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Warning signs of emotional abuse

When we think about domestic abuse, most often the image that comes to mind is one of a battered woman, a bruised face, a cut lip, broken bones and blood. And while this image is a true one it often overshadows its partner in crime…emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is all about control and power, and an abusive personality will often use fear, rejection, money and many other tactics to gain the upper-hand in the relationship all without lifting a violent hand.

Being a psychological attack the pain and scars of emotional abuse are hidden on the inside, eroding away a person’s self-esteem and emotional security on every level, making it that much easier to hide from others, which only isolates and feeds the problem.

Knowing the signs of emotional abuse


Controlling all the money in a relationship, deciding on how its spent, withholding money, taking your money and even preventing you from working so you don’t earn your own money are all signs of control and one of the signs of emotional abuse.

At first it may seem like a relief not to have to worry about paying the bills, but everything you need will have to come from your partner making you dependent on him (or her) , and limiting your financial ability to leave anytime.


Withholding affection, lack of appreciation, holding back approvals, ignoring conversations and even rejecting your very presence, are all ways that an emotional abuser may punish you if you ever displease them.

Attacking your self-esteem they prey on your love for them, your need and want to make them happy, they use to manipulate you into the behaviour that they want, only giving any love and affection when you have pleased them in the way that they want.


Verbal abuse can at times be hard to discern, as it’s not always done with mean swear words, it can often be done under the guise of loving advice, all meant to undermine and damage your self-esteem, all the while proclaiming to only want to help. Of course there are many forms verbal abuse can take. Criticising, name calling, shouting swearing general put downs in private and public are all forms of verbal abuse and within an intimate relationship clear signs of emotional abuse.

Attacking your sense of worth on all levels, verbal abuse will erode away your levels of resistance, in the end becoming your own worst critic, as you may start to believe you deserve everything they say.


Threatening to leave, report to the authorities, call your parents, violence, and reveal your secrets and many more threats like it are all said with the intent to control you through fear of emotional, social or physical reprisal.

All threats of violence should be taken seriously as emotional abuse is often the first step to a physically abusive relationship.


Stopping or limiting how much contact you have with family and friends, controlling when and how you go out, may even try to move you to a new place away from any support network you may have, undermining any friends and family that you do have, twisting things they say or do to make them look untrustworthy or even enemies to you and your love.

Again this is clear controlling behaviour, which will leave you totally dependent on your partner.

Without family and friends you will have more time to spend with each other, but you also lose the ability to seek advice from anyone but your partner, and with no one else to disagree with him (or her) their control and emotional abuse will escalate



Fear is a powerful motivator, and it can sneak into a relationship quietly and before you realise it has snuck into your everyday.

Fear of telling your partner about a new bill, trouble the kids are in, being scared to talk about the most basic needs of the household, always wanting everything to be perfect and worrying constantly that everything is the way they like it. Can make it a very tense environment to live in, smashing things, locking doors, punching walls and shouting can create an atmosphere of intense fear.

With this kind fear comes the need to appease, to avoid trouble at all costs, and to make what we fear happy, so as to avoid an outburst of anger or punishment. A Clear sign of being in an emotional abusive relationship


“It’s all your fault” minimising, denying and blaming. It’s rarely the emotional abusers fault, any action, anything that was said, the blame will always be with someone else and most of the time that someone else will be you.

By Playing down the abuse and making light of your concerns they have you second guessing your perceptions of events and even wondering if you indeed are the cause of the problem. This of course leaves them to carry on guilt-free.

After all it’s not their fault.

Charming stranger

Many abusers at first show only their most charming side, being the perfect partner for your situation. But the more the relationship grows the more obvious their other side becomes.

And often this other side is only showed when you’re alone. Snide hurtful comments, controlling behaviour, threats and the many of the things listed above becoming your normal. But when in public, around your family and friends he reverts back to the perfect gentleman that everyone wants to know.

So charming is this public stranger that you may think that no one will ever believe you if were to speak out or try to leave, creating even more fear of being alone and losing what you do have as everyone will take his or her side.

Emotional abuse can leave many scars; it can create self-doubt, a loss of enthusiasm, fear, depression and can in some cases even lead to suicide.

It is easy to see when reading this information what emotional abuse is. Yet when it comes to identifying such behaviours in our partners (or family members) it’s not always so clear cut.

Yet if you are living (or in a relationship) with someone who displays more than 2 of the above signs then you may be living in an emotional abusive relationship.

