The definition of emotional abuse according to Healthy Place is any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. I never knew what emotional abuse was as a child; I only heard about physical violence. I didn’t yet have a term for people attempting to tear you down and control you with their words.
In high school, I got bullied by people I desperately wanted to be my friends. Looking back, I can only wonder how they learned that behavior. Maybe it was something they saw at home; perhaps it was their father speaking to their mother that way or vice versa. It could have been something they watched on television. All I know is that I felt so low anytime they came at me. That was the first time I experienced a form of emotional abuse.
Fast forward to some years later, I graduated from college, ready to find love. I have always been a sucker for romance, and all that comes with it. Everything from meeting someone new to the getting to know each other phase to the “oh I think he likes me” giddy feeling. I always looked forward to it. Just because you love to love, and want to be with someone great, doesn’t mean it happens like that. The challenge increases if you don’t know who you are and what you want out of life.
My lack of self-worth led me to an abusive guy I was in a relationship with for six months. He was a charmer, tall, dark, handsome, and “smitten” is an understatement about how I felt from day one. When I met him, I already built a future for us in my mind. When he showed some interest in me, I was over the moon. We made things official, faster than the blink of an eye.
I was so in love with the idea that I had a boyfriend, that when the abuse started, I didn’t know how to leave.
He said things to me like, “You wouldn’t make a great mom. You are overweight. You are stupid.” Apart from the degrading words, he was also very controlling. He didn’t want me to share certain things with my friends, and he didn’t want me to be friends with other guys. He flared up from time to time over little things. He regularly checked my phone to see who was texting or calling, while I had no access to any of his devices whatsoever.
I had to open up to one of my close friends, telling her not to call or text me at certain times when he was going to be around. “Are you afraid of him?” she asked me. It struck me I was living in constant fear within my relationship with this guy. I was always walking on eggshells around him. Eventually, we broke up when I found out he was cheating. I couldn’t bring myself to keep dating him after I discovered a slew of things he was doing while we were in a relationship.
Here are some signs you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship:
Your partner tears you down, rather than building you up
You are always living in fear of your partner
You have no joy or peace in the relationship
Your partner is verbally abusive, telling you things like you are not good enough, you are worthless, you are stupid
You partner talks about your body image in a degrading way, and criticize how you talk, dress, and your way of living
Your partner always checks your phone, wanting to know with whom you are communicating
Your partner never takes responsibility for anything, and always places the blame on you
Your partner isolates you and wants to control who you are friends with.
According to Psychology Today, the emotional abuse cycle follows the same pattern as that of physical abuse, the only difference is that the abuser uses emotion as their weapon of choice. After I left my abusive relationship, I found myself again. It took some time.
I surrounded myself with people who loved me and who wanted to see me do better. The strength I got to move forward with my life came from God. I began to see that I did not need a man to validate me because my creator already did that for me. Now I don’t have to be in a relationship to feel loved or wanted. Four years in and all I can do now is look forward to the great love that is waiting to find me.
If you are in an abusive relationship, your self-esteem is always under attack. It becomes impossible to love yourself in that environment. I advise you do what is necessary to leave and find yourself again. Fall in love with yourself, build up your confidence, and surround yourself with people who genuinely love you. You will be able to recognize true love when it presents itself to you. Don’t sweat it; someone amazing is out there for you!
Originally Published on IridescentWomen.com
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About The Author: Evi Idoghor is a Christian, writer, content creator on letstalknationblog.com, and a graduate of chemical engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Consumed by her love for writing and desire to effect change, she launched her online platform Let’s Talk Nation, to tap into her creativity and start meaningful conversations that would make a difference around the world. You can connect with her on all social media platforms with @eviidoghor.