Recognizing Emotional Abuse in Your Marriage

Narcissistic and high-conflict people often utilize psychological and emotionally abusive tactics to control, manipulate, and dominate their partners. These behaviors can be so subtle and insidious that most partners don’t even realize they’re being abused. The first step in escaping and recovering from a toxic relationship is to recognize that you’re trapped in an unhealthy cycle. This cycle is maintained by a person who has a pathological need to control your thoughts and actions. Your abuser will never escape this unhealthy mentality because they find comfort and security in undermining your confidence and autonomy.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Harry Croft, M.D, defines emotional abuse as “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”

Common signs of emotional and mental abuse include:

  • Threats of violence
  • Treating you like a child
  • Dehumanizing you
  • Shutting down communication or withholding affection
  • Insulting, belittling, or humiliating you
  • Using derogatory “pet names”
  • Patronizing or gaslighting you
  • Dismissing or trivializing your thoughts, ideas, interests, and concerns
  • Spying on your internet history and demanding your passwords
  • Reading your texts, mail, and other personal correspondences
  • Manipulating your thoughts and actions
  • Monitoring your whereabouts
  • Feigning helplessness to garner your concern
  • Having unpredictable explosions of rage that keep you on your toes
  • Isolating you from family members and friends
  • Bullying your children or pets as a means of controlling you
  • Coercing you to participate in uncomfortable behaviors or sexual acts
  • Controlling your financial accounts or spending ability
  • Destroying your property and denying it later
  • Turning your friends, coworkers, and family against you

Emotional abuse is harder to identify because it often leaves no visible marks. If you’ve been raised in a dysfunctional childhood environment, you may even believe that this relationship dynamic is normal. However, it is very wrong for someone to invalidate your feelings and denigrate you.

When Is it Time to Draw the Curtains?

Eventually, your compromises, begging, and threats to end the relationship will stop working. A person can only change if they are genuinely committed to the endeavor. If anything, your spouse will feel empowered every time they ignore your requests and step on your boundaries. Your spouse may even belittle you for threatening to end the marriage, and then denigrate you even further just to re-establish the cycle. The only way to protect your mental health is to separate from this dangerous person.

Get Help Today

Unfortunately, most domestic abuse victims are too afraid to seek the help their situations warrant. If you’re being subjected to emotional and verbal abuse, it’s time to contact a group or organization that can provide you with supportive services and important information. For example, The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to anyone who is struggling with an abusive partner.

An integral part of healing from emotional abuse is connecting with other people who have been in your shoes and can listen to your story without judgement. Keithley Law, PLLC runs a Meetup group to empower abused individuals and help them receive the legal assistance they need. Please contact us at (703) 454-5147 to learn more about our private group.

Start the Next Chapter of Your Life

Fairfax Family Law and Divorce Lawyer: If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. Our attorneys are experienced in high-conflict divorces and helping people navigate through the frustrations of divorcing a narcissist.

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