Learning These 15 Signs Of Emotional Abuse Made Me Realize My Relationship Was Toxic

I always thought emotional abuse was something so dramatic and blatantly obvious that I could spot easily before getting out of the relationship. However, after dating a guy who was the master of subtle abuse, I realized it can be very insidious. Here are some of the signs that I learned which made me see the guy I was with was a toxic jerk:

  1. He blamed me for everything. When he had problems, he blamed others around him, including me. Still, it wasn’t done in a direct way. He wouldn’t say, “You did this to me!” but he’d comment that how I was helping him didn’t solve his problems. It was done in a way to make me doubt myself and feel guilty.
  2. He gave me the silent treatment. He would ignore me and not want to talk for the whole day like a sulking child. Then, he’d return like a dog with his tail between his legs, wanting affection. It made me feel like he was punishing me by withholding attention. What a sneaky, manipulative bastard.
  3. He made jokes that weren’t hurtful, not funny. Mocking me about how I was stupid or weird wasn’t funny at all, even though he laughed. Then, when I expressed that the jokes hurt me, he would say I was being too sensitive and needed to get a sense of humor. The problem was always mine and he had no consideration for my feelings.
  4. He body-shamed meHe once told me that he wanted women who were more voluptuous and had bigger breasts. Basically, everything about me wasn’t what he wanted. Gee, thanks. It really stuck with me and made me feel that I wasn’t attractive enough, and that stayed with me long after that relationship. It was all about breaking me down.
  5. He spoke openly about other women he found attractive. He not only showed me slideshows on his computer of hot, sexy women — talk about making me feel crap! — but once during a bad fight, he told me how he could have loads of other women. He wanted me to feel that I wasn’t good enough and for a while, he succeeded.
  6. He made me doubt my dreams. When I expressed what I wanted out of life and the dreams close to my heart, he would belittle my goals. He was so twisted that he even found ways to keep me from working a few times because he had drama and needed my help. What a loser.
  7. He kept tabs on me. When he texted me non-stop, I didn’t see it as a way for him to control me. Stupidly, I’d been honoured that he needed me so much and wanted me around. The truth is that it was just his way of pulling my attention away from others in my life. It wasn’t love at all.
  8. He accused me of cheating. This was so ridiculous. One day out of the blue he asked if there was someone else in my life. The idea was laughable — I was so devoted to him! I realized soon afterwards that HE was actually cheating on ME and accusing me because he wanted me to feel guilty for his own lousy decisions. He was also the type who never took responsibility for anything. It was so messed up.
  9. I felt afraid to be alone with him during a confrontation. At first I thought I was being silly and paranoid to want to talk to him about issues over the phone instead of in person, but then when I spoke to my best friend about it, he told me that he felt the same thing. He, too, was afraid of me being alone with this guy. There was clearly something wrong.
  10. My friends were worried about me. This friend and others were always worried about me. It was weird at first. I couldn’t understand why friends who were otherwise positive people and who weren’t clingy were texting me when they hadn’t heard from me for a day, worrying about where I was. Clearly, they could tell that the guy I was with was bad news.
  11. He didn’t support me. The toxic guy didn’t show me any support. Whether I was going through a good or bad time, he always wanted to one-up me. He needed to have the spotlight and attention all the time, otherwise he’d sulk or look sad and I’d feel guilty for sharing my bad days or achievements. I couldn’t be comfortable around him.
  12. I was going out of my way a lot. I was always ready to help him, but soon I started to feel drained because he was taking so much from me and giving me nothing in return. Worst of all, it was never good enough, which weirdly just made me want to work harder to please him.
  13. He isolated me from others. I knew that a guy who tried to cut me off from my loved ones was an abuser, but it doesn’t always happen in an obvious way. This guy did it in a much sneakier way. He spoke negatively about his family and friends so that we limited our time with them. He even went so far as to say that they didn’t like me, which was a total lie. He knew that if he had me to himself, he could influence me much more. When it came to my loved ones, he tried to pull me away from them by “needing me,” which meant that most of the time I was with him.
  14. He had nobody else in his life. This guy was 35 but had no one he could rely on. Even his family members had turned their backs on him. At first I believed his lies that he’d been mistreated, but then I realized he had no one because he had mistreated so many people in his life. If no one likes someone, there’s often a good reason why.
  15. He threw a fit when he didn’t get what he wanted. One of the huge warning signs that this guy was dangerous was how he reacted when he heard the word “no.” If someone upset him or didn’t give him what he wanted, he’d lose his cool. Soon, I realized he was using his temper to try to control people. He even did this when I broke up with him. He couldn’t stand that I was not falling for his crap anymore so he sent me really horrible texts and voicemail messages that frightened me. But I was free and so relieved that I didn’t have to deal with his abuse anymore — and I would never get into such a toxic relationship again.
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.