Three Red Flags of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse does not announce itself loudly, but rather creeps into your life bit by bit over time. That’s why it’s so insidious. You don’t realize you are under an emotional abuser’s control until you have truly suffered. And you may have suffered as a child, too, and feel the abuse you’re getting now is normal. Perhaps even comfortable. But you can break this pattern if you are alert to ways in which you may become the target of an emotional abuser. Here are signs to watch for:
1) Total Lack of Respect. Oh, sure, at first he will adore you, flatter you, charm you. That’s how he lures you in the first place. But, in fact, he sees you as an extension of himself—someone who exists to serve his purposes. Your thoughts and desires don’t matter to him. This is hard to identify because you respect him, and can’t imagine that he wouldn’t feel the same about you. But when he listens to you or he does what you want, it’s because it’s in his best interest. Either he wants to appease you or he happens to want the same thing you do. This time. Beware when he ignores your requests, especially when it puts you in peril in some way. That’s a red flag.
2) Asks for Big Things Too Fast. You may be flattered that he wants to move in with you. Or share finances. Or take an important vacation together. But does he want these things a bit too early in your relationship? Are you a little uncomfortable by the speed with which your relationship is advancing? And yet, you’re feeling it’s nice that he wants to be with you. It’s nice that he feels intimate enough to share these things with you. And far be it from you to put a damper on it by saying no. You might even feel a little guilty if you refuse. But what if he really wants to get close so he can keep tabs on you? What if he wants is to control you and your activities? That’s a red flag.
3) Nothing’s His Fault. In fact, whatever went wrong is probably your fault. Which will catch you by complete surprise because you probably had nothing to do with it. But your abuser needs to keep you off balance. He needs to have control and power, and he does it by verbally manipulating you. He makes you feel small by putting you down and invalidating your feelings. When you protest, he tells you you’re too sensitive. Or he gives you the silent treatment, denying you affection. Then you spend your important time and energy trying to get the relationship back to where it was. Which he will eventually disrupt again so he can keep you off balance and under control. The rockiness of this relationship is never his fault. He never sees himself as the abuser. In fact, he is the victim here. He can never catch a break. And that’s a red flag.
The trouble is, no matter how much you put up with, no matter how you try to make things right, your abuser does not want to change. Why should he? He’s got you under his thumb. And self-help requires work. It’s much easier for him to start the cycle of abuse over again than working to change. But you can change because your life will be better ever after if you can make the effort now. Or better yet, avoid toxic people to begin with. And refuse to get involved with an emotional abuser.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.