5 Strategies to Break Free From Emotional Abuse for Good

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Do you know the signs and red flags of emotional abuse in a relationship?

At first, everything seems normal in the relationship. You go on dates. It’s fun. The butterflies are nature’s way of saying you’re attracted to each other. You share the same interests and seem to have a genuine connection. You both start making plans for the future. Emotional abuse isn’t even on your radar.

You ignore small red flags and little white lies here and there. No one can be completely honest 100 percent of the time, right? He sends you a photo of himself without his shirt on letting you know that ‘this’ could be yours for the rest of your life. He casually touches the knee of another woman sitting next you. The shiny veneer starts to tarnish a little under your scrutiny. And you are the one who’s revealing what’s underneath the cover. You think maybe you’re being too hard or over-analyzing something that’s not there.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse involves exercising control over another person by using emotions to make them feel bad. Often times it involves shaming or blaming and it’s the most common in romantic relationships but can also be seen in family settings or amongst coworkers or friends. Learn more below.

Long-term emotional abuse affects someone’s self-worth and self-esteem and can make them believe that it’s their own fault which makes it even harder to break the cycle.

Signs of emotional abuse

The signs of emotional abuse can be so damn subtle you don’t even realize it’s happening until it’s too late. But in the pit of your stomach, you know something is wrong. If the abuse goes on long enough, you feel your soul slipping away. And you wonder what happened to the loving, carefree person you used to be. You’re depressed, insecure, and isolated.

Emotional abuse involves manipulation, intimidation, shaming, bullying, criticism, and verbal offense. It’s abuse used to control another person. The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at the person’s feeling of self-worth and independence. While the methods of emotional and physical abuse can be different, the cycle of physical abuse is very similar to that of emotional abuse.

The obvious scenario for emotional (psychological) abuse occurs in an intimate relationship where one person is the abuser and the partner is the victim. But it also occurs between parents and children, relatives, in friendships and among colleagues. Studies have also suggested that men and women abuse each other at similar rates.

If you’re unsure of the signs or are worried you are being abused, here’s a sample of damaging behaviors:

  • Your deepest secrets are used against you
  • You are isolated from others
  • They tell you you’re crazy
  • They text you constantly as if they’re checking up on you
  • They don’t accept any responsibility for their actions
  • You struggle to know what’s real and what isn’t
  • You feel bad for having friends, even of the same sex
  • They are unpredictable to keep you on your toes
  • They cross your boundaries and ignore your requests
  • They don’t respect you
  • They talk about you behind your back to get sympathy from others
  • They have entitlement issues
  • They feel sorry for themselves
  • They are emotionally distant

The controlling and manipulative behaviors trickle in over time. In some cases, the abuser doesn’t know he is doing it and the victim doesn’t fully grasp what’s happening. But eventually, it becomes clear both people are in an extremely unhealthy situation. Other times, the woman doesn’t want to leave because she’s afraid no one else will love ‘damaged goods,’ or she doesn’t want to be alone, or she doesn’t have any money or the couple have children.

Abusive patterns are really tough to change. The emotional scars won’t go away on their own, so it’s important to seek help.

Here are 5 strategies for getting your life back from emotional abuse:

1. Reach out

Talk to friends and family. They may be tired of hearing your same story because they’ve probably already tried to warn you and offer help many times before. But they are still your support system. Lean on them. Isolating yourself only makes it worse.

2. Make a plan

If you plan to leave your abuser, begin looking for a place to live. Save whatever money you can, and call a divorce lawyer. You’ll feel more empowered. But don’t put your safety at risk. Share your plan with your friends or family. If you need to stay with one of them temporarily, it’s probably a wise move.

3. Work on your self-confidence

Part of your support system should be a counselor. Tell them what you are going through and ask for tools on building back up your self-esteem. A lot of time has been spent trying to cut you down and it’s going to take time to build yourself back up. Worry about you now.

4. Set boundaries

Let your abuser know you will no longer accept or tolerate name-calling, arguing, anger, and other rude behaviors. If he starts to engage, leave the room or leave the house. You can’t change him, but you can change your reaction to him.

5. Know your rights

Every state has a coalition against domestic violence. These coalitions can be valuable resources for victims of domestic violence seeking services and referrals. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

We all deserve to live with dignity and respect. Don’t minimize emotional abuse. The effects are just as severe as those found in physical abuse. Love yourself enough to get help.

(Last Updated: September 16, 2022)

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6 Comments

  1. hello i am contacting this website as a result of being verbally abused by my wife
    of all days on Christmas Eve that proves she is Evil
    as she said i wish you would go find some other family to bother
    i gave her children literally saved her life twice shared over 80 dollars in the past 3 years
    and good so blessed me i as able to buy enough juicing vegetables to restore 10 % of her heart function i’m disabled and have no family to speak of as a result of being abandon as a child
    she seems to be just a cold empty vessel and i can’t stay in this any longer as it is going to result in my death i am sad every single minute of the day
    all i ever wanted was to know love and happiness with the family God provide for me
    and she lied stole my seed and turned the children completely against me
    i have a prodigal family talk about trial listen if you guys are not Christians you can not help as this thing i am involved in is spiritual warfare and only real believers servants and witnesses can effect this issue i am a Christian Writer with one book due out this year and another some time after that but have four manuscripts in total
    the Face of Deception with Christian Faith Publishing
    the Unspoken Covenant is the Covenant Unclaimed Covenant Books
    His Emissary of Truth an autobiographical account of intouch ministry and
    Dr. Pastor Charles Stanley
    and then A measure of Me
    after the difficulty of this first book i am not sure what i am going to do as
    i don’t have much of an education and it is insanely difficult to explain to someone what my disability is as it is not absolute but research indicate a very good likely hood of A.S.D. or autistic spectrum disorder as i don’t sleep or very little and maintain massive amounts of stimulation daily science physics engineering environmental
    i also have a small start up GreensphereESE.com go look at my art and trellises
    i don’t want to leave my family but if the Holy Spirit don’t do something
    in my condition my health is poor anyway i really though somehow it would be different i never thought i would die without ever knowing what it was to be or feel loved

