What Are Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Partner? An Abusive Relationship May Not Look Like One To Other People

Ad failed to load

"I don't think he sounds abusive." That's a phrase I heard from a friend when I told him I suspected my partner was emotionally abusive, and it's one I'd tell myself often. After all, my ex didn't exhibit the most well-known signs of abusive partners. He never physically hurt me. He rarely yelled at me. He was gentle, thoughtful, honest, and sweet. So maybe I was just being dramatic, I thought. Maybe I was the one being unfair to him by being so critical.

This is a common thought process of someone in an abusive relationship, especially someone who's being gaslighted. Gaslighting is when someone convinces you that you're crazy — that if you have a problem with them, it's somehow actually your problem.

This was one way my ex manipulated me. If I got upset when he put down my ideas, he'd tell me I was taking his words too seriously. If I confronted him about his habit of "borrowing" money without returning it, he'd tell me money wasn't important and make me feel materialistic. If I distrusted his ability to keep promises he'd already broken again and again, he'd tell me it hurt that I didn't believe in him. If I pointed out a subtle example of sexism in a movie, he'd tell me I was being hypersensitive. By the time it occurred to me that he might be psychologically abusive, I'd already internalized these thoughts: I was too sensitive. I wasn't giving him enough credit. I was petty. I was selfish. It must be my problem.

Ad failed to load
Once got so mad at him during a fight, I actually insulted his sexual skills. So maybe I was with exactly the kind of person I deserved, I figured.

The more I read about emotional abuse, though, the more I saw my own relationship. My partner showed many subtle signs of abuse, like taking credit for my ideas, talking me into lending him money after I'd said "no" by suggesting I was selfish otherwise, and continuing to have sex with me after I said it was hurting me. Still, it was very hard for me to distinguish between these things and normal relationship drama — especially since he'd remind me that I wasn't perfect either. And I really wasn't. I once got so mad at him during a fight, I actually insulted his sexual skills. So maybe I was with exactly the kind of person I deserved, I figured.

It took several perceptive friends and family members to point out that my ex was essentially brainwashing me. The moment it really hit me was during a conversation with my dad. I was trying to defend my ex for refusing to share the last meal in the house when I was hungry. "Snap out of it," he said. That's when I realized my ex's behavior was only OK according to the warped logic he'd instilled in me.

Ad failed to load
What I wish I knew about leaving an abusive relationship is that you won't always get support.

But what I wish I knew about leaving an abusive relationship is that you won't always get support. You may have friends, like the one I mentioned earlier, who think your partner's great and far from abusive. But they may not know all the different ways abuse can manifest, and even if they do, they may not see how that plays out in your relationship.

On top of that, your partner may convince you that you're doing them an injustice by leaving. After I broke up with my ex, he left me a long voicemail about how he'd only take me back if I stopped "bull-busting" him. How the girlfriend he thought he knew wouldn't do something this "mean." In other words, leaving an abusive relationship might make you feel like a bad person. And you should do it anyway. I'm glad I did. It's better to feel like a bad person for a few lousy days or weeks post-breakup than to feel like one all the time because your partner's constantly putting you down.

Ad failed to load
The truth is, your abusive relationship may not look like one to other people, and it probably won't look like one to your abuser.

The truth is, your abusive relationship may not look like one to other people, and it probably won't look like one to your abuser. Abusive people come up with all sorts of ways of justifying their abuse. But if the relationship looks even a little bit abusive to you, trust yourself. If you want to break up with someone, you don't need a reason — and if you did, the fact that you're feeling less than totally respected is reason enough.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What I Learned About Work-Life Balance After Relapsing From Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Almost two years ago, I woke up in a hotel room, groggy and dehydrated, with my clothes all over the room and my nightstand filled with mini bottles of liquor. I had spent the previous two days drinking all the alcohol in my mini bar. I'm not sure wh…
By Irina Gonzalez

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale