Emotionally abusive relationships aren’t the most easy to spot, but unfortunately, they’re more common than we realise. Many emotionally abusive relationships don’t start this way meaning it can become difficult to realise your situation as it subtly grows over time. However, Dr. Lenore Walker has devised a ‘Cycle Of Abuse’ to make it easier to recognise:
Building tension: the receiver gets a sense of upset from the abuser. They then take steps to ‘make things better’.
The incident: abuse occurs in either a verbal or emotional manner, or even both. This can include threats, intimidation, blaming, humiliation and more.
Reconciliation: the abuser apologises at the same time as minimising what they did, sometimes to the point of denying their behaviour towards the receiver and even blaming them.
The ‘honeymoon phase’: no abuse occurs and all is calm between the pair.
This may work in theory but it’s hard to notice your own situation. Questions you can ask yourself are: “Do I walk on eggshells around my partner?” “Am I isolated from my friends or family?” “Do I feel afraid of my significant other?” Any yeses mean that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Many receivers of emotional abuse believe that they are to blame for their partner’s behaviour but this isn’t true. Most abusers had turbulent childhoods and have a deep-rooted fear of abandonment. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it does give it an understanding of where it potentially comes from.
Abusers can change their behaviours and mindset with professional help but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set up extra protections for yourself and increase your support network if you find yourself in this situation. And remember, if you ever fear your own safety, please call the emergency services or a domestic abuse helpline such as SafeLine.