When we are in a hostile relationship, we can often become so use to certain behaviors that we have trouble identifying what is right or wrong. From the outside looking in we can always see toxic and unhealthy patterns in the relationships of others and, once we have safely exited our own, we are able to look back and see the ways in which we may have been victimized. While some forms of abuse have more obvious tells, emotional abuse can be more covert and very hard to recognize when it is intercut with positive reinforcement—one of the main tools of abusers. Positive reinforcement is used to confuse the victim by offering an alternative view of the abuser and reflecting the time before they began to treat their partner badly. This keeps the abused partner in a state of disillusion never really knowing whether they can identify their abuser as bad enough to leave. So, the abuser pours in some sweetness to take the sting out of their mistreatment, ever so often, and the victim is left always trying to receive that sweetness one more time. This is just one of the things that creates both a psychological and emotional dependency between the abuser and their victim.

Here are some signs that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. 

You are in a constant state of anxiety. 

Even if you suffer from anxiety normally, you may notice that your nervous system is strongly activated when you are with your partner. Maybe you feel a need to walk on eggshells, suppress your true feelings or accept things you’d otherwise dislike just to keep them happy. Maybe you are always waiting for the next time they’ll decide to ignore you or mistreat you and find it hard to just find ease in your relationship. Those are signs that you are on a ride that is probably not headed somewhere healthy. 

You feel emotionally exhausted. 

Relationships do take work but the work should not be turning yourself inside out for someone who isn’t even meeting you halfway. If you’re overextending, over-explaining and/or overspending just to keep someone in your life, chances are they’re not worth keeping. If you spend most of your time emotionally spent, crying, working through things that have happened due to their infidelity, dishonesty or own emotional issues, it may be time to break ties. 

You are feeling isolated from your family and loved ones. 

If you find yourself being encouraged to sever ties with those closest to you in order to prove your loyalty and commitment to your relationship, you could be dating someone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart. People who are emotionally manipulative often try to isolate their victims in order to create a dependency between them that makes it harder for a partner to leave. They also do not want to stand the chance of someone stepping in to point out that the way they’re treating you is wrong so they may do things that are extremely hurtful in order to shame you into not wanting to confide in the people you trust. If this is happening in your life, it is abusive. 


Gaslighting is a popular term right now but it got its meaning from a 1944 film in which a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she’s losing her sense of reality so that he can have her committed to an institution and steal her inheritance. He does this by slightly lowering the gas powered lights in their home little by little and denying his actions. Of course, this is an extreme example but it is more common that not in intimate relationships. It can occur when someone denies your memory of an event or trivializes your feelings to make you insecure about sharing your needs. Phrases like “it’s not that big of a deal” or “I didn’t say I would do that” can be red flags when dealing with someone who has been caught doing something dishonest or insensitive. It can even be when you are punished in some way, shape or form for expressing your feelings with the silent treatment, verbal abuse or even a withholding of shared finances. 

You are constantly apologizing…even when you’ve been hurt. 

Often times when you are being emotionally abused, so much work has been done to get you to distrust everything you feel, do and believe. You start to believe that if you could just do things better or different, things would be better between you and your partner. The truth is, you are not the problem. Sure, in every relationships, there is a shared amount of responsibility to be accountable, self-aware and apologetic when you are wrong but if you start to realize that you are always trying to make things right, it’s time to take a closer look at things. Especially if you find yourself apologizing after you’ve been wronged. A person who allows you to take on any amount of responsibility for the pain they’ve caused you is a master manipulator and is unsafe for you. 

You’re constantly second guessing yourself or have trouble making decisions. 

Emotional abuse can cause a major disconnection between a person and their own intuition. Because you are being made to feel that everything you think, feel or do is wrong or contributing to the unhappiness you feel in a relationship that is breaking you down, you can start to think that you cannot trust yourself. It can be almost impossible to make decisions. You can have serious brain fog, find it hard to remember things and seem to be in a constant state of confusion. You could experience a general sense of mental unease and It can start to make you feel generally depressed. 

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