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Dealing with emotional abuse
April 11, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Dealing with emotional abuse
By Nirmala Jain
 
Bruises, scars and broken bones are signs of physical abuse, but emotional abuse leaves no obvious marks. Women in emotionally abusive relationships suffer feelings of conflict, grief, insecurity, feeling overwhelmingly stifled and that nothing they do or say is good enough.
 
Psychological or emotional abuse isn't readily reported or even acknowledge and, because it is hard to prove, it is essentially a silent epidemic that many women wrongly endure. Emotional abuse is a silent monster living around us, in neighbours' and loved ones' homes and exists more than we realise. It is a tragic situation that's a daily reality for millions.

What is emotional abuse?
Like other forms of violence in relationships, emotional abuse is based on power and control. It is about someone manipulating your emotions on a psychological level, and it goes beyond simple verbal bullying. Emotional abusers may come across as bullies, yet they are often "silent monsters" who fake affection while knowing precisely how to manipulate situations, hurt and humiliate their victims and do whatever it takes to stay in control of the situation and their victims.

Even though emotional abusers can quickly explain away or make excuses for their abusive behaviour, they know exactly what they're doing. They master the art of manipulation, lying, intimidation and guilt. Women in emotionally abusive relationships suffer feelings of conflict, grief, insecurity, feeling overwhelmingly stifled and that nothing they do or say is right or good enough. Whether they disagree with their abuser or tell the abuser exactly what he wants to hear, the abuse doesn't readily ease up. This negative pressure comes in various forms, such as threatening, blaming, accusing, yelling, teasing and even laughing, and is applied 24/7 in extreme cases, leaving the vicim ashamed and afraid. Here are few classic examples of emotional abuse...

In an unhealthy relationship, when a woman demands that they slow down, her partner may act deeply hurt or threaten to end the relationship. He ignores her feelings and continues to pressure her to have sex, move in together or marry. What may seem as a sign of romance or loving possessiveness may have underline emotional abuse. For example, when a woman wants to go out alone with her friends, he moves to isolate her. He may show jealousy, saying: "Don't you love me?" It may sound romantic but he is using her love to control her. She wants to please him and may yield. He coerces her to always give in to his wants over hers to prove she loves him.

He may begin telling her how to dress, who she can talk to, where she can go, and that she can't do anything right. He may begin calling her several times in a day to see where she is, what she is doing and who she's with.

He may then explode verbally and/or start physically battering her. After the incident, he apologises and begs her forgiveness, promising it will never happen again. He may blame her for the abuse, saying, "If only you'd (responded sooner to my request / answered your phone sooner / hadn't been talking to that man / cooked something else for dinner), none of this would have happened." After his tearful apology, he becomes that loving, romantic, attentive man she first fell in love with. The man she believes he is. She thinks it will never happen again. But it does.

In an unhealthy relationship, this cycle plays out over and over. The result can even be death: About 30 per cent of women murdered are those killed by their intimate partner. So, how do you avoid one of these abusive relationships? The most important thing for you to remember is that the only person you can change is yourself and certainly not the man who is abusing you.

Gunta Krumins, BA, PMP, author of The Detrimental Effects of Emotional Abuse, says if you suspect you're in an emotionally abusive relationship, answer these questions:
Is he always blaming you for problems in your relationship?
Do your conflicts really ever get resolved?
Is he always controlling the relationship or you?
Are you constantly confused or insecure about where the relationship is going?
Does he run hot and cold, fly into rages out of the blue and blame you for them?
Do you feel trapped or cornered?
Does he put you on a guilt trip for expressing your opinion – or are you afraid to even express your feelings or opinions?
Is everything you do or say being scrutinised or judged by him?
Does he make you feel worn down mentally and physically until you just give in to what he wants?

"If your answer is yes to most of these questions, then it is not normal. You are being emotionally abused," Krumins warns. "As a victim, no matter what you are being told, you must know that it is not your fault and know that the abuser has no intention of changing. The only thing you can do is leave. Get someone to help you pack your bags and stay away from this person. Never go back. He means you harm," she adds.

Often nothing seems obviously wrong, but you just get a sense that something seems off . You may see or feel things that are disturbing and start second-guessing yourself or making excuses for oddities. It's hard to admit that your partner is hurting you, but don't let embarrassment keep you in an unhealthy relationship. Listen to your instincts, talk to a friend or seek counselling. There should be no hesitation. It is critical that you don't stay silent. Remember, it's never too late.

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