There are so many misconceptions about emotional abuse. Here are a few:
That it isn’t real.
That it only happens in heterosexual relationships.
That it’s because of a person’s trauma and therefore not their fault.
That anything that doesn’t leave a physical mark shouldn’t be taken seriously.
To combat these misconceptions, here are some behaviors that are emotionally abusive that are often not labeled as such:
They minimize your experience.
This can look like them minimizing their abuse of you (for example, they may say things like: “it wasn’t that bad”or “how dare you make this about you”). This can also include minimizing your life experiences and invalidating any feelings you may be having.
2. They gaslight you.
This means that your partner makes you feel crazy by denying facts and your reality. (Gaslighting can be statements like these: that’s not how that went, that didn’t happen, you’re so crazy for feeling this way, etc.)
3. They humiliate you.
Your partner may do things like: Making a big scene in public, making fun of you to your friends, or saying anything to make you feel stupid or unworthy. This includes directly insulting you, calling you stupid, crazy, lazy, selfish, or anything along those lines.
4. They blame you and make you feel responsible for their negative emotions.
They put the blame on you for everything, including when things have not gone perfectly and for things that aren’t your fault.
5. They intimidate you.
They raise their voice, yell at you, and make you feel scared or unsafe.
6. They isolate you from your friends and family.
This tactic can include your partner not wanting or letting you spend time with friends or family, and being upset/punitive if you do. Another common behavior is your partner being controlling of who you hang out with, wanting to keep tabs on your at all times, and accusing you of cheating or having feelings for someone else.
7. They threaten you.
This includes threatening to leave you, but it can also include threats of harming themselves. They may threaten to kill themselves if you don’t do something. They can threaten you with physical or sexual violence that they don’t act on.
8. They make comments that are femmephobic, homophobic, and/or transphobic.
This looks like criticizing or accusing you of not being “a real lesbian/woman/man” because you are femme or trans. They may also spend time tearing you down based on your gender presentation (Which can look like statements such as: “you’re too femme for me,” “You’re not butch enough” etc.
9. They shame you.
They may try to make you feel shame for all sorts of things: For any desire you have, sexual or otherwise. For being emotional. For wanting better. For being you.
10. They withhold love.
They may not say “I love you,” or they may withhold physical affection as a punishment. They may ignore you or make you feel like you did something to deserve this kind of treatment.
Emotional abuse impacts our sense of self, other relationships, and what we feel we deserve in life. But healing is possible and you are absolutely not alone. And it all starts with understanding.
If you are experiencing or have experienced emotional abuse, please reach out to us for a consultation.
Some other resources that you may find helpful are:
Should I Stay Or Should I Go: (a note about these books: unfortunately there are no books on abuse that are more inclusive of gender and sexaulity outside of the cisgender and heterosexual norm)
Abandon Me (non fiction memoir that includes an emotionally abusive relationship between two queer women)