Relationships are tricky business. They are initiated and sustained on the strength of messy emotions.
We meet someone and in a moment of shared understanding, we grant them access to our life and our personal space. In an instant, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities and happiness.
At the same time, we make ourselves impossibly vulnerable. This other person has power over us and they can treat this power with the utmost respect and sensitivity or they can use it to callously further their own ends.
As I said, relationships are sustained on the strength of emotions – intangible and unquantifiable.
It is scary the amount of power the people we love wield over our lives which is why, it always takes us so long to realize and then to believe that the people we have chosen to love and trust, could be waging a deliberate game of manipulation and abuse designed to take apart our holds on our sanity.
The most insidious is the sneaky emotional abuse that goes on in the guise of soft words and loving gestures.
So do yourself a favor, and learn to look beyond the facade and into the heart of your relationships. When it feels like all is not right, listen to your own instincts.
Emotional abuse is subtle. It is a deliberate campaign designed to confuse and undermine, but there are definite signs of an unhealthy relationship that can help you get out while the going is good.
“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”
– Aisha Mirza
Here are 10 signs that point to an unhealthy relationship –
1. You are actively afraid of displeasing the other person
Relationships are a matter of give and take. No matter their nature, they are all based on mutuality and reciprocation. Everyone has a part to play but if you slip up, you apologize and do a little bit of grovelling but then you move on. More often than not, a relationship is stronger for every hit it takes.
But if you find yourself spiralling into guilt and shame for simple mistakes or worse, feeling an actual fear of displeasing someone, it is a sign that your relationship is lacking in empathy and understanding. Can you even call it a relationship if it’s lacking in those two key elements?
Related : 3 Keys To A Healthy Relationship
The people in our lives are supposed to be our safe place. There should be no room for fear in it. So, if you feel like displeasing someone can do untold damage or it pushes you into periods of self-blame or a spurt of depression – It is a huge red flag!
Trust me, no relationship in the world should do that to a person.
2. They deliberately twist events to suit their own purpose (also known as, gaslighting)
Gaslighting has become a term that’s now familiar to all of us, and despite that, we miss the signs of it in our own relationships. Gaslighting is when someone tries to twist and manipulate you into believing a different version of the truth – one that suits the abuser’s own purpose. It is done to confuse issues and undermine a person’s confidence.
Forget self-worth, Imagine what your mental condition would be like if you were unsure of your own reality. Gaslighting is a cruel tactic that is present in most unhealthy relationships to some extent.
The abuser might lie in a manner so convincing that you might start to doubt yourself. They may brazenly refuse to acknowledge their mistake even when confronted with proof, and they confidently twist events to make themselves look the victim instead of the culprit.
By the time they’re done with you, you’ll be wondering if you are over-reacting or imagining things. You might even blame yourself for being a pain to live with.
If you feel like you are facing similar such events, you need to raise an alarm. Gaslighting, even in the most benign form, can be dangerous to your emotional and mental stability.
3. Disturbingly possessive behavior disguised as care and concern
When someone acts possessive of our love and time, it seems endearing and sweet. A lot of us take it as a sign of love and commitment. Sometimes it is exactly that, but what if your partner/parent/friend demands a blow-by-blow of the time you spend away from them.
If they go through your personal email or texts and like to decide who you get to have as a friend, it is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
In a healthy relationship, we like to see the people we love as strong individuals with full, well-rounded lives. Abusers like to isolate their loved ones. They wish to be the only priority in your life.
Related : 7 Signs Of A Toxic Person
If they don’t get their way, they throw tantrums that might turn into violent physical confrontations.
Such relationships have no future because there is no way, you can sustain that sort of emotional upheaval and live a productive life. So, get out before there’s too much damage.
4. Insults wrapped inside a joke
The most common of them all! Insults wrapped inside a joke. Abusers like to undermine the self-worth and confidence of the other person by publicly insulting them, but it is done in a way that can be easily denied. They do it with a joke so that when you confront them, they can accuse you of being oversensitive.
It was just a joke! You’re being over-sensitive! – standard responses that make you look like an insecure idiot unable to take a harmless joke.
I get ribbing and fun insults, but there is always a line you don’t cross. We should all know our boundaries and if someone disrespects it, you should call them out on it. If the person refuses to accept responsibility, you know that they don’t respect your boundaries and they are not very considerate of your feelings.
And believe me, if they have done it once, they’ll do it again!
5. Jekyll & Hyde temperament
Blowing hot and cold is manipulation 101. We all do it as children. Throwing tantrums to get our way, and then cajoling if the tantrums don’t work. As we grow up, we let go of such negative habits. We adopt a more adult approach, one that involves calm discussion and reason.
Except, certain adults bring this destructive habit into play as and when they feel like it. One moment they are all sunshine and light, and the next it’s all thunder and doom. Depending, of course, on whether they’re getting their way or not.
When they’re happy, they seem to be so magnetic that all you want to do is soak in the charm, but when things get away from them, out comes the cruel words and the icy silence. In the bad moments, the victim usually remembers the good times and holding onto those memories, they continue to put up with the abuser’s behavior.
