You may have heard the old rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Some well-meaning adult may have told you this when you were a child facing name-calling or other unkind words on the playground. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Words can have a devastating effect on a person, and you may be experiencing this if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Emotional abuse is a form of control in which one partner in a relationship uses criticism, threats and shame to get the other partner to acquiesce to his or her way of thinking. This can be about very minor issues, such as which foods he or she should like and which family they might visit for the holidays. However, emotional abuse can take a toll on you and rob you of control over your own life.
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse may not be easy to recognize because those who are victims are often so uncertain of their own opinions that they don’t trust their assessment of the situation. Your abuser may wear you down by causing you to doubt that your own opinions are valid. The process may be so subtle that you may not even realize what is happening, especially because emotional abuse occurs in the setting of what is supposed to be love.
Some examples of emotional abuse include the following:
- Your spouse withholds affection, money or other important things to get you to submit to his or her point of view.
- He or she causes you to give up on ideas or plans by mocking, insulting or belittling them.
- Your spouse shames you in front of others or shares embarrassing things about you with other people behind your back.
- Whenever something goes wrong in the marriage, your spouse can find a way to blame you.
- Your spouse is not afraid to point out your flaws to the children.
- You are constantly trying to figure out how to please your spouse to avoid hearing his or her criticism.
If you no longer share your thoughts with your spouse for fear of insults or retaliation, you may be a victim of emotional abuse. You may also feel like you have to defend everything you say and do. When you wake up in the morning, you may feel as if you are in a fog because you have lost your ability to trust your own decisions.
The consequences of emotional abuse can be physical as well. You may be constantly fighting off one illness after another because your body is trying to cope with the psychological pressure you are under. If you feel this is happening to you, it may be time to consider your options. Speaking with a Kentucky family law professional may be the first step in regaining your self-confidence and your independence.