5 Warning Signs You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If the person you’re in a relationship with behaves in even one of these emotionally abusive ways, you need to end things immediately.

No one intends on ending up in a toxic relationship, and it certainly doesn’t creep up on the list of qualities we want from our next partner.

But what if you find yourself in love, yet endlessly exhausted, upset and hurt?  Is it you?  Something you’re doing wrong?

It’s normal to turn inward when a relationship starts to sour and to wonder if you’ve somehow wrecked it. If that was your first question, chances are it’s not you.

Emotional abusers are not usually self-aware enough to take responsibility for their actions or think they’ve done anything wrong or unusually cruel.

If you’ve made it this far, chances are your gut is telling you to run.

You’re seeking answers and support, and that is a great start. If you’re not fully convinced, take a look at these signs of emotional abuse, and what makes them toxic.


  • Warning Sign #1: They don’t respect you.

An emotionally abusive partner wants to control you.

One way to do this is to put you down in front of others, to make underhanded remarks about your personality, spending habits, your looks or to judge your every move.

Any form of disrespect will slowly wear you down, creating a codependency between the two of you. You need them to approve of your actions and they need to control yours, giving them a sense of power.

Why It’s Toxic:
You lose respect for yourself.

It’s not as if you want to be disrespected.  Obviously, you didn’t ask for it. But the fact of the matter is, if you allow someone to disrespect you, you will begin to lose respect for yourself.
It’s a vicious cycle that, I promise you, you want to end now.


  • Warning Sign #2: They convince you that you’re not good enough OR they’re not good enough without you.

Listen, the bottom line is that this person is not likely to find another human to easily guilt-trip, manipulate, or kick around and get away with it, and they know that.

They will do anything, short of simply respecting and caring for you, to keep you around as their personal punching bag. Sure, every once in a while, they toss a compliment your way.

And while they may not say outright that you aren’t good enough, the overall feeling you get from the relationship is that no one else could possibly love you, so why would you leave?

Why It’s Toxic:
You start to believe the lie.

If anyone should appreciate and respect your fabulousness and everything you have to offer a partner, well, it’s you. You have to recognize your unique personality is a treasure that anyone would be lucky to experience.

But your partner should see that too, and if they somehow always (and only) see your flaws, kick them to the curb! Life is too short to let someone influence your self-esteem.


  • Warning Sign #3: The drama/guilt-tripping/manipulation/lies never end.

Sure, it’s normal in any relationship to have an argument from time to time. It might even escalate into a fight complete with yelling and storming off. But this should be the exception, not the rule.

Do you find yourself exhausted from all the bickering? Does the fighting seem to be happening more frequently, and getting more intense?

A healthy relationship does not allow for name calling, threats, shaming, dishonesty or guilt.

Does your partner pick you apart to start arguments, mutter things under their breath, make sarcastic remarks and then claim them to be “just a joke,” or put you down on a daily basis? This is emotional abuse.

Why It’s Toxic:
Fighting isn’t passion.

The idea of a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of romance can get confused with the dramatic movies and steamy novels out there today. We want passion, we want fire. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But fighting isn’t passion.

Putting someone down or making them feel bad is not passion and it is not love.  If your partner is treating you this way, not only do they not deserve you, but they have a lot of growing to do before they can love/should be with anyone.


  • Warning Sign #4: You’ve lost YOUR spark.

Have you become more cynical, pessimistic or generally unhappy?

Sometimes we can’t see that the person we’re with is bringing us down because we love them, and we want to see the best in them. But when your spirit begins to fade, it’s time to move on and rebuff your shine.

You are in control of your own happiness,
but being surrounded by toxic energy can deflate you over time,
no matter how strong an individual you are.

If you find yourself feeling moody and irritable or sad and depressed, it might be a sign that your relationship is not healthy.

Why It’s Toxic:
It’s not just a phase. 

Everyone can get a little down from time to time. And when you’re in love, it can be hard to see the fault in your partner. But if your happiness and the sparkle in your eye begin to fade, chances are it won’t turn around anytime soon if you’re in a toxic relationship.

It will only fade more and more until you can’t remember the last time you laughed.


  • Warning Sign #5: Your family and friends are worried about you.

There are many situations in life where your family or friends might not be quick to approve of your partner.

They want the very best for you and, frankly, they’re picky. But if you’ve been approached by more than one member of your inner circle about the way your partner treats you, take a really hard, close look at that piece of information alone.

Offering advice or extending concern to someone close to you in relation to their love life is a serious thing, not usually taken lightly by your loved ones.

