If you are involved in an emotionally abusive relationship then know that your mental well being, how you feel about yourself, and the types of relationships you feel you deserve are at risk. I think often times we can be with emotionally abusive men and not even know it. I know I didn’t. Not at first. I can speak from experience, I was with an emotionally abusive man particularly my son’s father. I do not think that I realized it at first, but now that I am out of it I can recall that literally, every moment with him felt like mental warfare. Always yelling, name calling, being hot and cold, and saying and doing emotionally damaging things to both myself and my son.
“I don’t love you and I don’t love our son”
” I don’t care about your son because he came from you”
He would say. And THEN he would tell me I needed to understand how he felt and I did not have the right to get mad. Because I chose to have a baby he did not want. It was like one big mind game all the time and I could NEVER win. When I was in it I thought that it was a bit crazy but I did not think of it as being emotionally abusive because it was not domestic violence. He was not hitting me. I just thought that it was his flawed way of communicating.
But an emotionally abusive relationship is beyond that. It is about messing with your self-esteem, tearing you down, and trying to gain control over you through emotional abuse techniques. You can see a full list of emotionally abusive signs from health line because they are way too many to list. BUT I will take some of these signs and tell you how it relates to my own emotionally abusive situation and how the man you are with may have the same signs but you could be overlooking them.
My emotionally abusive relationship with my son’s father.
As I said before I really encourage you to visit health line so that you can get all the signs. For now, I will take the ones that I had to personally endure in my situation with my son’s father.
Humiliation, negating, criticizing
What is it: These tactics are meant to undermine your self-esteem. The abuse is harsh and unrelenting in matters big and small.
Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship through Humiliation, negating, criticizing
Name-calling. My son’s father used to call me fat, stupid, dumb, insinuate that I was a whore and perhaps even called me that. And these were just to name a few or the ones I remember.
Character assassination. In my case, my son’s father would say that no one would ever want to marry me because I was not worth marrying. Anything that was specific to me was a problem, he had an issue with AND would let me know. For example, me being a Christian meant that he took low key shots about my behavior, what he felt I should do, and how I acted. Another example, since my son plays video games he stated that my son (Aka) his son was going to be a slacker because I allowed him to play too many video games. Thus calling me a bad mom.
Sarcasm. Often just a dig in disguise. For example, my son’s father would say to get off the short bus like it was a joke when in all reality he was calling me stupid.
Belittling your accomplishments. If you are a reader of my blog then you should know that I have three degrees, the highest being a Ph.D. Two of my degrees I attained while I was a single mom. Under normal circumstances, people celebrate this accomplishment. But no, not an emotional abuser.
My son’s father told me I still lacked comment sense and that my degrees did not make me anything. And that I was still going to be “cuddling” with my degrees since I was single. And that men do not want education in women but instead then need to be able to cook, clean, and give good oral sex.
And oh yes, true to an emotional abuser other people had to join in the game. Aka his wife, also going on a social media tangent belittling my accomplishments and my degrees. Even though I had actually never formally meant her. But emotional abusers always use people. Which is another sign below.
Control and shame
What is it: Trying to make you feel ashamed of your inadequacies is just another path to power.
Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship through control and shame
Unpredictability. They’ll explode with rage out of nowhere, suddenly shower you with affection, or become dark and moody at the drop of a hat to keep you walking on eggshells. Which of course was one of my son’s father favorite moves. I mean literally, this was his normal personality dealing with me. I am not sure that I have ever seen him any other way. I just assumed he was bipolar or something. One minute we were getting along and the next he was yelling at me. One minute he loved my son and one minute he wanted nothing to do with him.
They walk out. If any of you have ever read my single moms story (you can click here). Then you know that my son’s father is the definition of walking away. He will come in for about a month or two, out for 2 more years, then comes back after two years BUT only through email. Then another 8 months will pass before asking to see my son. Then I will follow up with him on when he planned to see my son and then starts yelling at me on why I am contacting him. Followed by another 4 years of silence. And as always, with an emotional abuser instead of accepting responsibility him walking out was my fault.
Using others. This started when I left my son’s father alone because he was with another woman. He then went to all of his family members who then attacked me stating that I was mad because my son’s father did not want to be with me. A narrative I am sure he gave them. Because the using others is never the truth, it is always the version of the truth the emotional abusers want to give to other people. A truth that has them looking like a saint and you like a monster. And all the better if the other people actually come to you and start attacking you based on what the emotional abuser said.
Accusing, blaming, and denial
What is it: This behavior comes from an abuser’s insecurities. They want to create a hierarchy in which they’re at the top and you’re at the bottom.
Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship through Accusing, blaming, and denial.
Denying something you know is true. When I finally decided to part ways with my son’s father, I had questioned him for about a year or two about another woman which he adamantly denied. I would literally visit him in jail and the correctional officers would tell me that another woman who identified herself as his girlfriend came to visits the day before. That was their way of showing me who he really was I guess. But my son’s father denied it. Even with the truth looking him dead in his face. There was no other woman he would say and that I was being paranoid.
