The Loneliness of the Emotionally Abusive Relationship

31 Aug 2021

People, generally, underestimate the loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship.  Most commonly, the very people who suffer most from the loneliness of an emotionally abusive relationship – that is to say abuse victims – fear the loneliness of life without their abusive partner.

A misleading question

If things are so awful with that partner, how much worse must they be without him? they ask themselves.

I can remember asking myself the question, over and over myself.  Just like every other woman in that situation, I told myself that Life without my Mr Nasty could only be worse.  Much worse.  But then, just like every other woman in that situation, I was asking myself a wrong question.

A much better question to ask would have been,

“Why do I feel so achingly lonely in this relationship?”

Of course, at the time, there were a lot of questions that I didn’t ask myself – mostly because I reckoned that I already knew the answer.  As I saw it, the answer to any and every question  that had any bearing on the relationship was,

“It must be my fault.”

The loneliest place on earth

Actually, it  wasn’t  my fault.  But there can be no place lonelier (or more deluded) than an emotionally abusive relationship.

What makes it so lonely?

Where do I even begin?

  • The lack of safety – you can and will be attacked and undermined at any point.
  • The constant destruction of your trust.
  • The lack of love an abusive partner shows.
  • The lack of true intimacy. The two of you are never in the relationship
  • The lack of respect that underpins the “Why does he treat me that way?”
  • The lack of companionship.
  • The lack of shared experience – as a matter of principle, he will trash anything, or anyone, that you enjoyed.
  • The lack of validation.
  • The lack of appreciation.
  • The endless blame and fault-finding.

Isolation, isolation, isolation

What took you into the relationship?  Chances are, you had a desire for love, togetherness, connection, intimacy, validation, building a future and a family, finding a home for your heart, belonging, emotional safety, and so on.

Your – not yet fully actualized – emotionally abusive partner doubtless told you that he was your best bet at finding all of the above.  He was, after all, by his own assessment a “wonderful man” . So wonderful, in fact, that he wasn’t ashamed to let you know that.

He made himself sound like one helluva of a good deal.  Especially to somebody who never, ever talked herself up.

What an emotionally abusive partner actually delivers is one HELL of a bad deal, characterised by constant attack and isolation.

The loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship

An emotionally abusive partner sets out to isolate you from anyone and anything that might prove inconvenient – to him.  Hence his likely hostility towards  everything that helps to define you, such as your friends, family, work, skills, achievements, independence, interests and hobbies.

It is in an abusive partner’s interest to create a void around him. Then, he can turn to you and say,

“How could you possibly manage without me?”

This, after he has done everything in his power to become the interface between you and the rest of the world.

Never underestimate the effort – and art – he has put into creating the loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship.  Although, sadly, even this is not the end of the story.

When I listen to clients and when I look back to my own childhood, I am always struck by how much isolation had already been woven into the warp and weft of our experience of ourselves.  We learned to become as self-reliant as we could because various family members could not be relied on – for positive feedback, at least.

Learnings from an unsupportive home

When you cannot rely on relatives for positive feedback, you learn to shut down.  You learn not to ask for, or expect, help when you need it.  You learn that you are on your own.  You learn that you can expect things to be hard.  And, of course, you learn that you don’t matter in the way that you would like to matter, to the people that you would like to matter to.

That sets you up perfectly for the loneliness of an emotionally abusive relationship.  Plus, it inclines you to tolerate that loneliness far longer than someone else with different childhood experience might.  It, also, teaches you to stagger on, under  a lonely burden of shame and blame – for what was never your fault in the first place.

Don’t mistake condition for identity

If the description of an unsupportive childhood resonates with you, please take on board that all these ghastly feelings that feel “like you” are NOT you.  They are merely conditioning.  Don’t mistake their condition for your identity.

Conditioning is, undoubtedly, powerful.  However, you can rid yourself of it.  Loneliness is not who you are.  It is how you feel when you are caught up in living the role that –unloving – others ascribed to you. They will likely carry on acting out their role for the rest of their lives.  However, you are free to change yours.


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.

10 thoughts on “The Loneliness of the Emotionally Abusive Relationship”

  1. I have been the sole provider and never could understand how my husband could not be more grateful. He has literally when I now think more clearly torn down my mental state and I feel it came to a crash after 30 years and I have been to kind to try to please but now myself in a depression state. I have left like flight or fight. He has called me a narcissist which is so untrue and daily would start things and then turn it around. I am in therapy and believe he has BPD and some NPD traits. I can’t believe my life and my daughter and family as well as many friends know how calm, kind, and patient I have been. I need my happy loving myself back again. I taught for 32 years and had to give up everything unexpectedly because of what I would say were constant rants or rages that just crushed my well being. I want to heal without medication and find myself🙏🙏

    • For sure. After all those years, it is really hard to remember who you even are.

      You are doing well holding onto your certainty about being a calm, kind, patient person.

      A very simple way to start to rebuild your sense of self would be to work through my book, “The Woman You Want to Be”.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  2. I am nearly 65, and have experienced emotional abuse – and more – since babyhood, including children’s homes and family.

    Currently, I am full-time carer to my passive aggressive husband, who is waiting for a place in a care home. I am also in a wheelchair and feel I’ve wasted 20 years of my life with someone who doesn’t love me. I have never felt so lonely & isolated. I

    My daughter died six years ago, and I am helping bring up her precious four children. I have lost most of my family and many friends through it, because I can’t seem to ‘move on.’ I know I need help, but dread the future.

    I’m afraid I don’t really matter to anyone, though I have a couple of wonderful friends who visit 2-3 times a year & ring often.

    • I am so sorry to read this, Hannah. You have been through so much for so long.

      At the moment, between grieving and still having your abusive husband in the forefront of your life, it must be hard to see that you can have joy in your future.

      Hopefully, he will be moved to a care home before long and you will be able to start to feel better.

      It sounds like you really matter to your friends – even if you don’t see them that often. Plus, I am guessing that you matter to your grandchildren.

      Here’s hoping that, in time, you feel more comfort from the people who do care about you.

    • I wish I could hug you and help you with the children. I know and recognise how much of yourself you have given away. I feel the same about my marriage. My husband has been passive aggressive and manipulative forever and I didn’t realise until about 10 years ago. He admitted and recognised his behaviours when I researched it and we tried to move on and behave differently but he just can’t stop living like he’s a victim every day. He shuts down and has removed himself from our family life. He whispers all the time so the children can’t hear him being abusive to me and then blames me when the children see me react. He has lied about literally every part of his being for 28 years and trapped me in a house we can’t sell. I walk the streets looking as normal as I can but my family life is about to fall apart and he will win because I’ve been trapped for so long. I wish you love and peace and strength to get through. X

  3. “I’m afraid I don’t matter to anyone.” That one really got to me. For 30 years, my husband has seemed to be a devoted husband but it’s all so superficial. His superficially caring, superficially engaged, superficially interested, superficially sincere. But the bottom line is he may be pathologically bonded to me but he does not love me. His motive for staying with me is because he needs to exert power and control over me to feel big about himself. I certainly don’t matter to him.


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