10 signs your man is emotionally abusive

Not all abuse is obvious. Sometimes, it’s in the words that cut deep and the behaviour that leaves you wondering where you stand with your guy. Here are the red flags to look out for
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You know a relationship is strong, loving and healthy by the sheer fact that it makes you feel good. Of course, no relationship is perfect – you may argue and fight and then ignore each other for a couple of days – but deep down you know that, no matter what happens, you’ve got each other’s backs. Good relationships are defined by kindness, compassion, understanding, empathy, generosity, support, and love – both in word and in deed.

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Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. But because it doesn’t leave any physical scars, it’s easy to dismiss. An emotionally abusive partner is one who messes with your feelings, makes you feel insignificant, disrespects you, and acts like he owns you. Emotionally abusive relationships don’t help you thrive. Instead, they drain you of your self-worth and make you feel neglected and unloved.

These signs will help you figure out how to spot an emotionally abusive partner.

  1. He gets unreasonably jealous. It’s nothing unusual if your guy wants to know which friends you were out with or asks “Who was that?” when you hang up the phone. If it’s obvious that he’s just curious and his questions don’t make you think “ulterior motive”, you have nothing to worry about. But you SHOULD second-guess your relationship if his questions start to feel invasive, if he gets possessive, if he demands to know where you were and what you were doing, or if he tells you that you have to ask his permission before seeing your friends. Insecurity is one thing, but if he starts acting like he owns you, then you shouldn’t be with him.

  2. He cheats on you. This is just disrespectful, and shows a total lack of regard for you and your relationship. As for how it’s emotionally abusive – infidelity involves a lot of sneaking around, manipulation, lying, and a whole lot of other things that couples in supportive and loving relationships just don’t do.

  3. He doesn’t communicate with you. Does your man treat you like a piece of furniture, ignoring you every time he walks past you? Does he “wall off” to avoid engaging in conversation with you? Or have your conversations with him been reduced to monosyllabic words and grunts? Does he make important decisions without at least telling you about them first? It might not seem like abuse, but failing to communicate is really a form of neglect. Regular communication is important for emotional intimacy; it’s what bonds people together and helps strengthen their relationship. Your guy may not be that articulate or verbally expressive, but if he’s outright ignoring you then it’s a cause for worry.

  4. He isolates you from your family and friends. If your guy expresses his disapproval whenever you want to hang out with your friends or keeps coming up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t see your family, your relationship definitely has a problem. A partner who is truly loving, selfless and supportive will not want you all to himself, all of the time. And he won’t have an issue with you spending time with other people every now and again. In fact, he will encourage it, especially if he understands how close you are to your family and friends, and if he can see that being with them makes you happy.

  5. He intimidates or threatens you. This is about his desire and need to dominate and control you – something that is at the heart of many emotionally abusive relationships. From threatening to hurt you in some way (example: “You’d better answer the phone when I call, otherwise you’re going to be very sorry” or “I’m warning you, you’d better not do that again”) to behaving in an intimidating fashion (example: he tries to block you from leaving the house or stalks you on your way to work) – this sort of behaviour displays a lack of trust and respect, plus, it’s scary to live with. You deserve better.

  6. He humiliates you in person or in front of others. It’s one thing to make a joke about your taste in music or your dance style, but if your man is constantly laughing at your expense, then it’s possible he’s emotionally abusive. You’ll know if that’s the case with your relationship when you feel like your confidence and self-esteem have been sucked dry by your boyfriend’s words or attitude. You feel small or ashamed, and you’re afraid to be yourself to avoid being belittled or demeaned.

  7. He constantly makes you feel guilty. Taking someone on a guilt trip counts as a form of bullying because it’s manipulative, selfish and intimidating. How do you know you’re being guilt-tripped by your man? He makes you feel bad when he doesn’t get his way or he imposes restrictions on you for his own selfish reasons. You may also start to second-guess or doubt everything you say and do, because you’re afraid of upsetting him. You find yourself apologising to him a lot, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. And when things DO go wrong, you make yourself the scapegoat and shoulder the blame.

  8. He’s indifferent to your problems. Whether it’s a work, money, family, health or personal problem, when you share it with your man he acts like he doesn’t care or tells you that he doesn’t want to know about it. You can’t rely on him to give you emotional support. Disregarding you this way counts as neglect, plain and simple. If there’s any one person you should be able to turn to when you need help or a listening ear, it’s your partner. If he can’t be there for you, then why are you with him?

  9. He’s constantly criticising or blaming you. In his eyes you can’t do anything right, and you need to change in some way or do more to “be better”. Whether it’s your weight, your wardrobe, your job, your eating habits, your friends or the way you talk, he is always finding fault with you, and you feel like it’s your responsibility to make him happy. Loving somebody means accepting them as they are and inspiring them to be better ON THEIR OWN. If your man doesn’t think you’re fine as you are then you should find another who does.

  10. He is discouraging. He’s not your biggest cheerleader. In fact, he is the opposite, holding you back from fulfilling your potential with his discouraging words. Instead of building you up, he tears you down. Want to start your own business? He tells you it’s too hard and you’ll never get it off ground. Want to lose weight and get healthy? He mocks you and says you will never look like a model no matter what you do. No one wants to be with a person who kills their dreams. You probably wouldn’t tolerate that kind of attitude in a friend, so what more a romantic partner?  

Want more relationship advice? Read our stories 4 smart ways to deal with criticism; Why you should date someone poorer than you and How to maintain healthy relationships when you work long hours

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