4 Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse That I Ignored Until I Became More Self-Aware In Therapy
The internet is stacked with information about what is right and what is wrong in a relationship. The red flags that you need to watch out for and the signs of emotional abuse that you should never miss become blurred when you are deeply attached and in love with someone.
Yet, when looking back at the relationship I shared with my ex-boyfriend I can clearly see the whole picture now. It is crazy how your beliefs and thoughts change once you put someone off the pedestal and see them for who they really are.
I ignored and buried away all the signs of emotional abuse until I was jerked back to reality. If it was not for therapy and the amazing way in which my therapist increased my self-awareness I would have remained in denial about the signs of emotional abuse and continued my toxic relationship until it was all too late.
I have had anxiety ever since I was a child. I would get anxiety attacks, feel extremely nervous, and overthink to a point where I would drive myself crazy. However, as I was growing up, I learned how to manage my way around the anxiety and free my mind from the constant chatter.
I succeeded to a great extent until I was hit again with the looming cloud of anxiety and panic by the end of December 2020.
In my heart and soul, I knew that something about the relationship was triggering my anxiety again. I did not feel good about myself. It was so bad that I had even stuck newspaper on all my mirrors because I felt ugly and unwanted.
I was hoping for a little support and understanding from my partner but he started shutting me out. And since I was afraid to lose him, I decided to keep it all inside me and deal with it on my own after all it was my emotional baggage and it would be unfair to dump it all on him.
I joined therapy to resolve my anxiety and understand what and why it was happening to me. My journey of self-growth and healing during the therapy is something that will remain with me for a lifetime.
My therapist supported me at every step as I explored my fears., the root of my anxieties, and gradually found acceptance and healing with my childhood experiences and how they shaped my adult relationships.
The whole process of therapy was not always easy. I realized many truths about who I am, let go of my mistakes and built a stronger resilience and mindset.
It opened my eyes to the subtle signs of emotional abuse that I ignored simply because I was too scared to lose someone I love when in reality I felt a lot lonelier and alone in the relationship.
It is natural and even necessary to make a few compromises in order to make a relationship work. However, nothing ever justifies the signs of emotional abuse that make you compromise on who you are and what you stand for.
These are the 8 signs of emotional abuse that affected my sense of self, shot up my anxiety, and made me almost believe that love is equivalent to panic attacks.
1. Nit-picking your flaws (or hardly ever showing appreciation)
In the 2 years of my relationship my partner hardly ever gave me compliments or showed any sense of appreciation. I would take extra effort to look pretty for him but instead of acknowledging that he would pick out my flaws.
“Isn’t the lipstick too dark?”
“I like you more when you are not so dressed up”
“What is the need to dress up so much”
These statements never felt obviously negative but they left me feeling inferior and stupid. It affected my self-confidence and I started feeling uncomfortable in my own body and even began questioning my self-worth.
He would pass casual comments about my looks, or portray himself in a superior light.
“I hope our children have my looks”
“Why are your eyes so apart from each other?”
“You are here to just ruin my life”
And after saying these things he would brush it off as just harmless jokes.
Every time I would try to communicate my discomfort and hurt about his lack of appreciation; he would make me feel guilty for not understanding his sense of humor.
These subtle signs of emotional abuse scarred my self-esteem. It dented my self-worth in such a deep way that it still plays with my head and makes me feel less about myself.
Therapy helped me to explore my negative self-beliefs and made me gain confidence about myself and own whom I am instead of letting others dictate whom I am supposed to be.
2. They make you feel guilty when you take a stand for yourself
“Remember that one time I waited for an extra 15 minutes for you? You are so ungrateful. You never see the positive things I do for you.”
A healthy relationship involves a balanced amount of giving and taking. Both partners view each other as equally responsible and accountable for making a relationship work.
However, in a toxic relationship where there are subtle signs of emotional abuse, you will notice that you are the only one who is willing to go the extra mile to make the relationship work.
Naturally, when I stopped making the efforts I once used to make, my relationship started to crumble. Instead of fixing things between us, my partner blamed me for changing my behavior and not being whom I used to be.
I would feel guilty and blame myself for not contributing enough to the relationship.
These mind games were actually signs of emotional abuse which I later understood and accepted in therapy.
3. Being controlling in the name of protecting you
One of the signs of emotional abuse that can be easily ignored and even accepted is how your partner gradually increases his control over you in the name of love and protection.
In fact, this can be seen in other forms of relationships too. There is a thin line between caring for someone and suffocating them.
My partner convinced me that all men have only one agenda in their mind and that I should avoid or stay away from them completely. He isolated me from my friends, and subtly brainwashed me about how my family is selfish and that I should avoid sharing everything with them.
Everything happened so gradually that it took a little time to notice the damage that was already done. When I joined therapy, I was able to view my relationship from an outsider’s perspective and it pained me to see how I had neglected so many important things in my life only to make sure that my partner was happy and satisfied with me.
4. They Ghost You Completely After A Fight
I feared sharing my thoughts and feelings with my partner because every time I did, he would end up making me feel stupid, crazy, or guilty about it.
At the end of every fight or argument, I was the one trying to apologize and make amends. After a point, I felt drained and exhausted.
Shutting someone off could be a defense mechanism but ignoring them with the intention of making them feel guilty is signs of emotional abuse that could point to a much more serious problem.
My partner would block me, refuse to pick up my calls, and would come back as if nothing had happened between us. This created a whirlwind of confusion within me and I could never predict his moods or behaviors.
It is easy to ignore or neglect emotional abuse because it is not as apparent or considered as dangerous as physical abuse. However, that is an unfortunate myth that prevents people from understanding the signs of emotional abuse and taking the courage to stand up for themselves.
I would have eventually left the relationship but I am one of those fortunate ones who could end it on time before it turned too toxic or detrimental to my health.
Therapy helped me to gain confidence in myself and as I became more sure of what I wanted and what I need, I could find the strength to acknowledge the signs of emotional abuse and take a stand for myself.
We all deserve gentle love, a love that is kind to you and supports you in your life journey. Unfortunately, many of us get stuck in a relationship that drains our energy, ruins our self-worth, and takes away many precious years of our life.
It is important to take professional support and understand why exactly you feel attached to such relationships and find it difficult to pull yourself out of them. Therapy definitely helped me to work on myself and develop a better relationship with who I am.
And once you begin to truly appreciate and love yourself for who you are, you naturally begin to attract the same energy in your life. That is the whole beauty of healing.