Emotional abuse can leave scars that far outlive physical ones. Emotional damage is often difficult to repair, lasting months of years, and leaving a deep impact that sometimes is never fully healed. Here are six signs that you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage, so you can be aware of what’s going on and take the necessary steps to improve your situation.
- Constant Humiliation, Criticism, Gaslighting
Humiliation and criticism is a favorite tactic of the emotional abuser. Making you feel bad about yourself takes the spotlight off of them and sows seeds of doubt in your own mind. You’ll start wondering if maybe you’re the one with the problem, or if something you’ve done caused all of the issues to begin with. This can also be called gaslighting, where someone humiliates, criticizes, and belittles you so much that you start questioning your own reality. This type of emotional abuse and manipulation helps the abuser look like the good guy. If you’re constantly questioning your own reality and yourself as a person, you’ll have no time to focus on the abuse. If you question your very sanity, you can’t exactly question the actions of someone who is supposedly “just trying to help.” When you learn how to deal with gaslighting, you’ll often find the extent of the damage to be quite upsetting. People who engage in this behavior prey on those who are especially empathetic, and it can take years to catch on if you aren’t careful.
Another favorite tactic of the emotional abuser is guilt-tripping. You’ve likely experienced this in one way or another. Picture this situation and see if it sounds familiar: You want to go out with your friends, who you haven’t seen in a few weeks. You plan a night out, but your spouse has been grumpy the entire week leading up to the night you’re supposed to leave. They’ve been dropping hints that they’re not happy about you leaving, or have said things like “I guess I’ll just stay home then” or “I guess you don’t want to see me this weekend”. You want to brush these things off, but something makes you feel incredibly guilty about leaving at all, so you stay home. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you were a victim of guilt-tripping, which is nothing less than manipulation and emotional abuse. You are not the servant of your partner’s emotional needs, however much you desire to meet them. People who use guilt as a weapon to get what they want are being abusive, whether they realize their actions are such or not.
- You’re Miserable All the Time
Misery loves company, so they say, and it’s unfortunately true. Miserable people are quick to spread their negativity and misery to those around them, and in a spousal relationship, this can cause you to become constantly miserable over time. Someone who is unhappy with their own life or choices won’t want you to be happy; it makes them feel insecure.
- Nothing You Do is Good Enough
Have you ever felt like nothing you do for your spouse is good enough, or they never seem to be grateful for the efforts you put forth to make them happy? This constant feeling of inadequacy only serves to erode your self-esteem and keep you rooted in a relationship you’re unhappy with. This tactic is utilized by emotionally abusive partners for one reason: to keep you locked into the relationship. You see, when nothing you do is good enough, you begin to believe that there’s genuinely something wrong with you and that you couldn’t possibly deserve better than what you’re getting. If this sounds familiar, you’re likely the victim of an emotional abuser.
- Your Self-Esteem is Lower Than Ever
Feelings of inadequacy lead to lower self-esteem. In a marriage, you’re supposed to participate in a partnership where you both build each other up and support each other’s goals and aspirations. If your self-esteem is at the lowest it’s ever been in your marriage, you’re facing a significant problem that was likely caused by the emotional abuse. The simplest things over time can cause a person’s self-esteem to erode. Forgetting important dates, not being supportive, gaslighting, lying; these are all things that can make you feel awful about yourself when they’re perpetrated by your partner.
- Your Partner is Emotionally Controlling
Last, but not least, we come to the control aspect of emotional abuse. Controlling behavior comes in many forms (remember guilt-tripping), but jealousy is perhaps the most common emotionally controlling behavior in a marriage. When you have a hyper-jealous partner, any interaction with the opposite sex becomes an opportunity for your spouse to lash out with insults, gaslighting, and more. Watch for these signs of emotional abuse in your marriage, so you don’t become one of the thousands every year that suffer from such treatment. Learn to recognize the signs, address the behaviors, and remove yourself from the situation if things don’t improve. Remember, it’s your life, and you’re not required to serve anyone else’s emotional needs.