All relationships are difficult at times and despite the most valiant efforts, no one is able to be perfect all of the time. However, emotional abuse is far different from normal ups and downs. When there's a gradual tearing down of one person in the relationship, it could be a sign of emotional abuse. Here are guidelines on how to handle emotional abuse.
Understand What's Behind Emotional Abuse and Its Effects
Understand that emotional abuse is rooted on one person trying to have power and control over another and often results in the abused person feeling unworthy of things like love, affection and respect from anyone. It's by far the most prevalent of all types of abuse and is tolerated for longer periods of time because hurt emotions are easier to hide than bruises.
Know what constitutes emotional abuse. Often the abuser will refuse to acknowledge the other's value or worth. They degrade, insult, ridicule, yell, swear or publicly humiliate the other person. The abuser also has a desire to put fear into the other by coercing, intimidation, threatening or stalking. A person can also be emotionally abused if someone is trying to force them to accept their ideas or behaviors.
Recognize that emotional abuse is not just between partners, but can also be found in other relationships like elderly and a caretaker, parent and child and in other family dynamics or situations where one person is in control over another.
Spot indicators that someone is suffering from emotional abuse. Depression, withdrawal, low self-esteem, anxiety, complaints of physical conditions with no medical basis, inappropriate behavior for age, extreme dependence on the abuser, unfounded feelings of guilt or shame and avoiding eye contact.
How to Handle an Emotionally Abused Relationship
Take responsibility for the allowing the situation to happen to yourself and that you are the only one who can change it. By staying in an emotionally abusive relationship, it's telling the abuser that it's OK. For those who don't want to speak up because they fear causing waves, peace at any price is simply enabling the abuser to continue on a destructive path. Speak up, tell the abuser that what they are doing is not OK and make changes in your life to handle the abuse and show that it will no longer be tolerated.
Set new and healthy boundaries for the relationship. Work together with the abuser if possible to discuss what has happened in the relationship and how respect for each person and their boundaries can work to fix the relationship. If the abuser is non-receptive to discussion, figure these out for yourself and calmly and rationally let the abuser know of your decision to make the relationship better and how you intend to have your new boundaries respected.
Seek professional help for yourself and the abuser through a qualified counselor. Support groups are a good source for ongoing advice and a professional can help in the event that the situation becomes threatening or dangerous for either party.