Why Emotionally Abusive Love Is Not Real Love – 12 Key Differences

04 Mar 2019

Emotionally abusive love is different

Emotionally abusive love is a weird thing.  You have a hunger for the Happily Ever After – quite possibly because, thus far, you have not had too much of the Happy in the Here and Now. So, when someone comes along promising lasting love, you embrace the possibility – even if your very first impression of that person was not altogether perfect.

So, when someone comes along promising lasting love, you embrace the possibility – even if your very first impression of that person was not altogether perfect.

If necessary you revise – downwards – your opinion of what someone needs to be like to be perfect for you, so you can sign on the dotted line of the Happy Together Life Contract.

At least, that is what you think you are doing. However, because it – he – looks like such a good prospect, you don’t bother to check out the small (and not so small) print.  That is unfortunate because – fairly soon after the ink has dried on that contract – the relationship you have together starts to become less happy.  In fact, it takes a nosedive – the first of a very long series of nosedives.

What has really happened is that you have got yourself into a toxic love relationship with an emotional abuser. Unfortunately, you were not to know that. How could you have known? Given the high levels of ignorance and tolerance of toxic love – otherwise called emotionally abusive love – that exist in our society.

So, let’s look now at 12 things that let you know that you are in a relationship of emotionally abusive love – not healthy love.

12 Key Differences Between Emotionally Abusive Love and  Real Love

#1 You tell yourself you cannot live without the other person. 

You tell yourself that – for whatever reason(s) – you cannot survive without them.  Plus, you overlook how difficult you find it to survive with them. In reality, your emotional health, happiness, and self-worth are all going swiftly down the pan as a result of being with them. In a healthy, loving relationship, you would not want to be left without your partner but, equally, you would not have the same – pathological – fear that their loss would destroy you. It would not. Emotionally abusive love, on the other hand, dictates that you must be thoroughly miserable with your abuser – and totally destroyed by losing them.

#2 You feel fearful most of the time.

It is perfectly reasonable to feel fearful when you live with an emotional abuser. You never know quite what an abuser will do next but you can bet that there will be a next assault on you and it will be thoroughly nasty. Fear is a key component of emotionally abusive love. However, it is not possible to live a full, happy life from a place of fear. In a healthy, loving relationship, you never have to walk in fear of your partner.

#3. You feel under attack most of the time.

Again, that is perfectly reasonable – inasmuch as you are in a crazy situation, and you are under attack most of the time.  In a loving relationship, it is unthinkable that one partner would subject the other to constant, deliberate attacks.

#4. You have to be the caretaker of your partner’s feelings.

It’s your job to protect your partner from feeling hurt, angry, frustrated, or depressed. Curiously, you have to shield them from their own feelings, but they are free to attack and/or disregard yours. Emotionally abusive love demands that you constantly “carry” your abuser.  Whereas, in a loving relationship both partners commit to behaving supportively, by walking side by side, through the difficult times. Problems are shared, as opposed to offloaded onto one partner.

#5. You take responsibility for your partner’s behavior. 

The unspoken contract in an abusive relationship is that the other person’s bad behavior is, somehow, your fault. Love does not mean that your partner never needs to apologise – or feel remorse – for hurting you.  Nor does it mean that you should never hold them accountable for their behavior. It means making it clear that you matter, too, and you will hold them to acceptable, adult behaviour. The message you need to convey is this; “I love and value you, and I love and value myself.  So, I don’t condone bad behaviour. You will have to do better in the future.”

#6. You  are their scapegoat.

Now, that may well feel normal to you. You may have grown up, like I did, where scapegoating one family member had become normalised.  Nobody has a right to scapegoat you.  In a healthy, loving relationship, both partners commits to fostering the best in the other.  Period.

#7 You mistrust your own judgement and abilities.

You have come to share your partner’s belief that you are feeble-mind and incapable of managing your own life for yourself. Chances are, you have been undermined so often by your Crazy-maker in Residence that you can’t think straight when they are around. But that says an awful lot more about your environment than it does about your mental processes.  Being around a Crazy-maker is crazy-making.  Emotionally abusive love exists to undermine you, whereas healthy love will support and encourage you.

#8 You lose your voice. 

An emotionally abusive partner could not be less interested in anything you have to say. It is dismissed, out of hand, as being of no consequence. Emotionally abusive love is all about the controlling monologue of the abuser. Healthy love values your contribution and sees the relationship as one between two people of equal worth.

#9 You dread being abandoned.

You may well have a past history of abandonment – or else, you may never have been truly accepted and cherished by your family of origin. Either way, you have a – needless – fear of  your partner’s abandonment  The reality is that they abandoned you a long, long time ago when they stopped treating you as a precious human being (if, indeed, they ever did). Emotionally abusive love, at best, blows hot and cold. Healthy love is constant.

#10 You need to make your partner happy and whole.  

When you got together with your emotionally abusive partner some very interesting things happened, at the non-verbal level. Above all, you agreed to do all of their emotional “dirty work” for them.  Facing up to your own difficult feelings requires a certain courage. Abusers and Narcissists do not possess that courage.  Instead, they dump all of their difficult feelings at your door, for you to deal with. Their can of worms becomes your can of worms to deal with.  At the same time, they label your can of worms   “crazy” and “disgusting”.

Toxic love finds fault with you for ever wound you have received. Healthy love acknowledges your wounds and your distress but does not seek to dump on you.

#11 You are always running on empty.

Healthy love means receiving as well as giving. Emotionally abusive love means giving without return in the vain hope that you will, one day, reach the mythical tipping point that will change everything. For an emotional abuser that tipping point does not exist.  They are – in more ways than one – a bottomless pit.

#12 You give up on yourself.

An emotional abuser works on the principle that “this relationship ain’t big enough for both of us” and therefore someone must go without.  Guess who agrees that they had better sacrifice themselves? That is how emotionally abused women end up with a mountain of unused – or underused – talents and abilities. Emotionally abusive love requires you to give up on everything that matters to you. Healthy love believes in sharing the good things – even in bad times.  Healthy love will always encourage you to utilise your gifts and talents.

If you have become enmeshed in an emotionally abusive love, sad as that reality is it does not have to define the rest of your life.  You simply need to understand that love does not mean staying with an abuser and enabling them to abuse.

Abusers do not change their ways. However the partners that they abuse can, and do change their ways – and their entire lives.   If you need help in breaking away – and staying away – from an abusive partner, you likely need help. Get in touch. Get the help you need. Get your life back.



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.

4 thoughts on “Why Emotionally Abusive Love Is Not Real Love – 12 Key Differences”

  1. I’ve been in an abusive relationship for 6 years. The abuse is to the point where I think my boyfriend’s could accidentally kill me one day. I am very much in love with him. I can’t seem to break free from him. He is what I want when he’s himself. It’s like he turns into someone else like it’s not really him. Everything about him changes. Even the way his face looks his body language the way he talks to me. I know he loves me. There isn’t much help for people that have anger problems. What can I do?

    • If he kills you, it won’t be exactly accidental.

      Nor will it be a great surprise.

      What can you do?

      RUN! Now.

      And don’t ever look back.

  2. My advice exactly! Run! This Article describes my husband almost to exactly. The end result was me literally me running out of the house away from him because he had a gun. He ended up shooting himself in front of me. The suicide note stated he wanted to take me out too. He also blamed me for all the problems in our marriage. He gambled our savings and stopped paying bills. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. RUN NOW!!


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