Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work

23 Feb 2021

Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work is the very last thing that the partner of an emotional abuser thinks about.  Instead, that partner will spend a LOT of time thinking about what they can do to make it work.

Whoever said that the victims of emotional abuse aren’t optimistic? 

Even if that optimism was misplaced.

When you stop to think about it, they show the most extraordinary optimism.  Unfortunately, it’s woefully displaced.

If only they would make a slight shift in their thinking from believing they can still make the relationship work to believing they can still have a life of their own (sans Mr or Ms Nasty) things would rapidly start to improve.

In fairness, most victims of a narcissistic and emotionally abusive partner find it hard to accept that their emotionally abusive relationship can never work because it flies in the face of both what they believe, and what popular culture tells them, like:

  • All you need is love
  • Love conquers all
  • Love makes the world go round
  • Love hurts

And so on, and so forth.

My dear old dad had a saying of his own that struck terror into my heart:

“When you get married, Love flies out the window!” 

For the longest time, my father’s reflection on love struck terror into my heart.

He was right, bless him.

But, more importantly, he was also wrong.

He was right insofar as, if you marry an emotional abuser, Love will soon fly out of the window, returning only occasionally to leave a nasty mess in its wake.

He was wrong inasmuch as the Love that flies out of the window once it’s tied you into the relationship very probably wasn’t Love in the first place.

Emotional abuse does a nice job of masquerading as Love.

Which brings us to 5 powerful reasons why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work.

Reason #1 Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work

For an emotionally abusive partner it wasn’t about Love in the first place: it was about purchasing unlimited access to your life.  Abusers asked themselves not what they could do for you, but what you can do for them.  Services the expect likely include:

  • Cheerleader
  • Cook
  • Cleaner
  • Lover
  • Child-bearer and child-rearer
  • Bank
  • Scapegoat

And more besides.

Reason #2 Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work 

They never committed to making it work.  Now, that doesn’t mean they haven’t subjected you to The Pseudo-Heroic, Narcissist’s Rant:

“I don’t know what else to do. I’ve done everything I possibly could to make this relationship work.  But you throw it all back in my face.” 

Being able to come out with a good – even plausible – Pseudo-Heroic rant is proof of nothing other than the fact that abusers can RANT. (And they are frightful pseuds!!)

An emotionally abusive partner knows that he –or she – who rants with the most conviction wins. Abusive people have conviction. In spades.

You probably make the assumption that conviction has to grow out of honesty.

Abusers sees it differently: for emotional abusers and Narcissists, conviction grows out of expediency.  What is important to them matters rather more than a quaint consideration like objective truth, or – even worse – your truth.

But even putting their rant(s) to one side, their day-to-day actions are not calculated to make the relationship work.  Quite the reverse.

Reason #3 Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work 

They doesn’t value the relationship. Abusers and Narcissists do not see the relationship as valuable. Blindingly obvious though this may be, actually believing it can be a big ask.

Still, it doesn’t take a lot of explaining:

People don’t trash what they value.  

Abusers regularly trash the relationship, through their words and their deeds.

Reason #4 Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work

Narcissists and emotional abusers do not value their partner.

Think of it this way: suppose you have a dog or cat. If you withhold sustenance or affection from that creature – you could not justify it by saying:

“Well, if that creature hadn’t done X, Y, or Z, it wouldn’t have made me behave like that.”

Cruelty is cruelty.  Neglect is neglect.

You can’t blame your pet for your behavior.  Put another way, you can’t shift responsibility for your behavior onto that creature’s perceived shortcomings.

Yet that is exactly what an emotionally abusive partner does with you.

Sure, you’re not a pet.

Theoretically, you’re way higher up the food chain than a pet is.  But try telling Mr or Ms Nasty that.

Try telling yourself…

What’s not good enough for a pet is definitely NOT good enough for you.

Reason #5 Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work  

They are horrible people. 

Yes, I know you could attempt the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow explanation: 

“There was a little girl,

            Who had a little curl,

Right in the middle of her forehead.

            When she was good,

            She was very good indeed,

But when she was bad she was horrid.” 

The wretched creature is NOT a little girl – or a little boy for that matter. He or she is quite  old enough to be responsible for their own behavior.

A lot of the time that behavior SUCKS.  Still, they don’t have a problem with that.  In fact, they feel perfectly justified.

That makes them horrible human beings in my book.

Marriage Math

The ‘Marriage Math’ for a successful relationship is 5 positive exchanges for 1 negative one.  An emotionally abusive partner turns the equation on his head:

5 negative exchanges (minimum) for 1 positive one.

Conclusive proof why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work.

If you know someone who is struggling to see why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work, there is no point in arguing the toss with them, or trying to get them to see the situation through your eyes.  They won’t listen.  Instead, please share this information via social media so that the people who need to see it can read it for themselves and have the opportunity of seeing the situation in a new light.


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.

3 thoughts on “Why an emotionally abusive relationship can never work”

  1. Thanks for this detailed explanation. Reading this makes me feel understood and reminds me of why I am divorcing my husband.
    I’m going to save it to reread as needed. Thank you again!

  2. Hi Dr Annie,

    You are absolutely correct!! You can not make an abusive relationship work. The best thing I ever did was get out of my abusive marriage! Sometimes I find myself being attracted to the same type of person again without realizing it. When I realize that they are toxic for me, I become self aware and immediately stay away from them by all means. I’m not going down that path again. Awareness, self respect and self worth are paramount to a healthy, loving relationship. Be optimistic about yourself!! It feels so good!

    I love your work! Thanks for helping me take care of myself!! After all, I’m so worth it!!

    Much love,


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