10 Subtle Signs You’re In An Emotionally And/Or Mentally Abusive Relationship

One of the most common misconceptions about abuse is that it has to be physical. In reality, relationship abuse can be emotional and mental as well. Screaming, insulting, humiliating, intimidating, and other similar behaviors can also cause a lot of harm to a person’s wellbeing, especially over a long period of time. Check out these subtle signs you’re in an emotionally or mentally abusive relationship.

  1. You’re too scared to be honest. In a relationship that’s emotionally or mentally abusive, you might feel too scared to speak honestly out of fear of your partner’s reaction. Being able to express yourself clearly and communicate openly is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship, but this is one of the first things to be compromised when you’re being abused. You might tell your partner what they want to hear rather than speaking the truth because you know, otherwise, they’re likely to react in a potentially harmful way.
  2. You don’t feel free to leave. You should always feel free to leave a relationship that is no longer serving you. Abusers often take this right away from their victims by making them feel like they can’t or shouldn’t leave. They might guilt their partner into staying, manipulate them with lies, or even threaten them. It’s normal to worry about upsetting your partner when you’re planning on breaking up with them, but it’s not normal to feel that you can’t leave at all.
  3. You have to tip-toe around your partner. Having to tiptoe around your partner out of fear of setting off their temper is a sign that your relationship is abusive. You might feel like you can’t joke with them in case they take it the wrong way or can’t tell them how you feel in case they lash out. Remember that lashing out can include yelling, banging things, insulting you, making threats, or a number of other behaviors. It counts even if there are no bruises.
  4. Your needs aren’t being met. A relationship shouldn’t be all about one person’s needs. It should be about both people feeling important enough to have their needs met. If what your partner wants always takes precedence over what you want and you feel constantly unfulfilled and ignored, it could be a red flag that your relationship is emotionally or mentally abusive.
  5. Your self-esteem is slowly decreasing. One of the most common side effects of abusive relationships is low self-esteem and reduced feelings of self-worth. The more your partner makes you feel like you don’t matter or you aren’t worth anything, the more you’ll start to believe it. Pay attention to your own beliefs about yourself and how they might change over the course of your relationship. If you start to suffer from low self-esteem, it’s possible that your partner’s interactions with you could have something to do with it.
  6. You feel completely drained. Being in a mentally or emotionally abusive relationship is extremely draining. It takes a lot of effort to placate and satisfy a toxic person, so if you are in this kind of relationship, you’re likely to constantly feel tired and fatigued. Even if you’re not physically tired, you’ll likely feel mentally and emotionally exhausted.
  7. Your friends and family are concerned. Friends and family can often see things that we can’t see for ourselves. You don’t have to take what they say as the unquestioned truth, but it is helpful to at least listen to their opinions. Obviously, this will depend on your relationship with them, as there’s no point in taking the advice of people who don’t have your best interests at heart. But if your friends and family genuinely love you, and they all seem to be genuinely worried about you in this relationship, it might be time to listen.
  8. You have a gut feeling that things aren’t right. You know better than anyone else what you need. While it helps to hear the opinions of your friends and family, no one else can tell you exactly what to do. That guidance has to come from within. If you have an unshakeable gut feeling that you’re not being treated right, don’t ignore it. Listen to your intuition and don’t just dismiss the feelings you get about your partner, as they are often right.
  9. You’re constantly trying to impress your partner. In an emotionally or mentally abusive relationship, the abuser often holds a sort of power over their victim. They might make their partner feel inferior to them, weaker than them, or less important. So it’s common for an abused partner to feel like they always need their significant other’s approval and validation. Are you always trying to impress your partner? Does their approval make or break your day? While this alone could just be a sign of insecurity on your part, it could also be a sign of emotional abuse when coupled with the other signs on this list.
  10. You’re losing control over your own life. People who perpetrate abusive relationships—whether that’s mental, physical, or emotional abuse—often try to take the power and control away from their victim. So it’s a red flag that you definitely shouldn’t ignore if being with your partner is causing you to lose control over your own life. This might look like losing control over your finances by feeling pressured to combine bank accounts. Or it might include slowly getting into the habit of asking your partner’s permission for the most basic things. Those who don’t have control over their finances, their other relationships, their health, or other major areas of their life, are much easier to manipulate in the eyes of an abuser.
Aussie writer who’s equally obsessed with YA fiction and pasta. Her time is divided between writing all the things, reading all the things, listening to Queen, and bopping her cat on the nose. You can keep up with her on Instagram @vanessaellewrites.