According to an article in Psychology Today, about three million domestic violence cases are reported each year. What’s not often reported is how emotional abuse is often horrible in itself and how emotional abuse is often a strong indicator that physical abuse will follow.
Emotional abuse can be hard to recognize for several reasons. Often, the abuser is nice and loving for much of the day, and the natural tendency of many people is to focus on what’s working instead of what’s not. If you haven’t had healthy relationships, you may take emotional abuse as part of your norm – when you shouldn’t. Some emotional abusers are actually quite adept at making the victim of the abuse feel guilty – that they deserve the abuse. You DO NOT deserve emotional mistreatment by a spouse or partner.
Verbal and emotional abuse is a way of exercising control and authority. Often, the emotional abuse is due to jealousy, insensitivity, and being self-centered. Emotional abuse doesn’t always mean verbal abuse. Some emotional abusers use silence to control you. They may even try to isolate you from family and friends.
The dangers of emotional abuse
It’s important to understand the signs of abuse so you know when to seek help. Many people fear confronting someone they love when early confrontation is often the best response. It’s also important to understand the signs because the abuser may increase the abuse until you take a firm stand.
Emotional abuse can cause anxiety, depression, decreased sexual desire, and post-traumatic stress disorder. You may even feel physically ill even though you haven’t been physically assaulted.
Many people who fail to stop emotional abuse in its tracks have a history of abuse in their family background.
Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Passive-aggressive behavior
- Withdrawing love, money, or talk to gain control
- Speech and behavior that is derogatory, meant to manipulate you, or is meant to punish you
- Spying on your or invading your personal space or your belongings
Signs of direct verbal abuse include:
- Criticizing what you do
- Threatening you
- Calling you names
- Blaming you for things you didn’t do
Sarcasm and jokes may seem innocent but these too are often meant to hurt you.
More subtle sings of verbal abuse include:
- Treating you as an adversary. Objecting or challenging your thoughts and opinions. Being unwilling to engage in a constructive conversation
- Blocking. Changing topics of conversation or effectively telling you to shut-up.
- Belittling your opinions and feelings. Saying your ideas don’t matter.
- Undermining you. When a spouse finishes your sentences or speaks for your, he/she is usually trying to control you.
- Denial. Denying promises that were made or prior abuse. Attempts to shake confidence in your memory is a sign of abuse. There’s even a name for constant denials – it’s called gaslighting.
How to confront abuse
Generally, responding to the content of the abuse is what the abuser wants. Denying the accusations and explaining your arguments is normally not productive. Simply walking away, or politely requesting that he or she not speak to you in such a way, might be better responses.
Often, speaking with psychologists and other trained professionals can help, if you can afford it. Many communities have self-help groups and nonprofit therapy organizations that can also help.
The main keys are to recognize the abuse, know that you need to respond, and working with family, friends, and others to craft an appropriate response.
If the abuse doesn’t stop, then it may be time to consult with a family lawyer.
When abuse of any type occurs, seek immediate help
Every spouse has the right to feel secure and safe. If a spouse is hitting your, making you feel terrible or guilty, or creating unhappiness – it’s often time to speak with a lawyer. A respected attorney will review when counseling may help. The lawyer may pursue immediate protective orders to keep you safe. When it’s clear the marriage is over, experienced Franklin divorce lawyers help protect your financial future and your ability to move forward. If there are children, the best interests of the children will be a priority.
At the Law Offices if Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our attorneys are ready to handle every phase of your divorce. We represent spouses and parents who reside in Columbia, Franklin, Brentwood and the surrounding areas. For help now, please call 615.412.1121, or fill out our contact form.