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By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

Emotional abuse is hard to identify. Some people even think since it doesn’t leave bruises, it’s not really that bad. Let me assure you: it is that bad, and even worse many times. Here are some signs you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship:

  • If your partner…
  • Has a lack of empathy and understanding of your feelings
  • Controls who you spend time with
  • Monitors your phone, texts and emails
  • Belittles you and puts you down
  • Makes you feel like everything is your fault
  • Threatens divorce to manipulate you
  • Makes important decisions without you
  • Controls the finances and doesn’t let you have equal access
  • Has unpredictable, angry outbursts so you feel like you are walking on eggshells
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for his/her own actions, and instead blames you
  • …you very well could be in an emotionally abusive relationship.


If you think your relationship is emotionally abusive, you should seek counseling with an experienced therapist – for yourself. You need a knowledgeable outsider to show you the patterns of behavior and manipulation in which you are living. You can’t change the behaviors of your spouse, and they are not your fault. However, you are responsible for working on your own emotional healing, and making any necessary changes to ensure your safety and sanity. This is not an easy task, and a therapist specializing in emotional abuse and trauma recovery can help you.


In a word, no. Couples counseling is not helpful in any abusive situation.

For marriage therapy to be effective, both partners must have the same goals: to improve the relationship. If both people aren’t working to save the marriage, deepen their connection, or resolve a particular issue, then marriage counseling won’t work.

Abusive partners don’t have mutual goals – they aren’t working toward a mutually beneficial relationship.

Couples counseling can only be helpful when both spouses can tolerate tough feelings and take responsibility for them. This one might take some time in work in marriage therapy, but again, when both partners want the same thing – and are able to regulate themselves to experience negative feelings – marriage therapy can be extremely helpful.

Emotionally abusive partners can’t handle their own negative feelings. That’s why they blame everyone else for their problems. Since a goal of marriage therapy is to help spouses communicate their feelings, good and bad, clearly, abusive partners are not able to participate in this process. They will instead blame their partner for any negative emotion. Example: “If she stopped doing those things that upset me, I wouldn’t yell at her.” This spouse can’t tolerate feeling guilty that he yelled at her, and instead puts that guilt and blame back on his spouse. He doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions.

Many times, over the years, I have had to tell couples that marriage therapy won’t work, because of the emotional abuse in their marriage. While this is always a difficult conversation, I’m thankful I get to speak out loud what the couple really needs to hear for the abuser to stop inflicting pain on the other partner. I believe we were made for safe, loving connection to each other. As an experienced marriage therapist, I can’t enable emotionally abusive behavior to continue in my office.

At Lime Tree Counseling, I help couples recognize emotional abuse in their marriage, but I also help support the spouse being abused with PTSD & Trauma Treatment. If you think you’re experiencing emotional abuse, please contact me for a free consultation and to set up an appointment. You are not crazy, and you can take back your power and find sanity again. If you find anxiety is taking over your life, I also offer Anxiety Counseling. Panic attacks and constant worry shouldn’t be a way of life. Please contact me and let’s talk about living life as you were made to live.