Some relationships provide fuel and nourishment while others serve only to drain and disempower. Those that are emotionally abusive tend to fall into the second category. However, if you’re being emotionally abused, you may not immediately recognize the signs.
Similar to other types of abuse, emotional abusers tend to inflict harm over time. It can be easy to fall for an emotional abuser because, instead of being abusive right away, they’ll often present their most charming selves, then gradually become more abusive once trust has been built. Psychologist Leanne Donoghue-Tamplin tells The Cheat Sheet this process is referred to as grooming.
The big issue with these relationships is that the perpetrator of the abuse trains or grooms their partner in a strategic and gradually increasing way. They don’t start the relationship being abusive, or the partner would leave immediately. In fact, they’re often above average when they’re being great so their partner has trouble accepting that this wonderful person can also be abusive. They’re also very talented at not being caught by outsiders.
The abuse gradually becomes normal over time, and the partner blames themselves for any abuse that occurs. If you suspect you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, you need strong support to unravel that training so you can begin to see the relationship for what it really is.
Author, happiness coach, and domestic abuse survivor Gayle Katz similarly recognizes the tendency for those in abusive relationships to blame themselves, but she says it’s important to remember the abuse is not your fault. “The bully in your life actually hates themselves, which is the real reason for the abuse. Once you understand that nothing your partner (abuser) says is true, you take your strength back. And that’s when you need to get out!” said Katz, founder of the Grounded Girl’s Guide series.
To learn even more about these types of harmful relationships, The Cheat Sheet spoke with some mental health experts. Here are nine signs you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship.