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Emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it is happening. It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends. The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others. In this article the focus is primarily on intimate partner relationships.

Romantically you think you've found the perfect guy. Everything he does is so touching, especially in the initial stages of the relationship. He is so thoughtful and goes out of his way to ensure that all of your needs are met. There are red flags, tiny ones ... but you choose to ignore them, thinking that these are merely your imagination. Was that a glare you received when you smiled at the waiter? Or was it just your imagination? Emotional abuse can take on many faces. It can begin with your partner becoming irritable at the smallest thing and turning, it into your fault. The key word here is "fault"--as in it is always "you" who made him angry. As the relationship progresses, you find yourself altering your behaviour to accommodate or please him--just to avoid a confrontation because you never know how he will react even to things you once thought were reasonable. It is not a sign of a healthy relationship if your partner never takes responsibility and never admits to being at fault.

Not all abusers use drugs or drink excessive alcohol. While substance abuse can be a gateway to erratic and inappropriate behaviour, which then leads to emotional abuse--the most perfect gentleman can be an abuser. Ask the following questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:

1. Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating, judging, criticizing:

--Does your partner make fun of you or put you down in front of others?

--When you complain do they say that "it was just a joke" and that you are too sensitive?

--Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are "wrong"?

--Do they regularly ridicule, dismiss,- disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?

2. Domination, control, and shame:

--Do you feel that the person treats you like a child or inferior to them?

--An emotional abuser goes through life feeling entitled to be treated like royalty, and wants you to be a willing servant.

--Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behaviour is "inappropriate"?

--Do you feel you must "get permission" before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?

--Do they control your spending?

--Do they make you feel as though they are always right?

--Do they remind you of your shortcomings?

--Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?

--Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, & behaviour?

--A prominent trait of abusers is their jealousy. An abusive partner or spouse is often jealous of you, other people and even your dreams and goals. Their jealousy and rage over intangible things like you? aspirations stem from the lack of control they feel over those aspects of your life.

--An abuser is a grand manipulator and will sulk, threaten to leave, and emotionally punish you for not following their idea of how things should be. An abuser will try to make you feel guilty any time you exert your will and assert what is right for you. At times the abuser may appear to be apologetic and loving. The abuse begins again when the abuser feels he or she has your forgiveness.

--If you feel fear around your partner or spouse, there is something very wrong. Abusers may try to intimidate you with violence, dominance or power tactics. For example, intentionally putting you in possibly harmful situations, or showing you their gun collection and stating they are not afraid to use them.

3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:

--Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn't true?

--Are they unable to laugh at themselves?

--Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?

--Do they have trouble apologizing?

--Do they make excuses for their behaviour or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?

--Do they call you names or label you?

--Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?

--Do they continually have "boundary violations" and disrespect your valid requests?

4. Emotional distancing and the "silent treatment," isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:

--Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?

--Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?

--Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions & attitudes?

--Do they not notice or care how you feel?

5. Codependence and enmeshment:

--Do they treat you as an extension of themselves and not as a separate person?

--Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?

--Do they require continual contact and haven't developed a healthy support network among their own peers?

--Do you feel helpless, like you're trapped in the relationship?

--Emotionally abusive spouses want you all to themselves. They do not understand that you have a life outside of the relationship--one that includes family and friends. It is healthy and normal for you to hang out with other people as well, so if your partner prevents you from doing so, this maybe a sign of an emotionally abusive relationship.

--Do they punish you for time away. This goes along with the isolation technique, where abusers want you all to themselves. If you do go somewhere or do something without your partner, or even if he goes along but others are also there, an emotional abuser will punish you later. An abuser may shout, insult, threaten or worse, all because you were not exclusively hanging out with him.

Being in an emotionally abusive relationship is often difficult to recognize, because you begin to believe you are the problem. And once you recognise it, it is difficult to admit and even embarrassing. Such partners are often very good in many respects and you would not want them to be judged by other people. But you do not deserve to be treated the way you are. Your beliefs about yourself get destroyed and your self-image becomes such that you feel weak--and especially weak to leave. Get a reality check from a trusted person. Contact Lifeline/Childline (6112) or Philippi (061-259291). Get help to begin to feel better about yourself as that will give you the courage to take action.

It is important to remember that while emotional abuse is often thought of as being committed by a man against a woman, women can also emotionally abuse men, or between members of a same-sex relationship. Emotional abuse in any relationship is not acceptable.

Sources: relationship#slide=2 Image source: Abusive cycle image:
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Title Annotation:Women's Health
Publication:Sister Namibia
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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