   Who – or what – was he critical of even when he was at his most engaging with you?  I’m guessing that even then he would have been using some kind of yardstick to establish his own – infinite – superiority.

The wasband had a fair few favorite bases for his superiority.  They included,

  • Being a doctor (God’s understudy to you and me).
  • Having had a Difficult Childhood (other people may have had difficult childhoods but not like his!!).
  • Being a Survivor (2ndgeneration Holocaust).
  • Being “different” (that he surely was).
  • Telling it “like it was” (read rude and arrogant).
  • Being better, brighter and, generally, a Higher Form of Life – which anyone in their right mind (a very, very small minority) would see just by looking at him.
  • Being better-looking than anyone/everyone else (and more than a little delusional).

Plus, he had a talent for favourable comparisons based on his superior strengths, as in: “Yes, X may play a better game of tennis/be an emotionally available husband/be in the running for a Nobel Prize… but I’m a DOCTOR”. (The fun really started when he met other doctors.Then he had to dig deeper to find his specialist value…)

A good man is NOT like that.

None of the ways to spot an emotional abuser by their conversation apply to a good man. A good man shows rather better conversational skills. Plus, they are inclusive rather than exclusive.

Women often tell me that they want to hear more about how a good man operates. So, let me share with you a few pointers that might clarify what I’m saying.

One of the first things my lovely partner ever told me was: “I may be quite damning about politicians, but I try not to say harsh things about anyone I know.” He never has. He just doesn’t condemn, or criticize. He doesn’t speak ill of people. He doesn’t think ill of people.

He treats everyone with respect and consideration. Even people whose company he does not particularly enjoy.

He never bleats about having had a difficult childhood, or other difficulties.

He doesn’t claim special merit for anything that he is, does, or has achieved – or could achieve, if only the world would wake up and give him the opportunity he deserves.

He sees himself as another – full – member of the human race. That, in his eyes, is more than good enough. He’s not interested in being different. He just cares about getting the most out of every day.

He’s honest. But there’s no ‘brutally’ about it. He accepts that from his perspective things look a certain way, and they may not for other people.  He respects the fact that his truth may not be other people’s truth.

He’s passionate about helping other people to shine brighter. He takes pride in my successes. He does not feel diminished by them.

Was that all there in his conversation from the first time we met? Yes, it was.

Is it there, still? Absolutely.

He believes that a relationship should be the ultimate win-win scenario.

Find me an emotionally abusive partner – anywhere – who wants their relationship to be a win-win, and I’ll eat the Wasband’s rather magnificent Russian fur hat… if the moths haven’t already done it for me.






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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