10 Signs You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Physical violence is not the only sign of an abusive relationship. Emotional abuse is another way that unhealthy relationships manifest. Emotional abuse is broadly defined as when the actions and attitudes of one person cause another individual to experience negative emotions like anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Here are 10 signs that indicate that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:

1. Your Partner Humiliates You.

As noted in The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, being humiliated by your partner is a clear sign of emotional abuse. Acts of humiliation can vary, and one includes criticizing you in front of other people. This type of behavior is a big red flag because it demonstrates that your partner is willing to mistreat you in the presence of other individuals.

2. Your Partner Shares Sensitive Information About You With Others.

Another sign of emotional abuse is a partner who shares sensitive information about you with others. For example, a woman might be sensitive about the fact that she is overweight and plans to start seeing a nutritionist. The woman asks her partner not to tell anyone about it. If her partner shares the information anyway, emotional abuse is in full effect. In this case, the abusive partner may diminish her confidence and increase feelings of vulnerability.

3. Your Partner Controls Your Appearance.

Oftentimes, emotional abuse takes place when a woman’s partner controls her appearance. One example would be a man forcing his partner to shave. He might argue that she has to because hairy legs are unattractive. In this situation, the woman is led to feel that she is inadequate or undesirable unless she changes her appearance to suit the male partner’s preference. Another example of this is a man accusing his partner of being fat if she does not maintain a certain weight. As stated in “Psychological Aggression and Domestic Violence,” being called names such as ugly, fat, and stupid is the most common form of psychological abuse for women.

4. Your Partner Shuts Conversations Down.

This is a classic sign of emotional abuse. Abusers are not interested in mutual understanding. They simply want to coerce and control their partners into submission. One way this takes place is when the abuser prevents his partner from speaking.

For example, a couple might get in an argument about a meal that the male partner did not like. The woman might begin to respond that the grocery store was out of the food he requested. If male partner cuts her off in mid-sentence rather than listening to her explanation, this indicates that the abuser has “won” the argument. This is a form of emotional abuse that makes the victim feel that her voice has no value.

5. Your Partner Monitors Your Phone Activity.

Another sign of emotional abuse is a man who monitors your phone. If your partner constantly checks your text messages and voicemail (especially without your permission), you are being subjected to controlling behavior. Controlling behavior is a form of emotional abuse that reduces an individual to a child-like state, which makes acting independently difficult or impossible. In the case of phone monitoring, the victim may feel that she cannot maintain relationships without having them heavily scrutinized. Abusers may try to justify phone monitoring by suggesting that they want to make sure that their partner is not cheating.

6. Your Partner Isolates You From Friends And Family Members.

In many cases, emotionally abusive partners try to isolate the victim from their friends and family members. This is another type of controlling behavior. The abuser does not want the victim to have a social network because others may question his controlling actions and attitudes.

In some cases, an emotionally abusive spouse or partner will forbid a woman to maintain a friendship with a person after the friend calls out his inappropriate behavior. For example, a friend of the victim might hear the abuser state that she should stop wearing make-up in public because it attracts too much attention from other men. If the friend challenges the abuser by stating that the friend looks great and has a right to wear cosmetics whenever she wants, the abuser may tell the victim that she should no longer talk that friend. In some cases, the abuser may even make up lies about the friend to cause the victim to distrust him or her.

7. Your Partner Crosses Boundaries.

Creating boundaries is a way for couples to maintain strong relationships while simultaneously having a sense of self and independence. For example, you and your partner might have a joint account while also maintaining independent accounts, which enables each of you to spend the money you earn without getting your partner’s approval.

If a man charges a purchase to his partner’s account without her permission, he’s crossed a boundary. This is a form of emotional abuse which can create a sense of vulnerability by making the victim believe that she has no right to control her own finances. Moreover, this form of boundary crossing can lead to the abusive partner impairing the victim’s credit. As noted by Safe Horizons, many domestic violence victims have stated that their partners ruined their credit score.

8. They Ask You To Compromise Your Morals.

Like most people, you probably have a sense of right and wrong that helps you maintain a sense of ethical selfhood. Yet in many cases, an emotionally abusive partner will compromise this healthy way of living by asking you to do or say things that violate your moral code.

One common example is a man pressuring a woman for sex despite the fact that she has already stated she views premarital sex as sin or is not ready for this level of physical interaction. Another example would be a one partner asking another partner to lie on their behalf. Here, the victim’s emotions are damaged if they feel they’ve deviated from the values that make them a good person.

9. You Have To Ask Your Partner For Permission To Leave The House.

This is a clear sign of emotional abuse. With this type of controlling behavior, the abuser wants to ensure that he always knows where the other person is. Additionally, this type of behavior is a psychological trick that makes the victim experience self-doubt about her ability to be independent, complete important tasks, set and accomplish goals, etc.

10. Your Partner Demeans Your Dreams.

Emotionally abusive individuals are typically frightened at the idea of a partner realizing their dreams. This is the case because the abuser typically wants the victim to depend on him for a sense of self-worth and fulfillment. For this reason, it is common for abusers to make fun of the victim’s dream. The goal of this behavior is to discourage the victim from acting independently, developing self-confidence, or gaining the resources necessary to leave if the abuse becomes unbearable.

An example of demeaning the victim’s dream would be learning that the partner wants to go back to college and stating “That’s stupid. You don’t need a degree to take care of the kids and clean the house.”


Don’t Delay: End Emotional Abuse Today!

Every person has the right to live in a healthy environment where they are free to pursue and realize their dreams.

Emotionally abusive relationships prevent this from happening by compromising the victim’s self-confidence and access to resources that promote high self-esteem and productivity.

  • If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, know that you are not alone. Seeking assistance from people who care is one of the best ways to end a relationship that is negatively impacting your confidence.>
  • For crisis and counseling services, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Hotline advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to provide confidential crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Help raise awareness about abusive relationships and support survivors at LiveYourDream.org.


jocelyncrawley-picJocelyn Crawley is a 32-year-old freelance writer who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Feminism is her deepest passion and she is excited about partnering with other women’s rights advocates in the years to come. When she is not reading and writing on feminist topics, Jocelyn enjoys sipping coffee and improving her yoga practice.

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