Emotional abuse can be very subtle and it can happen over a long period of time, making it difficult to notice. People who are emotionally abusive can also, at times, show great affection. These people can use occasional moments of love and affection to maintain control. It gives you hope that they are capable of change or getting better. It gives you a glimmer of hope. This is controlled and both controlling. It serves a purpose – keeping you embroiled in their web of abuse.
Does your partner:
• Put you down and make you feel bad about yourself?
• Criticise and ridicule you or the things you do?
• Deflect blame/responsibility, making you feel like you’re always in the wrong?
• Treat you more like a child than an equal partner?
• Belittle your achievements or interests?
• Accuse you of having affairs or looking at other people?
• Become emotionally unavailable to punish you?
• Share personal information about you with others?
• Criticise your friends and family?
• Make ‘empty’ promises of change, but never take action?
• Use the children as a weapon?
• Tell you that you’re not a ‘real’ man?
• Destroy things that are important to you?
• Feel like you’re walking on eggshells?
• Stop spending time with friends or family?
• Feel that nothing you do is good enough?
• Feel alone?
• Spend your life managing/avoiding conflict?
• Avoid social events?
• Feel trapped?
These are just a few examples of emotional abuse. How you experience emotional abuse will be personal to you. Your partner should be the person you trust most in the world. They are the person you share all your secrets and vulnerabilities with, and the person who knows everything about you. An abusive partner will use this knowledge in a negative way to exploit you.
Age: 34 Location: Inverness Relationship: Heterosexual
I was with Lisa for 3 years in total. It started off really well and we moved in together after a month. Back then it felt like it was me and her against the world. We’d spend all our time together. A few months into the relationship I went out for drinks with a few friends one day after work. Lisa texted quite a bit, asking where I was, who I was with, when I’d be home. When I got back that night she was waiting up for me. She wouldn’t speak to me and just went to bed.
The next day she said that I had upset her because I preferred spending the night with my friends instead of her. She asked me to show her my phone so she could read my texts and check my calls. Things started to deteriorate from there. She synced my phone with her iPad, so anytime I got a message she could read it. She’d then text my friends back, pretending to be me, telling them I didn’t want to see them. Then she’d delete the messages. She would create conflict between me and my family to the point they stopped calling and visiting me. She posted stuff on Facebook, those pictures with sayings, which were always about how useless men are. Nothing I did was ever enough: I didn’t make enough money; I made her unhappy and insecure; I fancied other women; I didn’t make her feel special. The strangest thing was that when I tried to end the relationship she had a meltdown. I couldn’t understand how she wanted to stay with me if she was so unhappy with me. She said that she didn’t realise that her behaviour was hurting me, and that she’d get help with her jealousy but I couldn’t leave her because she’d be devastated and do something stupid.
I did everything I could for her, but it was never enough. I felt terrible that I was making her feel so unhappy, but I didn’t realise how unhappy I was, and she didn’t care. I had become a hermit. Everything I did, I did to avoid a fight or a tantrum. My life was consumed with managing her. I can see that now, but I couldn’t see it at the time. It took a visit to my GP to connect the dots. The wave of relief to have someone ask me about what was going on and why I was so low was overwhelming. That was the turning point for me.
Age: 26 Location: Aberdeen Relationship: Homosexual
Gary was my first serious boyfriend, and I was completely in love with him. I wasn’t ‘out’ to my friends and family so it was all quite secretive. I was scared that my family would disown me if they knew that I was gay. Gary was active on the local scene and had loads of friends. We’d go out every weekend, and he’d be very close to other guys. He’d boast about how popular and desirable he was, and that I was lucky to be with him. I felt lucky to be with him, to begin with anyway. I was exposed to a whole new world and my confidence began to grow.
Some of his friends started to show me some attention and this was like a red flag to a bull for Gary. He’d call me all sorts of names, saying that I was an attention-seeker and too camp. I never knew that a gay man could be so homophobic. He told me that his friends just felt sorry for me and that I was pathetic. He’d say that no one else would put up with me but him, and if I ever tried to leave him he’d turn up at my parent’s house. I couldn’t tell my friends and family because I didn’t want them to think that this is what being in a same-sex relationship was like, and that I’d only myself to blame.
I never felt so alone. It wasn’t until one of Gary’s friends took me aside and told me about a support group that I realised that I could get out of this. The support group helped me understand what Gary was doing to me, and they helped me find the confidence to come out to my family. Coming out was one of the key pieces of the puzzle to help me get out of that mess. My family were a lot more supportive than I thought they would be.