Goading then blaming. This is when people do something to set you off and when you go off on them, then it is your fault. For example, with my son’s father, I was always at fault for everything. The fact that he decided not to see my son for years was my fault. The fact that he did not pay his $68 a month in child support also turned into my fault. The fact that he was emotionally abusive and I decided to walk away YOU GUESS IT MY FAULT. I am not entirely sure how he spun that one. Just know that everything he did was my fault.
Emotional neglect and isolation
What is it: Abusers tend to place their own emotional needs ahead of yours. Many abusers will try to come between you and people who are supportive of you to make you more dependent on them.
Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship through emotional neglect and isolation
Shutting down communication. This as a sign that I should have noticed from day one with my son’s father because he always had this issue. Making dates with me and not showing up. Not answering a text or phone calls. And when I first became pregnant he just up and disappeared. I did not know where he went or lived for my entire pregnancy. And only spoke to him about twice during my pregnancy. At one point when I tried to text him, he pretended to be someone else and told me I had the wrong number.
Trying to come between you and your family. Oh yes, he tried this one. By going directly to my mother saying that he did not want to deal with me anymore only her. And tried to give the impression that I was the one that was unreasonable and doing something to him. I guess trying to turn my mother against me.
Then, of course, there is the time where he tells my son that he cannot call him because “your mother” AKA me does not charge his phone. Which by the way his father was responsible for putting minutes on and of course he doesn’t. But instead of saying he is not putting minutes on the phone it is my fault for not charging the phone. Giving my son the impression that I am the reason why HE does not call more.
Indifference. They see you hurt or crying and do nothing. This one is pretty self-explanatory. And the crazy thing is that I do not cry much at all, in front of anyone. There was that ONE time I did cry in front of him because I was so frustrated and he simply just hung up. I would say that is pretty indifference.
Disputing your feelings. In this case, I would express my disappointment about his being an absentee father and instead of seeing what I was saying is right. He would literally try to make me feel as though I was imagining these things, imagining that he was not showing up for my son, and that he was really a good father in disguise and that I was blowing things way out of proportion.
So either when you read this you were shocked or not surprised at all because you were in a similar situation. In some cases, it may have been worse. And having gone through this myself and still continue to go through this on the rare occasions that I have to interact with my son’s father; this behavior becomes so second nature to you that you forget to see it for what is. But now you know.
Here is how you break away from emotionally abusive men:
Leave. I know the answer sounds so simple right. But really it is, you can leave and even if it will hurt you still leave. And when you choose to not have a conversation about it. Because a conversation with them may have them convincing you that you are overreacting and are crazy and that is all about the manipulation. When really you have every right to leave. And you should.
You are not crazy. Apart of the manipulation of emotionally abusive men is that they will try to tell you are overreacting, they may apologize, or they may try to make you think that you are crazy; that no one will want you and that you are nothing without them.
You are not crazy and the ultimate test is do you feel good in the relationship or do you feel bad? And if you feel bad most of the time in the relationship then who cares if you are crazy or not. The only thing that you should be concerned with is how YOU feel in the relationship and if you don’t feel good when you do not need any other reason to leave than that.
Have boundaries. If you are in a situation where you share children with this person or you know that somehow you will have to be in contact with this person and is it unavoidable. Then you have to set personal boundaries. If you have children then have them pick the child up from your parents’ home. Do not allow them to show up or enter your house. In fact, treat them just as you would a regular stranger on the street that you just met. This person could be harmful and so why do you want to allow them in your personal space.
If you just have to deal with them because you work with them or you just have to come in contact with them just ignore them like they do not exist in your world. And if you have to say something to them; keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Do not go back and forth with them allowing them to start their manipulation tactics on you.
You will need to heal. I spoke about this in my blog about guarding your heart (which you can read here). When people do emotionally damaging things to you they change you and they change the way you feel about yourself.
We interact with people all day every day. We get close to people, break up, get betrayed boyfriends, get hurt by family members and guess what? All of those things have the potential to leave bad deposits on your heart. I can almost bet that people have left deposits in your heart and most of them you are not even aware of. When you were with a cheating boyfriend, deposits were left in your heart in the form insecurity and being distrustful of men. Every time someone called you ugly, fat, stupid or said that you were not good enough, deposits were left in your heart in the form of low self-esteem.
My point is that all those emotionally damaging things that your ex has said to you or even your current boyfriend have said to you, you will believe them. Because he has said these things so much, played with your mind so much that no matter how strong you will start to wonder if what they said is really true.
Which is why I am a big promotion of healing, counseling, pastoral counseling, life coaching, crying, church or whatever it is you need to do to get all of that bad blood OUT of your system DO IT. If you don’t you will.
A. Continue to get into the same types of relationships with men who are emotionally abusive.
B. You will not think that you are worthy of love and not get into any relationship because that is how much he played on your self-esteem.
C. Continue to go back to your ex and let them stomp on you some more causing you to develop more and even deeper rooted issues.
All of which are not good for you. Do not punish yourself for getting into a relationship with an emotionally abusive man. It happens to the best of us. But know that you realize it, get up, move on, and don’t continue to allow him to play games in your head. If anything, I am a completely functional person that has TONS of confidence. So I am living proof that the effects of these relationships are not long lasting.
If you know someone who is in an emotionally abusive relationship then share this post with them. Plus, I have an amazing video below on how to get over your ex.