Have You Heard Of Ambient Abuse? It’s A Real Thing And Could Be Happening In Your Relationship

When you hear the word “abuse”—be it physical, emotional, or psychological—you might think of blatant behaviors like gaslighting, humiliation and beatings. However, some abuse is really subtle and insidious—and it’s all about bringing you down and zapping your confidence.

  1. How you feel is a huge sign it’s happening. Ambient abuse is a name to refer to this kind of subtle abuse you might not even realize is happening to you. It creates an unsettling atmosphere or fear, irritation, unpredictability and instability, but you might not really be able to put your finger on what’s going on. Over time, you feel the effects, low self-esteem and low confidence being two big symptoms.
  2. Your partner makes you feel stupid. He doesn’t CALL you stupid, it’s more that you feel stupid around him. For instance, if he’s talking about something you don’t know much about, you worry that you lack confidence in the topic. However, it could be that he’s making you feel stupid by saying your comments are obvious or looking at you like you’re speaking nonsense. Over time, this is really damaging and might make you feel embarrassed to speak your mind.
  3. He makes you feel you don’t understand what he means. When he talks to you about something and sees you don’t understand what he says because he’s not explaining himself well, he’ll make you feel like you’re the problem. For instance, he might change the subject or say that you just don’t get him, which is hurtful.
  4. He looks annoyed or bored when you speak. When you try to engage with him about something, he might roll his eyes or look like he’s just not interested in what you have to say. It could be a way to manipulate you, like silencing you when you confront him about something, or it could be a way to make you feel less confident and worthy. It’s especially hurtful if you’re sharing about your life, goals, and dreams.
  5. He acts like you’re always wrong. This doesn’t have to be about big issues—the small issues can hurt just as much but often they go unnoticed. If you say the sky is blue and he says it’s green, he’ll continue driving this point home that it’s green, even if you know 100 percent that it’s blue. It’s really a way of him saying that your opinions are not to be trusted.
  6. He talks down to you. He’ll speak to you with an air of being self-righteous and correct or having to explain something complicated to a small child. It’s so insulting!
  7. He belittles you. He does this in a light, joking way—and might even do so in front of other people. It doesn’t matter what he’s joking about—it’s disrespectful and demeaning. Of course, when you confront him, he’ll act like he’s not doing it out of malice, which further disregards your feelings.
  8. He praises you too much. On the other hand of the spectrum is the guy who praises you too much. In fact, he does this so much that it starts to feel like he’s lying through his teeth. You might even feel that the very thing he’s complimenting you so much on is actually a flaw. See, it’s all about throwing you off and making you doubt yourself and that you’re worthy.
  9. He doesn’t share in your happiness. When you’re over the moon about something, the abuser won’t share in your happiness. He’ll look at you like you’re crazy for being so happy. Jerk. He might even mock whatever you’re happy about as though it’s some childish whimsy.
  10. He doesn’t agree to disagree. If you’re debating or arguing something and have different views, the abuser won’t agree to disagree on the subject. He’ll tell you he’s right and stick to his rigid views. This kind of inflexible guy is dangerous because he thinks he can do no wrong.
  11. He constantly makes sarcastic commentsThis could be about how you dress, what you say, or how you speak. Over time, all these sarcastic comments make you feel worthless. Again, these comments will be made in a “joking” kind of way that’s anything but benign.
  12. He blanks you. “Blanking” is a form of abuse in which your partner ignores you. This can go on for hours, days or weeks. It might happen out of the blue to confuse you, making you wonder if you did something wrong, but it’s really about control and breaking you down. It’s a way the abuser says you’re not worthy of getting their time or attention. Meanwhile, they get your attention because while they’re giving you the silent treatment, you’re wondering what happened or if they’ll bounce back to normal.
  13. He calls you crazyThis is also done to throw you off. If you confront him about bad behavior and he calls you crazy, he’s trying to turn the blame onto you. But he might even call you crazy over trivial things, thus making you feel stupid. Or, he could use the “crazy” term to make you doubt yourself. For example, if he becomes irritated and fights with you, later he might tell you YOU were the one being dramatic. It’s a clever way to make you the bad guy every time.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.