Emotional abuse is a like a ninja. It creeps up and attacks taking you hostage before you realize what the hell has happened. Because of these covert actions and sneaky movements, it is very difficult to recognize the early signs of emotional abuse in a relationship. There are subtle red flags that make you wonder but there are other welcomed signs that trick you into overlooking the manufacturing abuse.
Rest assured, emotional abuse is real and it does leave scars and marks. That kind of evidence might not be on the surface it is buried deep where things can’t be seen or observed. Emotional abuse comes through from the victim as lashing out, changes in behavior and routine or personality changes that don’t seem to make sense.
That is why those first signs are important to read and adhere to. Those are not just signs, they are communications from your gut that something is off and the journey is going to be rough, if not dangerous. Sometimes, we think we have moved past those signs but they linger throughout the relationship, which is why you do eventually see them. They are repetitive and eventually become something you not only expect but also work towards.
What are the signs of emotional abuse? When do you know it is time to leave an emotionally abusive relationship?
1. He takes the attention in the relationship. Your accomplishments and your achievements he turns into pity parties for himself. This seems to be kind of odd, at first, and you might even feel bad for him but this is a very early sign that this guy has a plan and it is to put you under him.
2. You secretly ask yourself what you are doing. You question your own intentions and your thinking. You get to a point where you can’t imagine why you put up with his abuse.
3. You are on the defensive. No one can bring up his name without your muscles getting tight and you becoming reactive versus responsive.
4. He uses love or support as a weapon. He will withhold love and support as a means to get what he wants from you. These are rewards for good behavior not factors in a healthy relationship.
5. You have no friends or family supporting the relationship. The ones that do are praying you can change him permanently – they mean well but they are in denial as to his abusive ways.
6. Your friends are disappearing. One by one they seem to be dropping off your radar. They love you and want the best for you but they don’t feel they can get through to you; though you will almost always find them in the background.
7. You feel alone even when he is right there. He doesn’t provide you with anything that gives you a sense of safety and security. Rather you feel you are consistently on eggshells.
8. Everything is your fault. He takes no accountability. You can do no right.
9. He accuses you of being emotionally abusive. All you are doing is defending yourself and treating him the way he treats you and yet you are the victor and he is the victim.
10. You recognize him in your reflection. This is the biggie and takes the longest to get to. Once you have hit this point escaping the relationship becomes increasingly difficult because not only are you fighting him but also you are fighting yourself.
Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is not an easy process.
The most important component is an awareness that you are in an abusive relationship. This may take the most work because, as stated above, there are no visible marks. It takes more than the naked eye to see the building damage within.
Once you become aware and accept your relationship is abusive submitting to the desire to end it is the next challenge. With all the mental jabs and stabs taken it can be difficult to convince yourself it is time to leave and easy to talk yourself into staying.
Knowing how to leave without incident is the next step. You will need to develop a plan with the goal of either extracting him from your life or leaving him behind in yours. Either way, you will need to determine what the steps are to get you there.
Believing you are able to live without him and his so-called “love” is your next mark in the process of leaving the emotional abuse. You have to trust yourself that you can make those steps towards mental freedom and prove him wrong that you are nothing without him.
Finally, you need to stick to your guns.
Once you end the relationship you have to commit to that. Next to admitting and accepting the relationship is toxic keeping your healthy distance is the next hardest step because it means you have to leave your (unhealthy and abusive) comfort zone and create a new zone for you to mentally thrive. You have to be strong and disciplined to not answer those “loving” texts or return the “tearful” voice messages.
Remember, he conditioned you to respond to him and be his robot. He knows the buttons to push. He was able to shut down your instincts and replace them with his. He knows how to operate you. He will give you a reason; maybe several, to feel as though things have “changed” and he will do better. Hell, he may even apologize repeatedly. Be true to your mental health. He will try everything and anything to get your to do his bidding and return to HIS relationship.
As time goes, you will grieve. Expect that. If you expect it you are more likely to power through it without him. Also, expect that you will be susceptible to more abusive relationships. Abusers can detect you from a mile away. Recognize your need to recover and recondition. Lean on yourself and your support group to help you heal and move forward. You can move past this, as long as you want to.
You can do it.