If they’ve worked up the courage to tell you that they’re worried about you, they mean it. Don’t dismiss them.

Why It’s Toxic:
If your loved ones see that your partner is hurting you,
you deserve to see it too.

You might feel like sticking up for your partner or listing the ways you’ve messed up in the past, why they’re good for you, why your friend is wrong for saying something in the first place. It’s easy to get defensive when you’re not quite ready to accept the truth.

But take a step back, take a deep breath and listen to what your friend has to say. They care about you and they want to see you happy.

If any of these signs of a toxic relationship registered with you, it’s time to move on. It may seem hard at first, or even like it’s too soon. You want to be sure, you want to make it work.

Try as you might, you will not be able to fix this type of relationship, and you deserve a relationship that is based on a healthy respect for both partners. You deserve passion and romance that includes appreciation and kindness.

You are strong, you are beautiful and you are in control.


Love is never about controlling someone, putting them down, being distrustful or dishonest.

Love is patient and kind.

Love is about mutual respect and admiration. Support and trust.

Don’t let anyone get away with giving you anything less than that.

“How do I find the strength to leave them?”

Life can be lonely, and depending on your situation, you might feel that your departing this relationship will leave you forever alone.

I promise you that, even if that were the truth, being in a healthy relationship with yourself will bring you so much more peace and happiness than being in a toxic relationship with someone else.

You have so much to give,
so much love and life inside of you.

What a shame it would be to waste that on someone
who doesn’t deserve or appreciate your intense life force.

Here are a few ways to boost your strength and courage during this transition…

  • Increase self-value.

It may seem cheesy at first, listing all your good qualities on paper.

Remind yourself, however, that you are not being vain.  This is a time when you need to foster feelings of appreciation, gratitude, and compassion for yourself.  A foundation of a positive self-image can greatly increase your own self-awareness so that you can become more aware of when you are not being respected in a relationship.


  • Take care of yourself in healthy and positive ways.

Most of the time, the end of a romantic relationship is met with a pint of ice cream, a pizza, and a week or so of indulging in laziness and loss.

Remind yourself how much better you’ll feel if you get outside and take a walk, spend a low-key afternoon by yourself in a bookstore, or sitting at your favorite cafe with a comforting beverage and a good book. Taking care of yourself is as important right now as loving yourself.

Healthy foods and activities will help boost your mood as well as your energy level.  And getting out and about could lead to an unexpected, much needed new friendship! You never know what the day will bring you.


  • Find activities that bring you joy.

A coloring book, a good blog, a funny movie or a gripping novel are all good ideas to pass the time as well as up your creativity levels.

There is a scientific link between creativity and happiness.  If enjoying something as simple and fun as a coloring book can get rid of that funk as well as spiking your creativity levels, break open the crayons and get to work!


  • Be brave enough to talk about your feelings with others.

This is a tough one, and it’s personally something I have struggled with in the past.

If sharing your feelings is difficult for you, you are not alone. When we’ve gone through emotional abuse with someone we felt so connected to, it can be scary to think of sharing yourself again. Remember that your friends are likely much kinder and emotionally supportive than your ex.

Try to think of a friend or a family member who has always been supportive of your feelings, and don’t worry about how you sound. Be open and honest and let it all out.

Chances are, they have some advice that might help, or you will simply feel relieved getting it all out in the open and off your chest.


You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to be loved.
You deserve to be respected.

Remind yourself of this every day, and try not to get discouraged with yourself if it takes longer than you’d like to fully heal.

Sometimes the pain is deep enough that we, ourselves, aren’t sure where it ends and where it begins.  And that is OK.

Be gentle with yourself and think of how far you’ve come so far. Admitting that you’re in a toxic relationship can be the hardest part.

Once you know where you stand, you might find that it’s easier to move in a healthier direction.

There is no good reason to stay in a destructive and draining relationship.  Not for your partner, and more importantly, not for yourself.

You are the master in charge of deciding how you will be treated in a relationship, so take control!

Stand up for yourself, fight for yourself. Believe in yourself, because you are stronger than you realize, even if you don’t feel that now.  You are brave, and you deserve someone that not only sees that in you, but admires your level of courage.

Remember, life rewards bold behavior.  Be bold, be brave and find out just how strong you are.


Rhiannon is a nomadic writer living in the misty mountains of Colorado.
She has an addiction to coffee and a love for adult coloring books.
When she isn’t writing, she can be found inspiring those around her to unleash their inner children.
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