3 signs for emotional abuse

3 Red Flags For Emotional Abuse


Emotional abuse can happen to anyone, and red flags for emotional abuse can be missed. If you’re questioning if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, read on. 

“Stop acting stupid,” I heard him say. Shocked and hurt, I didn’t know what to think.

It didn’t make sense. How did this once charming and funny soul turn into someone I didn’t know anymore?  

After many more harsh words to me, I found myself Googling, “Why is my boyfriend mean to me?” and, “Why does my boyfriend call me names?”

As I scanned through the articles, I read words like “emotional abuse,” “emotional abuse red flags,” and “verbal abuse signs.” Emotional and verbal abuse in relationships can happen to anyone, and it happened to me without me even realizing it.

How did I miss the red flags for emotional abuse? 

How does emotional abuse start? 

Maybe you’re questioning if your partner is emotionally abusive and you’re looking for answers. 

I once asked myself these questions and honestly many more. 

I asked these questions about the man I wanted to marry—the person that was at one time charismatic, funny, and honestly the nicest person I’d ever met. 

The person, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with even though he treated me I didn’t matter to him. Most of the time in my relationship, I felt like I was in a relationship alone or that I was constantely doing something wrong.

In order to know the red flags for emotional abuse, we first must know the definition. 

Emotional Abuse Definition

Emotional abuse involves controlling another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate them. While most common in dating and married relationships, mental or emotional abuse can occur in any relationship—including among friends, family members, and co-workers. 

Since we now know the definition of emotional abuse, let’s look at how it starts. 

How Emotional Abuse Starts

Emotional abuse can be hard to detect, especially at first. Here are a few examples of how emotional abuse starts. 

  • Your partner became upset with you and said some hurtful words. Your partner apologized, but then later your partner then says those hurtful words again.
  • When out with friends, your partner brings up a sensitive subject that embarrasses you. Everyone is laughing, including your partner. Afterward, your partner says it was just a joke even though you didn’t find it funny. 
  • Your partner may apologize to you after calling you a name or make an excuse like, “I have a hard time remembering you were 15 and not 25.”
  • Your partner says things like, “you are acting…”, “stop being…”, and “You’re too…”.
  • Your partner isolates you. “I know you want to hang out with your friends, but they aren’t good for you.” “I’m just trying to protect you.”

After my googling session and once I realized I missed the red flags for emotional abuse, I emailed my therapist and told her that I thought my boyfriend was emotionally abusive. And then I started looking at the red flags. The red flags I missed. 

If you’re questioning whether you may be in an abusive relationship, below are 3 red flags to look out for.

Emotional Abuse Red Flags

1. Your partner is critical of you

The definition of critical is inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably.

2. Your partner “punishes” you through withholding tendencies 

These could look like the silent treatment, withholding normal parts of your relationship like giving you a ride somewhere or making dinner, or if you’re married, even withholding sex with a malicious intention. 

These are all examples of withholding tendencies and are considered emotional abuse.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is wrong.

3. Your partner calls you names or yells at you 

If your partner is calling you names or yelling at you on a regular basis, this could be a sign of emotional abuse. 

Even if they aren’t yelling or coming out and calling you names, even making associations like, “you’re being crazy” or “you probably have something wrong with you.” These can be considered emotional abuse. 

Attached is an emotional abuse PDF that you can use to evaluate if your relationship may be emotionally abusive.

Emotional Abuse PDF

Maybe you’re like me and are still questioning if your relationship is emotionally abusive. During that time period of my life, I did. I watched all of the sermons and read all of the books in hopes of fixing my relationship. But ultimately, I realized one big thing:

Your Can’t Make Lemonade Out of An Orange. I’ll say that again: You Can’t Make Lemonade Out Of An Orange.

God told me to leave my relationship back then because the behavior continued and wasn’t stopping, even though I so desperately wanted my relationship to work even after I realized I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I read books and listened to many sermons.

But in order for that to be true, heartfelt change needed to take place. Your partner will have to take some kind of accountability and ownership, and more importantly, have a desire to change.

My boyfriend was not able to do that, and God already knew that better was in store for me. So after many tears, fights, prayers, and begging for change,  I did the only thing I knew would make it stop. I walked away. 

Even though I missed the red flags for emotional abuse, I ended my relationship and I realized one very important lesson: Walking away doesn’t mean the relationship didn’t matter. It means you mattered more. 

And guess what…. I enjoy my lemonade just fine.

Being in an emotionally abusive relationship is not easy and walking away is even harder. You question your identity, your worth, and maybe even question if you are crazy. 

I heard a quote recently, and I thought it was too good not to share.

The only person that deserves a special place in your life is someone that never made you feel like you were an option in thiers. -Shannon L. Alder

Girl, I have been there. Below are more resources below to help you heal from being an emotionally abusive relationship.

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