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Emotional Abuse: It’s Time to End the Cycle

Emotional abuse can be as bad, in terms of pain, as physical abuse; it is nothing to take lightly. It leaves wounds that are difficult to heal. It may not seem like they will, but the wounds will eventually heal and you will have learned a lot from that relationship, no matter if it is a romantic, familial, or platonic one. Emotional abuse can come in many forms – persuasion, constant criticism, victim blaming, intimidation, and many others. According to Psychology Today, men and women engage in equal amounts of abuse, but in very different ways: “An emotionally abusive man controls his partner by manipulating her fear of harm, isolation, and deprivation… an emotionally abusive woman controls her partner by manipulating his dread of failure as a provider, protector, lover, or parent.” Thus, emotional abuse is not only a problem for women. I have experienced an abusive situation myself, and having successfully gotten away from it, I want to prevent anyone from going through the same pain I did. If you or anyone you know is in an emotionally abusive relationship, I have a few things to say to you.

1. Do not blame yourself.
It is not your fault. You may not believe it – I never did for a long time – but it is true. If your boyfriend has a problem with you talking to a guy friend and he expresses these feelings by yelling at you, calling you horrible names, or demanding you never speak to that person again, that is his problem – not yours. It’s understandable to not want to hurt the feelings of someone you love or to be afraid of the repercussions of standing up for yourself, but do not take it upon yourself to stop speaking to everyone you know because your boyfriend (or girlfriend) does not approve.
Isolating yourself from your real friends and your family is only going to make it worse. My family recognized my situation before I did and told me how they felt. But because I felt it was my own fault, I shut them out for nearly a year, which was the worst thing I could have done; it only allowed the abuse to get worse. So, tell your abuser to stop taking his or her emotional insecurities out on you and that you have done nothing wrong…because you haven’t.

2. Get away from the relationship.
This may be the most difficult part of an emotionally abusive relationship – leaving it. You have formed an intimate relationship with this person and you have been involved for long enough that you feel there is no way out. According to LIVESTRONG, if you are afraid of how your partner will react to the break-up, do it in public, over the phone, or through email. I know many people believe breaking up with someone while not in person is “taking the easy way out,” but it is your personal safety that is at risk. Nothing about this decision has been easy. Leave however you feel safest. Do not look back.
I had two emotionally abusive boyfriends in high school and wasted nearly four years of my life being emotionally controlled by someone else. Each one ended differently and neither was easier to deal with. The first relationship ended with me being broken up with because I began standing up for myself, refusing to take further verbal abuse. Although I was free, I was overwhelmed by the amount of abuse I had gone through and was still blaming myself for not being able to fix someone who felt he needed to abuse people he cared for. I ended the second one and was berated for months with horrible voicemails and text messages, which eventually came less and less frequent because I stopped answering them. It takes an enormous amount of strength to break ties with someone who relies on you to take their abusive sh*t because they know by now they can control you. Don’t take it any longer.

3. Tell someone.
I am absolutely sure you have heard every piece of advice I am giving you, and I am repeating it for a reason. I was told all of this information many times and I ignored it all. It takes more courage to admit to someone what has been happening to you than to continue submitting to someone else’s reign. Tell anyone who you trust – your family, friends, a counselor, anyone outside the relationship who you believe would be able to help. Your friends may be able to tell something is wrong, but they are not mind readers.
My family could tell there was something wrong in my relationship, but because I would not admit it to them, let alone to myself, they were unable to give the help they knew I needed. Honestly, I never really told anyone what happened until nearly two years after it all ended. People knew from stories I told that there was something “off,” but I wish I had confided in someone. It very well may have taken away extra time I wasted in those relationships. Take the situation into your own control and don’t let it get any worse. The longer you wait, the worse it will get – I promise you. Turning around an abusive relationship is nearly impossible; once someone feels they have control over you, they will not let go of that control.

4. It is not cute, sexy, endearing, etc.
I am so sick of hearing people justify being abused or their own abusive actions; verbally abusing someone is not adorable, it is not passion, and it certainly is not love. “My boyfriend got so jealous when I was talking to so-and-so that he was about to kill so-and-so. He yelled at me afterwards and said he loves me so much he can’t stand watching me talk to another guy.” What is cute about being yelled at for having friends of the opposite sex? If that is how a guy shows you he cares about you, leave immediately. It is a warning sign for what is to come. It is not sexy and it is not passion – it is a red flag that this is an emotional abuser. Here are more red flags for emotional abusers from Psychology Today.

5. You are not going to be the one to “change” him or her.
Don’t even try. It is not worth the pain. According to the University of Washington, “93 percent of all batterers continued some form of physical and emotional violence.” If you have heard several credible sources say something along the lines of, “Him? That guy is insane. He tried to beat up so-and-so for talking to his girlfriend,” don’t even get involved. If this person has emotionally abused people before, he is going to do it again. You will not be the person who changes their ways. The best thing you can do is refuse contact with this person for that exact reason, so maybe they will one day realize their abusive ways will not be tolerated. Do not support this abuse by just letting it go.

I know you have heard all of this before. I know you might not listen, but you should. Tolerating abuse, emotional or physical, is only perpetuating a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped. You are worth more than that. You do not deserve to be abused by anyone.

If you need support or cannot find any way to get out of your situation, call the Domestic Violence Hotline anywhere in the U.S. or Canada at 1-800-799-7233.

Sources: Psychology Today, LIVESTRONG, University of Washington
Photo Credit: Google Images

I am a junior at Pitt and I study literature and nonfiction writing, but my background is in chemistry and biology. I enjoy doing adventurous things that make me uncomfortable and scared (i.e., rock climbing, caving, walking through South Oakland). Otherwise, you will find me in my house either reading or talking about my tuxedo cat, Spooky.
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