Nothing pulls at my heartstrings like hearing someone say that emotional abuse ‘doesn’t count' or ‘it wasn’t that bad compared to others because I didn’t get hit.'
The ONE thing I have heard repeatedly from survivors, including survivors of physical abuse, is this...
Physical pain and bruises heal, but the emotional abuse lingers.
When someone is experiencing abuse, it's easy to discount the experience of ‘just’ emotional abuse (to be clear, there’s no such thing as ‘just’ of any type of abuse). It makes tolerating what you're going through maybe a little easier to survive when you're in it. And it's a message we receive in society and media over and over -It must not have been that bad if she didn't get hit (eye roll, cringe, scream into a pillow...so frustrating!).
But minimizing the effects of emotional abuse over the long-term is really harmful, especially after you're out of the relationship and confused about why you're still having strong emotions about the experience. Having a strong trauma reaction to emotional abuse can make people feel like they're crazy because they expect themselves to 'just get over it.' But rest assured, having a strong, lasting reaction to emotional abuse is completely normal.
Because emotional abuse is REALLY HARMFUL! But it's also really hard to identify.
All too often emotional abuse flies under the radar. It’s so slick. We don’t even know it was abuse! But yet, the effects of these interactions feel like sticky gunk we can’t get off our souls no matter how hard we try.
For many women, it's confusing as to what emotional abuse even is! Curious if what you went through was abuse or toxic? Read our 7 tips below to help demystify and identify emotional abuse.
Emotional Abuse looks like...
Name-calling, put-downs This one may seem obvious but it can fly under the radar. Especially with backhanded compliments (I like your hair. It reminds me of my ex’s.) and other B.S. (You’re so lucky you have me to protect you.)
Gaslighting You didn’t read the first paragraph or this blog post did you? Oh yeah? Well then, without looking at it, what did the middle sentence say verbatim? See I knew you didn’t read it. Why do I always have to beg you to read all the paragraphs? You make me feel so unimportant. This, dear resilient woman, is gaslighting.
Silent Treatment & Withholding Affection Silence is violence and can be used as a way to hold power over you. Affection and love should never be used as a weapon or tactic to manipulate.
Sabotaging Good Things in your Life. Excited about your interview for that new job that seems perfect for you? Let’s have a big fight the night before the interview so you are tired and preoccupied during the meeting. Looking forward to the Girl’s Weekend Trip that you’ve had planned for ages? You need to check in with me every hour at least. Let me know where you’re going, what you’re wearing, and what you’re doing. Because I don’t trust your friends. And I don't like how you act when you're with them. Which brings us to...
Isolating You from Family & Friends This can be as dramatic as moving you to a new geographical location far away from people who love and support you, or it can be as simple as shit-talking your friends & family to the point that it’s just easier not to see them.
Accusing You of Sluttiness Whether it’s your dress is too short. The way you said ‘grande’ to your unassuming 20-year-old barista. Or your turtleneck is showing too much cleavage. It’s all a tactic meant for you to be ashamed of your body and question yourself.
They Say They Can’t Trust You They are constantly scrolling through your DM’s & texts, looking for validation for their unfounded belief that you are cheating on them. This goes in part with the Isolation we mentioned earlier, right? Because if you have a friend who your partner accuses you of sleeping with, isn’t it just easier to stop texting with that friend rather than continually have to prove to your SO that you really are just friends?
Healing from the crazy-making experience of emotional abuse can be a lifelong task but it does get easier over time and with support. Being around other women who've been through it helps. We're glad you're here as part of the Resilient Rebound community with other women who get it.