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What Is Emotional Abuse in a Relationship?

by Jeanni Brosius

Emotional abuse may be more difficult to see than physical abuse, since there aren't any visible bruises. When someone is in an abusive relationship, self-esteem gets low, which may make it difficult to leave the abusive partner. Emotional abuse can be anything from blaming you for all of the problems in the relationship to name-calling and belittling in order to dominate the other person. Many times emotional abuse isn't visible to onlookers, and your friends and family may not see it. Often, emotional abuse will lead to physical abuse. This will also trickle down to your children. Emotional abuse isn't just an occasional spat; it is usually there every day.

Who Is in Control?

Take back control. The abusive partner is usually very controlling, and doesn't take your feelings into consideration. This may make it difficult to make decisions for fear of angering your partner. He may keep you from your family and friends or not allow you to work, get an education or become involved in other activities.

Anger Is as Anger Does

Assess the reasons your partner gets angry. Are they legitimate reasons? Does he get jealous frequently when there is no need? Many times, the abused partner may feel as though she can't do anything without making her partner angry.

The Blame Game

Blame the one who is at fault; however, an abuser may blame everything on his partner. This type of abusive, controlling behavior may make you feel as if you can't do anything right. It also can lead to low self-confidence and depression.

No Bullying

Stand up to the bully. Emotional abuse comes in several forms, one of which is name calling or belittling. If your partner is telling you you're no good, no one could love you, or just saying things that make you feel worthless, consider it abusive behavior.

Picks His Battles

Notice how he treats others. If you are getting all the abusive behavior, and he appears to be a sweet and attentive husband in public, he has abusive tendencies. Many times this behavior is a choice, and he will stop when the police arrive or someone calls on the phone.

Get Out of There

Get help if you believe you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Emotional abuse escalates when the relationship is strained due to work, financial issues or children. Sometimes, it can lead to serious psychological damage, physical injury or even death. Most communities have domestic abuse hot lines, but if you don't know where to go, the National Domestic Abuse Hot Line at 800-799-SAFE (7233) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Local police departments also usually have a domestic abuse officer who will help you get to a safe location.

About the Author

Jeanni Brosius is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, former newspaper writer/editor, speaker, internationally known author and National Public Radio commentator. She currently freelances and does the occasional voice over.