Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse – The Warning Signs

“He doesn’t hit me, so there is no abuse in my relationship.” There is a lot more to domestic violence than just battery. The emotional wounds can run very deep, and actually take longer to heal than the physical ones.

In this article I refer to the abuser as “he,” because most reported cases of domestic violence the male is the abuser (but it does sometimes happens the other way). I will focus on the typical signs of emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, and how to identify if you are in an abusive relationship.

  • Has he ever threatened to hit you, actually hit you, shoved you, or grabbed you?
  • Does he respect the women in his life (mother, sister, daughter)?
  • Does his personality change dramatically after drinking alcohol?
  • Does he easily show his anger and/or hostility?
  • Does he try to take advantage of you sexually (either forcing sex, or just relieving himself and not caring about your pleasure)?
  • Is he a dependent person and controls by soliciting pity?
  • Does he put you down or degrade you in subtle and even not so subtle ways (this includes name calling)?
  • Does he always have to win at any kind of competitive activities (including driving)?
  • Does he often complain that his boss or authority figures, “don’t know what they’re doing?”
  • Does he often insist where you will eat and what activities you will be doing together?
  • Do you always have an excuse for his behavior?


If you’ve gotten this far in the article then you probably have a problem, or know someone who does. Abusive behavior is a choice. It damages your partner. It damages you, and it damages your children. The abuse does not begin with the relationship. Often women remark how loving and affectionate he was when they first started dating. Usually the abuse creeps up slowly over many years, but there are some warning signs to let you know if your relationship has the potential to become abusive.

Jealousy: Sometimes when we begin a relationship, we feel secure if he acts a little jealous, but jealousy has nothing to do with love. It is a sign of possessiveness and a lack of trust. He may call often or drop by unexpectedly. He may encourage you not to work for fear that you will meet someone else.

Controlling Behavior: He may say he is just concerned, but he will be angry if you are late. He may not want you to make personal decisions, like what you will wear, or who you will see. Or, he may try to control all the money.

Quick Involvement: Many abused women knew their abuser for less than six months before they were married. He may come on like a whirlwind claiming “I’ve never felt this way about anyone else before.” He will pressure you for a commitment.

Isolation: The abuser often tries to cut his partner off from her friends and family. Does he accuse your friends of “causing trouble?” The abuser may to get you to move farther away, or he may insist that you two can share one car.

Blames Others for His Problems and Feelings: Does he feel that people are “doing him wrong,” or “out to get him?” Does he say, “You made me mad?” Only he can make himself mad. It is his choice, not yours. You can’t make him happy either. Does he make you responsible for his emotions?

Verbal Abuse: The abuser will often degrade his partner by calling her names, cursing her, or degrading her accomplishments. This can include waking his partner to argue, or not letting her go to sleep. Does he say things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Many abusers have sudden changes in mood. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who beat their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics like hypersensitivity.

If you think you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, get help. There are many support groups on-line and face to face. Contact the national hotline for domestic abuse at 1-800-799-7233. They will give you the number of a local shelter where you can get help. You don’t have to go to shelter to get the support you need. Many shelters offer a 24 hour hot line where you can call and get your questions answered. Often they offer classes and support groups to help you to understand the cycle of abuse and how to prevent it.

I am a firm believer in “heal the family, and heal the world.” If we can stop the violence and abuse at home, perhaps someday we will find world peace.

Domestic Violence Websites:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.ndvh.org/
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://www.ncadv.org/


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27 thoughts on “Emotional Abuse – The Warning Signs

  • I was in a marriage like this, it was like being in my own private hell. Thankfully I found my way out, but it took years of counseling and growth to move forward. I still struggle with the damage to myself, my kids and my ex husband. I urge any woman who is relating to this article to get help. It doesn’t get easier, it’s gets worse and unfortunately your kids suffer the most. Great article Janet.

  • My ex husband was emotionally,verbally and physically abusive. He had an ongoing affair with some younger woman. After six years of lies, threats, abuse, thievery and neglect, he left me and our son for his mistress. In the beginning I sunk into a deep depression and would cry every night because my life, despite how awful, it was over.. my family was destroyed. It’s been almost three years. I’m happier and have learned with therapy and emotional support from family and friends that it wasn’t my fault. That my ex husband is the problem and I think the only fault I had was giving him too many second chances, too much credit and too much faith. Sadly, when you have a child with someone it can be difficult to just walk away. Many times I wanted to go and many times he manipulated me to stay with him. I don’t know if I’ll ever really know why. I just think he’s a sociopath. I consider myself blessed that he left me for someone else.

