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Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

According to noted Psychotherapist Esther Perel, in relationship, we require two things: stability and desire.[1] We want to know that our partner has our back and that we can depend on them.

So what happens if your partner doesn’t show up in this way? What if your partner’s words and actions even seem a little mean or hostile?

There are many forms of abuse and sometimes, one can experience more than one of these by an abuser. The first thing that comes to mind usually is physical abuse or domestic violence; however, there are other forms of abuse that can go overlooked and not addressed because they don’t bear the same physical marks. This can result in the emotional abuse going on for years undetected.

There is no discrimination in abuse with regards to age, gender, socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity, anyone can become a victim of abuse. Awareness of the forms of abuse can allow you to spot them and stop the abuse as soon as possible.

What Is an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is also a form of abuse. Emotional abuse can result in trauma, anxiety or depression. This form of abuse is likely more common than physical abuse and consists of any behavior designed to hurt another person emotionally.

Why is emotional abuse so harmful? It has negative and long-lasting effects on an individual’s self-esteem.

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Verbal abuse can be used to manipulate and degrade someone that can leave them feeling powerless and confused. Victims of emotional abuse actually start to believe their abuser resulting in feeling shame and doubtful about themselves and their self-worth.

Financial abuse is also a form of emotional abuse. Have you heard the saying “He who holds the money holds the power”? When someone uses financial means to control another person, this is also a form of abuse. Signs of financial abuse include things like restricting access to money, credit cards and bank accounts.

Emotional abuse will usually start out small so that the abuser can determine how far the victim will allow them to go. Over time, the abuse can build until it becomes very frightening and debilitating for the victim. The cycle perpetuates itself and only continues to worsen, ultimately leading to further abuse and heightened fears. This ultimately paralyzes the victim, making it very difficult to share the abuse with friends or loved ones.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

If you find yourself or anyone you love having the signs below, it’s time to muster your courage and face the issue:

  • Humiliation, criticizing and yelling – When someone frequently humiliates you, either publicly or privately, this can be a sign of abuse. Do you always feel that you’re wrong or that you can’t do anything right because of comments your partner makes?
  • Threatening – If someone threatens you and you fear for your safety even if they never act on it, this can be a sign of abuse.
  • Imitating or making fun of – There is a difference between poking fun at and joking at someone else’s expense. This is usually done by the abuser to make them feel better about themselves and more superior.
  • Ignoring or isolating – This can be used as a form of punishment. Being ignored by someone you love is painful.
  • Gaslighting – Manipulating someone so much that they think they are going insane.
  • Controlling and lecturing – Treating someone as though they are child and preventing them from doing things they desire, and lecturing them for having these desires.
  • Accusations and blame – The abuser doesn’t take any responsibility, and blames his victim for anything and everything that goes wrong.

My Personal Experience with Abuse

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced emotional abuse myself in the form of financial abuse. I was married for 13 years to a man who controlled me with money.

The sad thing is that I didn’t even realize it until I was out of the marriage. I found myself doubting my worth and was so beaten down that I justified his actions all while feeling unfulfilled in my relationship.

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Here are some examples from my abusive relationship. I wasn’t allowed to touch the thermostat in my home as I didn’t pay the mortgage or phone bill (Controlling). While grocery shopping, my personal hygiene items like deodorant or tampons were separated from the family groceries so that I could pay for them myself (Humiliation). He never wanted to combine our finances so, on occasion, I would have to borrow money from my husband. He would then require me to postdate checks to him and place them on the mirror in our bedroom as a reminder until I paid him back (Humiliation).

I must point out that my ex-husband did not exhibit these behaviors toward me at the beginning of our relationship. There were no “red flags” that alerted me to the forthcoming abuse that I was to confront. It was a gradual progression that occurred after our first son was born and continued to escalate 4 years later after our second son was born.

I was ultimately controlled by my ex-husband and made to feel inadequate and wrong until it was simply unbearable for me.

Although I attempted to seek help through counseling, my ex-husband was simply not willing to change. It was only at the very end when I asked him for a divorce that he was even remotely interested in discussing his behavior. By that point, I simply had too much respect for myself to succumb to any false promises from him.

In the end, it was a very long struggle to find my voice and the strength to stand up for myself and say, enough is enough.

How to Move Beyond an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If you feel that you’re being emotionally abused, trust your instincts.

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Realize that you’re not responsible. You can’t control what someone else does. But now that you’re aware of the situation, it’s time to take your power back. Take control of your life and find help if you need it.

1. Set Boundaries

First, identify what your boundaries are. What are you willing to accept for your emotional and physical limits? And what makes you feel stressed or uncomfortable?

The only way to set good boundaries is to know where you stand. Your partner isn’t a mind reader, so you need to communicate your feelings and boundaries in a direct straightforward way.

Setting boundaries is a sign of a healthy relationship and you should each be willing to honor them.

2. Remove Yourself from the Situation

The ease of doing this will depend on your situation. Before you leave, be sure to have an exit strategy in place. If you feel that you could be in danger, this will keep you safe while you prepare to get everything in order so you can leave for good.

Speak with friends and family that you trust about your plan to leave and seek assistance. Always remember… You’re not alone!

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There are many organizations available to help you. If you’re worried about how you will financially support yourself or where you will go, don’t worry, there are shelters available to assist you with all of this every step of the way.

3. Seek Assistance from Friends, Family and Professional Counselors If Needed

A few places to seek assistance include your church, a counselor, or you can find a therapist at GoodTherapy.org.

If your relationship is very abusive, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at TheHotline.org.

Final Thoughts

Not only is it possible to survive an abusive relationship, but also you can thrive and be healthy and happy.

Be sure you have the support you need and make yourself a priority. Realize your self-worth. Self-care is very important in the healing process.

When you set boundaries to eliminate the abuse or choose to leave, you’re in control of your life better. You’re also empowering yourself and practicing self-love at the same time.

Always remember that you are in charge of your life and have the power of choice on your side. Don’t let others diminish your light or power. You’re stronger than you know!

Featured photo credit: Max Rovensky via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dana Lam

Dana is a busy mom of two boys, author and co-founder of the Surprise Date Challenge.

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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

More Tips on Dealing With Fake People

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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