This is not healthy and to sustain a relationship with someone that manipulative will drive you into utter and complete mental and emotional exhaustion.
6. A refusal to acknowledge your accomplishments
Ok, this one honestly needs no discussion. If you are around people who diminish your achievements, get out now! Such people feel that if you grow as an individual, you will learn to be independent which will reduce their importance in your life.
So, they do what they can to make you believe that your accomplishments mean nothing. It is their way of keeping you small.
Trivializing your accomplishments means that they need never acknowledge you as an equal or even a strong individual capable of going at it alone.
7. A general lack of stability in your life
Have you ever spent an entire day feeling wounded and rejected thanks to a loved one’s careless actions?
It is the most spectacular waste of time. You obsessively go over everything. You play the moments of conflict over and over again with the sole purpose of pinning down the mistake you made that led up to it. Tragic, isn’t it!?
Now, imagine doing that most days of your life. How long before you turn into a sobbing mass of confusion and insecurities? That is what an emotionally abusive relationship can do to you. It can wreck any possibility of growth and progress. In fact, it can rob you of the little happiness you do have in your life.
The people we love are supposed to be our support system. They should be part of the reason you do awesome things. Anything else is just not good enough.
If you feel that you are constantly battling one emotional maelstrom after another, it should tell you that something is very wrong. Whoever is causing this instability in your life cannot be good for you.
8. A marked difference in public and private behavior
This is a no-brainer. If a person conveniently changes their behavior in public, you should know that they cannot be trusted. People with integrity usually have the courage to stand by their conviction regardless of their audience. They are not swayed by the opinions of others.
If you find yourself in a relationship with a person who treats you differently in public, you should note that as a sign of a possibly abusive relationship.
The difference may be mild like treating you as their most precious find in private and like a pleasant but casual companion in public, it still spells trouble. Unless they can give you a reasonable explanation for it, you should be careful with what you commit to.
9. A regular recounting of your flaws and mistakes
Emotionally abusive relationships have certain classic signs. One of them is a regular recounting of instances where you made a mistake and they were kind enough to forgive you. It’s supposed to ‘keep you in line’ by reminding you of how good they’ve been to you.
They may do it with a cheery smile and a perfectly pleasant manner like it is a harmless walk down the memory lane. Except, they’ll take you from one incident to another, all of them aimed at puncturing your self-confidence.
In the midst of a conflict, they will harp onto past mistakes to bolster their arguments.
10. Affection and Approval conditionally given
A person that you share a relationship with is different from rest of the world because they are supposed to love and care about you. Hence, the relationship!
Their love is not or should not be used as a bargaining chip. It should not come with conditions attached. Emotionally abusive people are comfortable with withholding love and affection to get you to toe the line. They manipulate you into doing things by showering you with approval and support when they are getting their way.
All of that is taken away if you make a choice different from their own. This abrupt change will leave you feeling winded and confused, and you’ll find yourself giving in without even knowing why.
11. Enlisting other people’s support against you
Such people are not above enlisting other’s people support against you. They deliberately involve other people in essentially personal arguments in order to unsettle and embarrass.
It’s done with a cheerful disposition and in the most natural way. Abusers make it look they are sharing their feelings with others, but they do it by sharing only the bits and pieces that will win them sympathy and support.
When they have other people in their corner, they try to ambush you. It is done to make you realize how lacking in solid support you are. It is both a punishment and a brutal persuasion.
12. A general lack of consideration and sensitivity
It takes nothing to be considerate of someone’s feelings. To me, it has always seemed like the most natural thing to do. Nobody should have to tell you to be sensitive to others, we should all have enough kindness in us to do it without having to be pushed into it.
Yet, people are so cavalier with other people’s feelings that it always leaves me surprised. In a relationship, we often make excuses for the other person.
If you find your relationship lacking in consideration, you should examine the rest of it carefully. Emotionally abusive people don’t have much regard for the emotional well-being of others which makes them careless of their feelings.
Once is a mistake but if they repeat a type of behavior, it is because they don’t see anything wrong with it. This should be a red flag.
“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious.”
– Lundy Bancroft
Relationships are a beautiful part of our lives. They are the source of all the love and laughter we have which is why it is always so difficult to believe when a relationship turns toxic.
Confronting a loved one as a possible enemy can ravage our emotions, but it has to be done. If an emotionally abusive person is allowed prolonged access to your life, they will take all they can and leave you nothing more than a wretched shadow of your former self.
Every relationship should have certain elements.
Your feelings should never be invalidated. There should be no manipulation of any kind. Love should be given freely without any conditions attached.
You should be able to rely on your loved ones to be there for you in whatever way they can manage. No relationship should ever inspire fear and insecurity.
It should be solid enough for you to rely on, and soft enough to give you comfort. Anything less, and it’s just not good enough.
Emotional abuse has been known to cause severe depression, anxiety, and physiological distress. People have been driven to substance abuse and self-harm. It can go so far as to push you to the limits of your sanity and then tip you over the edge!
So, learn to understand and identify the signs of abuse in your relationship. If you notice things that make you feel threatened, get out as quickly as possible.