    • You could be on to something, empathmomma. I wonder how many abusers are sociopaths? Thank-you for sharing your story with us. Abuse gets more prevalent this time of year, and your testimonial may inspire someone else to get help. Life’s too short to be miserable. Wishing you a wonder 2015.

  • Yes I do believe that most if not all abusive spouses have sociopathic traits. I did a lot of psychological research on his behavior. I didn’t understand what possessed him to do those horrific things to a person that he claimed to have loved. Of course after he confessed to his affair and that he was leaving me for her, he coldly looked at me and said, “I never loved you, I only told you I loved you to appease you” . No human with a conscience would say something like that. I thought of everything he had done to me and kept trying to find the source of the reasons why. It wasn’t me. His psychological makeup is so screwed up that he is damaged beyond repair. I got caught in his facade. This was a little boy who wanted to play house and got bored so he decided to play something else. No concern for others. No real love for others except himself. If you get in the way of his wants, he lashes out. He doesn’t know how to control his anger because his mind is not fully developed to differentiate between right and wrong. Sociopaths are dangerous and not to be trusted. If you think that your spouse or partner is a sociopath. Don’t question them. That will only make them angry. Sociopaths think they are flawless and have a almost a god complex. Run don’t walk to the nearest exit. There is no cure for sociopathic behavior. I hope this does inspire some people to investigate.

      • Thank you very much. It means alot to know that my words are valued. I do hope that not just what I have wrote but the wonderful article that Janet Moon had posted will help people who feel helpless be inspired to seek help for a better future. Thank you Janet for your inspiration and support. Thank you oaboss for your kind words.
        Blessed be.

  • I was going with someone for less than 6 months and just broke up with him. He was described to a T on bullets 3-6 and 8. I knew I was in for a bad day when he would start bragging on himself. He went from being a sweet, wonderful charmer to being verbally cruel at times, and he always discounted my feelings and had to compete to let me know that anything he thought/wanted/felt was more important than anything from my side. Abuse was never physical…it was always verbal, but the pressure to have sex was also there, and even though I wasn’t physically forced, I was mentally and spiritually worn down until I gave in. I finally screamed at him that I’d had enough, wanted him out of my life forever, and told him that I hate him now. He broke down and cried to get pity, and now he’s currently trying to keep communication open to win me back; it won’t happen. I can’t bear another moment of the pain he’s inflicted on me. I want women to know that abusers don’t start out as monsters; they seem wonderful and perfect when you meet them, but then start changing in a short amount of time, and the changes are very gradual. They make sure you’re hooked on them before they get really bad. I advise women to read the article above, and if anything in the list applies in their relationship/marriage, they should get out ASAP!

  • Most of those describe my ex. It’s funny now I think about all the signs that was flashing in the beginning. At first I was taken by his height and looks. Once he slip me his number (he wrote it down twice just in chase I lost the first one lls) I was thinking about throwing it away (I had alot going on) but something kept telling me to keep it. So in two months we were dating. I did felt a bit pressure when he nagging me for sex. I wanted to wait 3 months but he kept sweet talking me and I caved it like a dummy. It was heaven the way I felt when I set out the house and seeing him with that goofy smile on his face. Things were ok til this fool starting playing mind games. Pretending to break-up with me, drove off and leaving me in the parking lot for a few minutes then come back and start laughing, trying push me out his mother’s car in motion, stupid arguments he started for fun, texting from another phone knowing that I can’t text back, name calling, etc. In my mind I thought I could change him, he needed me, he loves me and I couldn’t see how wrong I was. I cried more over him then I had with any other men. I told only the small things to certain people, I felt that I made him act like this. One friend told me that maybe he’s hiding something from me which explain his crappy behavior. Hell he said that he was a asshole and still that didn’t ring any bells. When I started working that fall, his true feeling starting coming thought. I worked in the city and those 6 mths were hard on me thanks to his! He became jealous that I wasn’t near him, accusing me of cheating every week! Barely came by to see me or even contact me. Have a feeling in my stomach he was seeing someone. Excuses he kept giving me, I had enough and broke up with him over the phone. He cheating on me more then once, one of them I knew from a mutual friend and etc. This month mark the 1st year since my break up and it feels good! You can walk away from a emotional abuser, its not easy but it can be done! Life is so much sweeter on the other side!

