They Might Not Seem Like It, But These 12 Things Are Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be tricky to spot. It doesn’t leave bruises or broken bones, but it can hurt just as much, if not more. Instead of obvious signs, it often shows up in sneaky, hard-to-pinpoint ways that can make you question yourself. Some people might not even realize they’re in an emotionally abusive relationship because the signs blend in with what they think are “normal” ups and downs.

It’s important to know and recognize these subtle clues, so we can stand up for ourselves and our well-being. This article will break down some of those less obvious signs to help you figure out what’s really going on. Because everyone deserves a relationship built on respect and kindness.

Signs of emotional abuse

1. He regularly suggests you cancel plans with friends and family to be with him.

Often, he masquerades his emotional abuse by telling you he cares a lot about you. You regularly find yourself making plans with family and friends, but he prods you to cancel them to spend time with him instead. Doing this once or twice doesn’t mean emotional abuse, but a pattern of this behavior is often indicative of trying to isolate you from your loved ones.

2. He gets upset when you talk about your relationship struggles with trusted friends.

In another attempt to cut you off from your support system, he’s visibly upset anytime he finds out you’ve been talking about your relationship troubles with your friends. He gets insecure that your friends are going to find out who he is or suggest that you leave him. He tries to take back control by guilting you into not talking to anyone about the relationship.

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4. He calls his possessive jealousy “love.”

He’s controlling and possessive of you, always telling you what to do and what not to do. To cover up the fact that this is emotional abuse, he does his best to convince you that he acts that way because of how much he loves you. He’s manipulative in telling you he only wants the best for you and the relationship when really he just wants the reins of control over you.

5. He reacts to your dreams with anger.

An emotionally abusive partner wants your world to be small so that he can ensure he has a place in it. He’s wildly insecure, thinking you’re going to leave him at the first sign of a better life. When you talk about your dreams, he desperately attempts to squash your plans to grow your life because he doesn’t want anything to threaten his hold on you.

6. He regularly tells you about how you’re living your life wrong.

To make sure that you aren’t dreaming, he belittles everything that you do. He always has something negative to say… unless he thinks he’s losing you – then he kisses your ass. For the most part, though, he points out your deepest insecurities, wounding you so that you never feel good enough to leave him.

7. He constantly reminds you of any mistakes you made.

You’re a human being, so of course you make mistakes. A sign of an emotionally abusive partner is that he’s always reminding you of the mistakes you’ve made. He holds them over your head in another attempt to manipulate you. He makes you feel awful about yourself and after a while you start to believe you’re a failure, falling right into his trap of wanting to hold you hostage.

8. He’s always acting like the victim, blaming you for everything.

An incredibly difficult sign of an emotionally abusive partner is that he hardly ever admits he’s wrong. He always finds a way to flip the story on its head. Even when he’s done something awful, he manages to turn it around by telling you he wouldn’t have done it if you loved him more or if you were home. He’s a perpetual victim and you’re somehow the bully.

9. He says he’s just teasing you, but really he’s being cruel.

His style of “play” is just totally mean. He nit-picks at your insecurities but tries to play it off as a joke. He continuously does this, leaving you feeling more insecure. He does this because he feels wildly insecure himself, so he wants to bring you down to his level.

10. He harshly compares you to other women.

The bullying seems to never stop from your partner. If he isn’t picking on your mistakes, he’s comparing you to other women. He’s asking, “She does that thing for him, why can’t you do that for me?” He tries any tactic to get his way, including hitting you where it hurts by comparing you to your friends.

11. He humiliates you in front of other people.

To further dig his claws in you, he humiliates you in front of other people. He wants you to feel as small as possible so you never think of going anywhere. He also doesn’t want anyone else getting the idea that you might be someone worth having because he’s deeply insecure that you might leave.

12. He’s volatile, moody, and unpredictable–leaving you feeling like you’re walking on eggshells.

You’re always unsure of which kind of person you’re going to meet when you walk in the door. If your partner was cruel the night before, he may either still be on his high horse or he may be ready to kiss your feet to apologize. Either way, you can’t help but feel terrified that he could snap at any time.

13. He becomes wildly upset when confronted about his behavior.

As your partner is a perpetual victim, it’s impossible to talk to him about his behavior. He feels as if you’re to blame and he has nothing to work on. Or, sometimes he does admit to his wrongdoings, beg for forgiveness, and makes empty promises to change. No matter what, nothing ever gets better. He only has an exaggerated reaction when trying to talk to him about his actions.

Ginelle has been writing professionally for more than six years and has a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing & design. Her writing has appeared on Birdie, Thought Catalog, Tiny Buddha and more. You can follow her on Instagram @ginelletesta, via her Facebook page, or through her website at