  2. says: Kana

    I can’t post my real email or name because I’m being watched but the truth is my husband is abusive. Verbally, emotionally and physically. Sometimes I even feel sexually pressured by him. He isolates me from everyone and yells at me daily and once he put me on the bed, got on top of me with his knees pressing into my chest and squeezed my neck, and when he realized I could still breathe a little despite the pressure he was putting on my neck, he put a pillow on my face. I was abused since childhood, and all the relationships I was ever in had some sort of abuse. I have mild aspurgers autism according to a Dr who evaluated me when I was 15. They kept telling me I had a chemical imbalance and ignored my plea while I was trying to tell them that my stepfather was raping me in the anus ‘every now and then’, and his parents were controlling me and beating me, slapping me and ripping out my hair my entire life and trying to make me believe I was an evil child and I deserved all these things because I wasn’t born into the religion that they were a part of —Jehovah’s Witnesses. My mother who never seemed to care about me, apparently allowed whatever to happen because she didn’t want to work or have my brothers homeless. I was bullied in school for being different and acted out as a way to get attention when I felt like I couldn’t get it any other way. My dream was always to get married to a good husband who treated me as an equal or maybe if I’m lucky, a queen. And have 2 beautiful little girls. I was always good with kids, and always wanted them. I used to babysit. But after the trauma my husband has caused me and him always trying to have kids with me, I no longer like children anymore. I cant mentally handle any of his friends or their children. I don’t have any hopes for relationships. I want to be completely alone. I don’t know who I am and I don’t see any purpose in life. I think about suicide daily and the hardest thing in my life now is not only dealing with this husband of mine and his identical mother daily, but also finding reasons not to hurt myself or smash my head again the wall or put a cigarette out on my knee or accidentally burn half my body with hot oil when cooking because I don’t care anymore about my looks or my body or my existence and no longer having the concept of self-preservation. Because he told me he hopes I die, and that he wishes my now sick mother dies, and he tells me that I wanted to be raped not only by my step father but those 4 boys who ganged up on me and took my virginity when i was 13, and apparently according to him I’m also a pedo and cheated on him simply for discussing my situation and marital with a 17-year-old male on xbox, a complete stranger who gave me an ear and that’s why he stole money from myself and his mother to play with some cam girls who he gave hundreds of dollars just so they can tell him his dick is small. I always encouraged him and told him he was the perfect size and that he’s very handsome and sexy. I learned that due to his rage, he abused his mother and after giving his mother brain damage he was arrested and spent 30 days in a juvenile solitary confinement and all of his ex’s are undergoing mental health treatment and still have drug and alcohol addictions. I know I need to get away before I’m to far gone but I’ve always been such a loyal person and every time I’ve left (so far only 2 times) I end up back in the same place listening to his false promises that if I come back this time will be different. I know he can’t change unless he finally acknowledges what he’s doing and is motivated to change. I have given him chance after chance waiting for this… I’m too emotionally and mentally dependent on him now and I need help getting away but he’s cut me off from all the friends I had. I’ve been losing my memory. I don’t remember who my friends were or what kind of person I used to be. He thoroughly checks my phone each day and uses parental control settings to check my screen time of everything I do. I will have a hard time when he finds out that I was using incognito tonight but I only did this because I need to say it all. I need to tell someone what is happening. I hope someone hears me. And I hope one day someone can help me for real

  3. says: Nichola haddock

    I left one abusive relationship and was lured into another and I’m at my end my life isn’t worth it anymore it just isn’t worth it anymore I’m already living in hell

  4. says: k

    The first thing she mentions is to “talk to family and friends”. It is USUALLY family member(s) or a friend(s)..someone you know, who is abusing you. Why not phrase it “talk to someone you can trust”.

  5. says: Unknown Doctor

    I had a rough childhood, my boundaries were violated. I married a man as abusive as my mother. I am well educated, had a small practice for 20 years I had a loyal patient face. And then I met him. He destroyed me in a matter of five years, unemployed, beaten down, no self-esteem. He took my diplomas and tore them up and threw them into the toilet, but I stayed. He push me down, called me dirty names and constantly berated my education but I stayed I’ve been in counseling I wish I knew how to build my self-esteem back.

  6. says: Unknown Doctor

    I had a rough childhood, my boundaries were violated. I married a man as abusive as my mother. I am well educated, had a small practice for 20 years I had a loyal patient base. And then I met him. He destroyed me in a matter of five years, unemployed, beaten down, no self-esteem. He took my diplomas and tore them up and threw them into the toilet, but I stayed. He push me down, called me dirty names and constantly berated my education but I stayed I’ve been in counseling I wish I knew how to build my self-esteem back. I wish I could take care of myself as well as I could take care of my patients. It’s unbelievable how such a highly educated woman to be beaten down to nothingness.

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