  • I’ve been with a guy for about 2 years and he has been verbally and emotionally abusive quite a few times. It’s not all the time, but when it happens it’s traumatizing. I don’t know how to get out of the cycle. He lives with me at my grandma’s house. He hasn’t hit me, but those times where he’s had his outbursts (I can count plenty) have made me fearful. When I go with my friends, I don’t take him with because I am afraid he will act out. He says that we can work through it if our love is strong enough,but I don’t want there to be a next time when I’m crying uncontrollably and shaking from the nasty hurtful things he says to me,keeping me awake at nigjt trying to “talk” to me about whatever we were arguing about.I’ve had to leave and turn off my phone to avoid him in the not too distant past. Please help.

    • Hello cocolynn,

      When I worked at the Women’s Shelter, about 75% of the women who came to shelter were there because of emotional abuse, not physical. Please call the hotline, 1-800-799-7233, and get the number to your local shelter. You do not have to stay at the shelter to get help. Most of them have hotlines you can call to talk, and they have meetings to help you make the changes you need to make to improve your life. Our shelter even had self-esteem meetings where we got together and did our hair, nails, and makeup to make us feel better. You will be amazed at everything they can do for you at no charge.


  • Psychological and emotional do not always focus on the person directly, sometimes its on someone close to that peson.
    My father’s second ex-wife took her anger at him by causing me emotional trouble. There was some physical abuse ( punishments for ‘bad’ behavior).
    It does leave lasting damage, so much it isolated me from everyone in my immediate family.
    It can also backlash. Her abusive behavior blew up in her face, and yes, nearly cost her her life.
    If the person’s behavior is not acceptable, then, for your own sanity and their safety, just leave.

  • jimdragontech says:

    I would add one other suggestion/reminder: unless there are children ( yours &his) there is nothing there physically that cannot be remembered and cherished or replaced.
    For everything else there are lawyers and legal aide.
    My ex lover, then ‘his wife’ ( I was even the best man) and now again My Lover and now My Wife ( idiot mistakes can be corrected) fooled both of us- for a time.
    Shallow will out.
    Legal aide ended their farce and I did what I should have done in the first place
    That was 30 years ago and WE are still here.

  • I have been in an abusive relationships my entire life .it’s almost like that’s all I know . when someone is nice to me I run . I’m more in fear of a nice guy ..why..

    • You said it, Michelle. It’s all that you know. It’s familiar. You need help to change it. Check to see if your local shelter offers any kind of group meetings. You can learn a lot in those meetings. They can help you to identify your unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and teach you how to change them. Good luck!

  • jimdragontech says:

    Update: originally I wrote WE had been together 30 years. There was a slight legalistic complication with the marriage: turns out it wasn’t legal ( liscencing and divorce-his issues) as of Samhain 2016 its 40 years.

  • Hi. Some of the stuff described in the article above applies to me but not in the exact same way because he has never physically hit me before but has threatened to and even shoved me, he has thrown me out of our home a couple of times too. He always threatens to divorce me if I don’t do what he wants and we have two kids and an 8 years old marriage, it makes me very scared and keeps me on my toes most times cos I can’t express my self without feeling he could misunderstand what amakes trying to say. Am scared of a separation because I don’t want my kids to blame me for not having a complete family. I need your advise. Thanks

    • You’re dealing with a man who wants total control over everything and everyone in his life. Your fear that the kids will blame you for leaving their father is not realistic. It’s more likely your children will grow up to be abusers themselves or become involved with an abusive partner. If you stay with him, you will help to propagate that inter-generational cycle of abuse. Please contact the DV hotline (number above) and get the number for your local shelter. You don’t have to go to shelter to get help. They have people who volunteer to answer your calls and help you through it.

  • Being the adoptive kid of a narcissistic sociopath and a somewhat broken narcissist (with a sociopath mother) , this is a good rundown on things.
    Just remember, the more they know is the more they personalize the attacks. Also, they do things to not get caught sonthe moreyou call them out is the more they stay back or away.
    Otherwise, and I say this from experience… if anything leads to divorce in regard to one… make sure you don’t budge on the kids to make the narcissistic sociopath happy. I had that happen to me and it messed up a lot for me for college. Mom was too afraid so I got thrown in the mix. I still have him trying to pull low things in me to this day.

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