By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC
Emotional abuse is difficult for people to understand, because you can’t see it. It’s not one specific action; it’s a repeated pattern of behavior that makes the target of the abuse feel worthless, insane, and guilty. All relationships have challenges, and all couples fight. Emotional abuse is not the same thing. Emotional abuse is one partner trying to devalue, control, and manipulate the other partner. Some characteristics of emotional abuse include your partner:
· Lacks empathy and understanding of your feelings and perspective
· Belittles you, criticizes you, swears at you
· Threatens divorce to manipulate you
· Makes you believe everything wrong in the relationship is your fault
· Controls who you spend time with, even monitoring your texts/emails
· Doesn’t ever truly apologize, and blames you for everything
· Has unpredictable, angry outbursts
· Can’t take responsibility for their own actions
Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship?
This is so important I will say it again: An emotionally abusive relationship is not the same as normal couple challenges. So then, an emotionally abusive relationship can’t be healed the same way as more typical relationship issues. When working with a couple in marriage counseling, I help them see how both of them contribute to their problems. As soon as I see signs of emotional abuse (or any abuse), I put the brakes on fast. Read more about why couples counseling doesn’t work for emotional abuse in my previous blog post. The difference is this: The abusive partner must take responsibility for their actions, work hard in their own therapy to heal themselves and learn new ways of relating to their partner.
3 Lies That Make the Emotionally Abused Partner Feel Crazy
When you are the target of the emotional abuse, it’s very difficult to break free. Emotional abuse grows when it’s kept quiet – start to take away it’s power by talking about it – put it out in the open. Find a trusted friend, or a specialized counselor who can help you sort through your specific situation. No matter what, don’t fall for these lies that many people believe. Holding on to these false beliefs will keep you trapped in the emotional abuse.
1. You are responsible for your partner’s anger.
Absolutely not. We are all responsible for our own emotions. Nothing you do justifies your partner belittling you, call you names, and swearing at you. Don’t apologize for things that aren’t your fault; when you do, your partner no longer has to own what they’ve done wrong.
2. Just try harder, you can fix the relationship.
You cannot fix the relationship because you cannot change your spouse. Again, this isn’t a typical couples counseling situation. This is an emotionally abusive situation, and that’s a game changer. To say you just need to try harder is to say that the problem is with you. It’s not. The problem is NOT with you. So then, you can’t fix it.
3. You need to stay to make things better.
You can’t heal in the place where you got hurt. It’s not possible. If you have a cut on your hand, you clean it out and put a band aid on it to protect it from further infection. You don’t keep it open and allow more germs to get in. In the same way, you can’t leave yourself open to further emotional abuse and expect to heal from your wounds. You will need to separate from your partner and do your own therapy to heal from the emotional abuse.
Start Counseling for Emotional Abuse in Ambler, PA
At Lime Tree Counseling, our team specializes in emotional abuse counseling. Please don’t let emotional abuse grow in silence – contact us today to set up a free phone consult or an initial appointment – we want to hear your story and help you make a plan to move forward. You absolutely can overcome emotional abuse, and we want to help you.