Some forms of abuse can be so subtle you may not even notice that it’s happening to you. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with or recover from. Being in a relationship with an emotional abuser can ruin your self-esteem and leave you feeling as though you’re the problem, but don’t be fooled. Here are some signs the problem is all theirs.
You’re the constant subject of micro-criticisms. Maybe they don’t call you ugly or berate you in front of your friends because you overcooked a casserole, but that doesn’t mean they’re not handing out criticism that will get to you sooner or later. Micro-criticisms come in the form of light suggestions that are meant to make you feel stupid. Maybe they watch you fail at a task and then tell you that you should have done it a different way after the fact or give you nicknames that play to your faults. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, it’s all bad.
They never tell you how they really feel. If your partner is mad, you should be able to expect them to tell you what you did. If they’re never open or honest when you’ve done something to upset them only to pounce on you for everything you’ve ever done wrong during a different argument, it’s abusive behavior. When all of their aggressions come out at once because they’ve bottled them up, it shatters what you know about the relationship and that’s hard to come back from.
They take their bad days out on you. You should be a safe haven for your partner when they’re tired, stressed, and rundown. If they come home after a particularly bad day and treat you like you’re the one that caused it, that’s abuse. It’s not your fault that their boss was a pain in the butt, nor is it your fault that there was traffic on the drive home. If they continuously take things out on your that aren’t related to how you treat them or your relationship, you’ll begin to question if you’re actually doing something wrong.
They’re always putting you down as a joke. If everything they say is an insult disguised as a joke, eventually it won’t be funny anymore. That’s because it’s not a funny little roast session—it’s a tactic used by emotional abusers to make you feel like you’re less than adequate. People that do this often have different reasons for it, but the reason doesn’t matter. Insults are insults no matter what.
They control everything. Maybe you’re super chill and laid back and don’t mind them making all the decisions, but if they’re all too happy to choose everything from what you make them for dinner to the TV shows you watch together, there’s something a little off there. Chances are if they’ve been calling the shots and you decide to pipe up about something, there will be a problem—which brings me to my next point.
Every time you express a negative emotion, it’s an issue. If you’re tired after a long day of work and cleaning and cooking and whatever else you do to keep your household running and you complain about something, they should want to listen, console you, and maybe even help out. If their first instinct is to take it as a personal attack and treat you as though all you ever do is complain, they’re being kind of abusive.
They keep details of their life hidden from you. Are you ever out with your spouse’s family and realize that all the things you’ve inquired about are known by everyone except you? Even if your partner is inherently private, you should be privy to certain things in their life. If they keep things from you, it’s an abuse tactic designed to make you feel like you’re going crazy wondering what it is they’re hiding.
They play things hot and cold. If your partner is madly in love you with you one day and couldn’t care less about you the next, there’s some abuse afoot. Abusers tend to keep their partners on their toes because deep down, they think that will keep them around. Whether it’s out of insecurity or just an innate problem with intimacy, it’s not fair to you and causes serious psychological damage down the road.
They act like it’s your fault they’re not into bedroom activities anymore. If you haven’t changed much about your appearance or done anything particularly off-putting and your partner has gone from sex-crazed to couldn’t be bothered, it can play with your emotions. There are some things that can lead to a less intense sex drive, but if nothing like that is going on and they switch their desire for you on and off like a light switch, it’s more of an attempt to control you. They want you to feel as though you’re losing their interest so you try harder, and that is just abusive.
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