A marriage is supposed to be a union that’s filled with love, trust and mutual respect – and many really do live up to those expectations. However, beneath the surface of some relationships, there can be a different reality – one filled with emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse involves a pattern of behavior aimed at controlling and manipulating a partner. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse primarily targets the victim’s emotions, self-esteem, and psychological well-being. However, this form of mistreatment can be equally destructive and has been linked to depression, anxiety, substance addiction and even chronic pain.
How to recognize emotional abuse
Identifying emotional abuse can be hard since it often escalates gradually and can be easily rationalized or dismissed in the early stages. Here are some common examples to watch out for:
- Constant criticism: They’re critical without cause or constantly belittling your efforts. They may mock your interests, downplay your accomplishments and exaggerate your flaws.
- Isolation: Your spouse dictates or interferes with the relationships you have with friends and family and you feel isolated.
- Monitoring: They insist on knowing where you are and what you’re doing at all times, and act like you aren’t trustworthy.
- Name-calling and insults: Verbal abuse, including name-calling, insulting your appearance and making “jokes” at your expense is a hallmark of emotional abuse that can erode your self-esteem.
- Gaslighting: Gaslighting involves making the victim doubt their own reality and memories, causing confusion and self-doubt.
- Withholding affection: Emotional abusers may withhold affection, intimacy, or emotional support as a means of control.
- Threats and intimidation: Threats, whether explicit or implicit, are used to instill fear and compliance, whether that’s a threat to walk out without warning or threats of violence.
One of the big features of emotional abuse is that – when confronted about their behavior – the abuser will generally double down and play the victim. They have no interest in working through the issues in a mature, adult manner because they’re already getting what they want – which is control.
Reclaiming your life
Recognizing that there’s emotional abuse in your marriage is the first step, but taking action is essential for your well-being. Understand that emotional abuse is not your fault and that you deserve respect and kindness in your relationships – and that very well may mean that the only solution for the situation is to develop an exit plan.
When your marriage is fractured because of a partner’s emotional abuse, therapy and legal guidance can help you better understand your options and how to prioritize your own physical and mental well-being.
At The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC, our focus is relentless advocacy for our clients. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, reach out to schedule a consultation at 646-665-3903 or by contacting us online.
Let Me Be Your Brave
Mia Poppe, Esq.