When people think of domestic abuse, most think of physical abuse – the kind that leaves fractured bones and bruises. What often gets overlooked is emotional abuse – the kind that leaves scars of an entirely different nature.
Both variations revolve around the same thing, and that thing is control. Whether physical or psychological manipulation is being used, abuse typically sees one partner trying to gain control over the other. The problem with emotional abuse however, is that because it can be a slow and subtle process, it often goes unseen – sometimes even by the person being abused.
You may think the way your partner acts is just ‘the way he is’. You may even blame yourself, telling yourself that if you were a better person, he wouldn’t treat you like this. Sadly this spiral of thought can lead to ongoing abuse, which may eventually turn physical.
Recognising the signs of emotional abuse is an important first step towards seeking help. From here you can talk through your feelings with a professional who can help you understand the nature of emotional abuse and offer support.
The following list of signs to watch out for has been compiled by counsellor Bernadette Adams1 who has extensive experience with couples counselling, relationship issues and abuse.
1. You rarely see your friends and family
Think about the last time you saw your friends and family – if it was a long time ago, think about why it has been so long. Is it because they are not allowed in your house? Or maybe because he doesn’t like you spending time with them? Has he humiliated you in front of them? Or are you worried they will try to get you to leave him?
2. He puts you down
How many times has your partner made you feel stupid or actually told you that you are ‘stupid/going nowhere/that you know nothing’? How often does he complain that the house is a mess or that you are a bad girlfriend/wife/mother? Does he tell you that you look unattractive and that no other man would want you?
3. You often feel guilty
How often are you made to feel guilty in your relationship? Does your partner criticise your parenting skills? Does he say the food you cook is terrible and that you have wasted money on buying and cooking ‘rubbish’?
4. He threatens you
Does he threaten to leave you after every argument? Do you feel anxious when he enters the room for fear of what mood he’ll be in? Do you choose not to tell him certain things for fear of the repercussion? Does he throw objects or punch walls when he’s angry?
5. You feel like his slave
Are you left to do all the cooking, cleaning and washing? Does he demand sex from you when you don’t want to? Do you have to ask him for money? When you do ask for money, does he make you tell him exactly what it’s for and why you need it?
If you found yourself saying yes to a lot of these questions – it may be time to consider the fact that you are being emotionally abused. It is also important to note that domestic abuse occurs in both men and women – and if you are a man suffering from emotional abuse, you may spot similar signs.
Whether you are a man or woman, talking to someone in confidence (such as a counsellor) can help you look at the abusive behaviour objectively and offer support if you make the decision to leave the relationship.
For more information and to find a counsellor who could help you, please see our fact-sheet on emotional abuse.
Notes to editors
1 Bernadette Adams is a Cheshire based counsellor; you can view her profile on the Counselling Directory.
For further information or to arrange an interview with a counsellor please contact Katherine Nicholls:
Tel: 01276 301239