© K.A.E Grove


Krisswe on June 18, 2015:

Well said. I am a survivor twice, after being horribly beaten he went through rehab, sober housing, counseling. and anger management, it all worked temporarily. Take my advice they don't change, I really loved him and thought he would change, but no. It took years and back again. Please save yourselves, do not take him back, even if they did all they could they for you, they have no control over their self destructive behavior, it's not your fault and you can't fix them. I know you want to because God help us we love them, but we can't fix them and we have to save ourselves and our children. If you get away run ...Do Not take them back like I did. I almost lost every thing. I'm a college educated professional it happens to all of us. Today I'm safe and you will be too. Think strength, think family, they are more supportive than you think. You will survive. Run. Survive. We are warriors!

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on July 03, 2014:

It can be hard thing to realise when your trapped in the situation but with more awareness perhaps others can free themselves before too much damage is done

Thanks for stopping by

Sandy from Florida on July 01, 2014:

Very informative Hub. Upvoted and shared.

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on March 16, 2014:


I am so sad to hear of what you are going through. it is not always easy to identify that we are being abused by someone that we love and it can be even harder to know what to do about it. your right in that I should have some options here for those looking for a way to get free and I thank you for your suggestion when I wrote this is was after my husband and I had a lot of counselling and together dealt with the emotional abuse that was rife in our marriage.( I was under the belief that it was all my fault)

I am glad that this helped and I will start working on a follow up article soon

thank you and I truly hope that things start to improve for you

Marina on March 11, 2014:

A very interesting article about people manipulating emotions. I am in such a relationship right now. My husband is a person with special needs, had an accident many years ago. I take care of him and he tries to emotionally control me, but he fails. I am very independent by nature. I sought psychological support 3 years ago and I know in due course I am going to leave him. Its very sad what is going on, because I care for him. I wish you wrote something for all these people who realise the damage done to them and trying to get free. Thanks again.

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on February 26, 2013:

You are so right, so many don't realize that what they are actually doing is emotional abuse. being able to place the blame on the partner the abuser often feels justified and changing their minds about it can be So difficult.

but with help from psychs, counselling and family it is possible for things to change and for the partnership and family to move on towards a healthier future, but only if the abuse was acknowledged for what it was...

thank you for taking the time to read this and to leave such a thoughtful comment

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on February 25, 2013:

Extremely well written about a very important subject. It's a difficult situation when the abuser doesn't even recognise that they are abusive. Then they discount all advice from friends and psychologists, and their personality can completely change when the abused starts standing up for themselves (with the support of friends/psychs). The scars run deep...

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on February 23, 2013:


Thank you

I have to agree with you, emotional abuse can be present in any situation, and although I did originally write this about spouses or life partners I myself gained insight into my own relationship with my mother and the reasons behind why I was willing to accept such behaviour from my husband, I am so glad you found this to be and informative read that I truly hope helps in sorting things out for you

CroftRoan on February 20, 2013:

This is a very well written piece. I understand that this is specific to a spouse or partner, but can this also be true between parents and children. I have quite a few of these signs and feelings in regards to my parents.

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on February 10, 2013:


it is a shame that anger and uncontrollable rage can cause such havoc and damage within a family. But as you say there are some who can rise above being an abuser and learn to reengage with their families with the right sort of therapy.

but sadly there are others who may see the wrong in their actions but lack the willing contrite spirit to do anything about it

Ausseye on January 25, 2013:

Hi Nighthag: Abuse as you describe it abounds in far to many households, destroying good lives and giving those children hell. Family violence in all its forms should be outed, a civic duty by all. My surprise is that the majority of court mandated abusers are ashamed by their own actions ( most not all) and genuinely try to do something about it when confronted……….I dream of a better world where love conquers anger.

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on January 09, 2013:

Jolee Siciliana

I am so sorry for the pain that you have been through. But I am even happier to hear that you are now free from such an oppresive relationship, and lifting your head up again knowing that you are worth more than that and that you can and will find a better life to live...

I am so glad that you enjoyed this, I truly hope it helped some...

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on January 09, 2013:


my family too has not always been emotionally healthy, and this kind of abuse can and dose often happen inside a family dynamic(not always just within an intimate partnership) , I am sorry to hear of your struggles with your family and all the negativitly aimed at you, It can be terribliy hard to move through it all to a more positive life.

I didn't find any peace until I pulled away and put some distance between me and my family. and I still struggle to maintain that distance because I do love my family, despite the fact that it can and has hurt me.

I wish you nothing but the best for you...

