7 Signs You're Emotionally Abusive & How To Stop

It can be a difficult feat to admit your behavior is wrong, especially if you've become used to denying it. If you’re in a relationship and emotionally mistreating your partner, this can be one set of behaviors you’re avoiding. There are signs you’re emotionally abusive in your relationship that shouldn’t be overlooked, as they not only pose a threat to your relationship as a whole, but can be doing some serious damage to your partner (and you), as well.

According to a Psychology Today article by Steven Stosny, Ph.D, emotional abusive begins “at the point where resentment starts to outweigh compassion." Once you’ve reached the point where emotional abuse becomes second nature, you might find you are regularly putting down your partner and controlling them in ways that can be very damaging. Some think that simply because the abuse isn’t physical that it isn’t as much of a problem in relationships, however that is completely inaccurate. Emotional abuse can be very detrimental, and if any of the signs discussed in this article hit home for you, you should make an effort to stop the behavior as soon as possible.

As with many other things in life, admitting you have a problem is a great first step. Be honest with yourself and consider whether these behaviors seem like things you tend to do in your relationship. Likewise, if you believe your partner treats you this way and are doubtful they’ll change their ways, consider seeking professional advice or contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Here are seven signs you’re emotionally abusive, and how to stop.

1. You Tend To Make Your Partner Feel Like A Failure

Let’s start by considering some of the ways in which you speak to your partner. According to Psychology Today, stop and ask yourself whether you often talk to your partner in ways that make them feel like a failure in all aspect of their life — from their role as a significant other, to their ability to parent, to their performance at work? Consider this as well — you might also be making them feel like a failure by being the type who never takes blame for anything… ever. It’s a bad sign you you’re always putting the blame on them, according to HealthCentral.com. For instance, if you’re the one who throws a tantrum over something, you’ll tend to spin it and say it’s only because of your partner that you’re acting in a such a way.

2. You Make Them Feel Stupid

Aside from saying and acting in ways that make your partner feel like an overall failure, you also tend to talk down to them, making them feel stupid. According to TheStir.com, you’ll say things that make your SO question their sense of intelligence, and slowly this will eat away at them. Again, it’s incredibly unhealthy for the relationship.

3. You’re Almost Always Moody Towards Your Partner

Sometimes we can be blind to the mood swings we, ourselves, have, but try to stop and take notice of this: Are you moody all the time when you’re around your S.O.? Emotionally abusive people tend to have moods that change at a moment’s notice, making it very difficult for their partner to keep up or predict what mood they’ll be in next, according to eHarmony.com. Your partner might ultimately feel like they’re tiptoeing around you in order to prevent setting off one of your bad moods. What’s more, according to eHarmony.com, your partner might also feel a constant knot in their stomach whenever they’re around you for this exact reason — you’re very unpredictable… in a bad way.

4. You Tend To Isolate Your Partner

According to HealthCentral.com, emotionally abusive individuals want their partner all to themselves. That said, if you feel you’re constantly trying to isolate your S.O. from the outside world, this could be a red flag. HealthCentral.com said those who are emotionally abusive don’t want their partner to have a life outside of their relationship, and this includes spending time with friends and/or family. It’s one thing to want to spend time with your SO, but it’s quite another to prevent them from seeing anyone else besides you.

5. You Often Say “I Love You, But…”

“I love you” sounds likes a perfectly kind thing to say, however when that “but” is added, it becomes a whole different thing. According to YourTango.com, these types of sayings pose a disguised criticism and threat (e.g., “I love you, but you need to stop acting so dumb all the time). If you start sentences like this a lot, it is another way of telling your partner that you can take that love away if they don’t behave how you want them to behave.

6. The Focus Must Always Be On You

Emotional abusers tend to believe the focus of the relationship must always be on them, according to Huffington Post. Has your partner gone through a sad time recently, and rather than be a shoulder to cry on, you brushed it off and immediately turned the focus back to you and your problems, even if they were far less serious? Huffington Post noted in order to be in control, those who are emotionally abusive need to have the relationship pointed at them at all times. If you’re treating your partner this way regularly, it’s yet another red flag.

7. You Pretend None Of These Things Ever Happen

Let’s say you’ve said, “Nope, absolutely not me,” to everything on this list so far, even though you might know deep down that these things apply to you — this could be another sign all its own. According to The Telegraph, “gas lighting” is a habit abusive individuals practice in which they pretend their behavior hasn’t happened, or where they switch the blame to the victim. Be honest with yourself… are you emotionally abusive? You can change it so if you think you are, let’s act now.

Stosny wrote in his Psychology Today article that — since, as mentioned earlier, many times emotional abuse happens when resentment begins taking over — tackling this resentment is step one. Stosny said you should begin by building up your self-compassion, and letting go of any resentment you feel, as resentment never helps to make anything better. He said once you begin to have more compassion for yourself, you’ll slowly start to be more compassionate towards others as well, including your partner. MentalHelp.net offered advice, too, and noted you must stop rationalizing abusive treatment of your partner, and must realize that it isn’t healthy. Though resentment plays into it, there can be many other factors contributing to why you are acting this way, so consider seeing a health professional as well.

By coming to terms with the reality of emotional abuse you can begin to make changes to better your relationship. These changes can also help you to better yourself as a person, too.

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