Recognising Emotional Abuse

The image most people have about relationship violence is linked to physical violence. However, that cannot be further from the truth. Emotional abuse is often undetected, which I believe is most likely due to a lack of education and a mentality of believing that one somehow deserves it, and thus makes excuses for the abuser. Anyone can be affected by emotional abuse, and anyone (parent or other family member, friend, partner) can be the abuser. Emotional abuse is not limited by race, gender, or socioeconomic status. In the rest of this article, I want to focus on some common signs of emotional abuse.

Demeaning comments

One or two demeaning comments does not constitute abuse (though this does not mean it’s okay to do so), but when they get to the point where they become frequent and severely hamper one’s health, then one needs to consider how healthy the relationship is. If your partner makes you feel like you are unloveable because of x or y trait, and that you should be lucky that they are still with you, then I strongly encourage you to leave.


This could include a choice such as choosing between them and your friends/family/partner, or going as extreme as to saying that they will never let you forget it if you leave them. They will tell you that you don’t love them or are not a real friend/partner if you spend time with other people.

Lack of Respect for your Privacy

This can include going through your private blogs/journals, your phone, your bank bills, etc. If you still live with your family and are a minor, of course your family will have some say over what you can or cannot do, but there is a line that needs to be drawn somewhere. And partners can look through each other’s phones, but where it gets to a point that they’re doing it obsessively or behind your back, you need to have a talk. Lack of privacy can also include constantly checking up on you to know where you are, installing tracking applications in your phone/car, or even showing up to where you are to make sure you are there, or to ’surprise’ you.

Withholding Affection/Money as Punishment

If you’ve done something that disappoints your partner/friend/family, then they may sometimes withhold something from you as punishment. This can include small things like hugs, refusing to speak to you even if you apologise, or even withholding access to money.

These are only a few of the signs of emotional abuse. Others include feeling sorry for your abuser after they hurt you, apologising when you did nothing wrong, making mean comments then saying that they were joking, refusing to improve but rather putting the blame on you, and feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around them. Of course, some of these in small doses (sometimes mean comments slip out in moments of anger or without our noticing, and some people prefer to be alone after a fight) are okay, and one instance of any of these does not constitute abuse, though you should have a talk with however did the action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

There are organisations in Finland that can help you if you’re in a crisis:

The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters (Ensi- ja turvakotien liitto)

Victim Support Finland (Rikosuhripäivystys)