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on January 09, 2013:


thank you so much for the votes up and sharing, I believe that this a need message today, especially for those learnting what relationships should be... again thank you

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on January 09, 2013:


thank you

the damage that words can do cuts deep, and the more aware of this kind of abuse we are, the more we may be able to prevent it happening, and help those it is happening to...

thanks so much for the votes up and your very thoughtful comment, your support means a lot

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on January 04, 2013:

Thank you dreamseeker

Emotional abuse can be very devastating to not only the victim of the abuse but to others around the situation, as children learn the behaviour that the adults around them exhibit, or worse yet become victims of it and carry it forward in their own lives and so the cycle continues

I am so glad that you have moved on from this type of damaging relationship, we are worth more than to be an emotional punching bag

Jolee Rizzuti from Worcester Ma on January 04, 2013:

I really enjoyed reading this. I just got out of a bad relationship and reading this really was on point of what I went through for six years. I love the photo of the girl on the swing with her head down people don't know how heavy that head begins to feel to the point were you never want to look up again.

Ruth R. Martin from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York on January 03, 2013:

I can identify with parts of your article in my own life, with the relationships of several very close family members. You are right, it is hurtful and damaging. Sometimes I wonder what life would feel like to live in an emotionally balanced family. It is so difficult to continue believing in yourself when others speak negatively about you and what you do. If it weren't for my faith in God I would likely be hugely depressed. I just keep praying that one day things will get better...

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on January 03, 2013:

I thank you for penning an extremely important hub and I am voting it up and sharing it as well.

acaetnna from Guildford on January 02, 2013:

This is a fantastic hub and you have covered everything in such detail. It is so true that emotional abuse is under estimated. It is a cruel position to be in, yet rarely understood or given much thought. Voted up most definitely and pressing the appropriate buttons too. It needed to be said and you said it SO well. Thank you.

dreamseeker2 on December 15, 2012:

I know all about this reality too well. It is damaging, not just to the one going through it, but in the years to come, it can project out around them onto others. It can affect a persons whole outlook on life, often causing denial of the facts just to survive the sitation. Very good hub. Needed to be said and it was...very well done indeed. Voted up and useful.

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 14, 2012:


your right that was a very good article and I am so glad that you sent me to it, more light needs to be shone onto the fact that husbands, partners and sons can all and are suffering from the same sort of abuse as women.

I am going to add this link to the bottom of the this page in the hope that others may learn something as well

thank you!

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 14, 2012:

life iz beautiful

thanks for the votes and taking the time to read, I appreciate both

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 14, 2012:


respect like so many other common sense values seems harder and harder to find these days, with everyone rushing to fall in love, follow career paths, gain the perfect life as quickly as we can, basic human empathy seems to be left at the side of the curb like a forgotten suitcase we simply didn't have room for.

thanks for your very thoughtful comment I especially liked the Jekyll and Hyde analogy

jonnycomelately on December 14, 2012:

Nighthag, this is a very important Hub, and congratulations on bringing the topic into the open.

I also need to mention here that the emphasis almost always is focused on women being at the "receiving end" of abuse.


This link will paint another side of the very real scenario...... for the guy who is being abuse the problem is compounded by most people refusing to believe him, even ridiculing him.

Salini from India on December 14, 2012:


Voted beautiful, useful and tweeting.

Karen Silverman on December 14, 2012:

the best abusers are the most charming too - it's their 'hook' that keeps the abused party coming back....believing, trusting...and then - being abused again..(jekyll&hyde..)

love your points about the verbal abuse, that: " it can often be done under the guise of loving advice"... - this point is very often overlooked and many people don't consciously understand that they're being abused, yet - their self-esteem is slowly being drained by an expert..

Sigh..don't ya wish we could all just have a little respect - for OURSELVES? Abusing someone you're supposed to love sure doesn't make you make very good!

Excellent hub-great advice!

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 13, 2012:

always exploring,

Its always saddened me to see this play out in so many relationships close to me, and even in some of my own, I can only hope that this may help someone find some answers ...


K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 13, 2012:

highland terrier

It is indeed amazing and scaring how widespread this is in relationships across the world, for example the first three comments on this hub are from three separate countries alone. Showcasing how very much of a human problem this is..

thanks for taking the time to read

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 13, 2012:


Thank you, I've always been a believer in forewarned is forearmed and even then it can be a hard thing to see in our own lives

K.A.E Grove (author) from Australia on December 13, 2012:

chitrangada sharan

It can be a very damaging and heart breaking situation to have deal with and we always walk away with scars, even if we can't see them physically.

Thank you for your visit and comment

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 13, 2012:

Great hub..I'm afraid this is very real to many. Thank you for sharing..

Highland Terrier from Dublin, Ireland on December 13, 2012:

This is a very important subject and its terrifying how many relationships are of this nature.

So well done for highlighting this. And highlighting so well.

Thank you.

Keely Deuschle from Florida on December 13, 2012:

Very well written on a sensitive subject. Thank you for sharing.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 13, 2012:

Quite an engaging hub. You have written about a very sensitive and serious issue and done it beautifully. Emotional abuse is indeed difficult to identify and is more damaging to the sufferer.

Thanks for sharing.

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