20 Signs You Are In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

signs of an emotionally abusive relationship
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What are the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship? People caught in toxic partnerships often find themselves pondering over this question, as they struggle to make sense of their own reality. While all relationships can be emotional rollercoasters in their own way, emotional abuse can be debilitating and crushing.

It can’t be stressed enough how badly being in an abusive relationship can diminish the victim’s perception of self-worth and traumatize their psyche. The dynamics of such relationships are made more precarious by the fact that those trapped in such a relationship often fail to spot and recognize the early warning signs.

Women who have been abused and manipulated emotionally say it is like an endless cycle unless you muster the courage to walk out. Men and women both exercise psychological abuse in the modern world. Fortunately, there are ways to see the red flags and signs of an emotionally abusive relationship before it gets too late.

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20 Signs You Are In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Most people who are trapped in an abusive relationship cannot fathom the reality initially. They cannot read the signs of an abusive relationship. But it’s important to keep an eye out for any out-of-the-ordinary or borderline toxic behavior patterns right from the beginning. What seems like love at first can actually manifest into something very sinister that can completely change not just your entire relationship but also take a toll on your mental health.

If you’re dealing with a controlling spouse, a manipulative partner or a relationship that is taxing on your mental health, don’t remain in denial, passing them off as signs of love, care, concern and possessiveness. Watch out for these signs of an emotionally abusive relationship:

 1. You try too hard to please your partner

You are constantly extra cautious about not doing or saying anything that might trigger a negative response in your partner. Being in an abusive relationship simply means walking on eggshells – where you don’t know which action, direct or indirect, from your end can cause an emotional backlash or even physical abuse. Even a seemingly trivial matter can cause relationship arguments and you are always put on the wrong side.

2. Your partner can express opinions, but you can’t

emotionally abusive relationship
They refuse to hear you out

Abusive relationships are imbalanced in nature. Your emotionally abusive husband will not allow you to be expressive of your thoughts and opinions. If your partner feels it’s okay for them to rant on occasions yet your negative emotions make you a subject of their criticism. Or if your partner dismisses your opinions in front of friends and makes you a butt of their joke – then these are definite signs that you must break up NOW.

3. You are a victim of gaslighting

You might not be familiar with this term, but gaslighting is a common form of manipulation that most of us have seen at some point in life. It’s a form of psychological abuse which aims at manipulating someone to such an extent that makes them doubt their own perception of the events and finally their sanity.

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It’s an undercover emotional abuse in a relationship that slowly eats your sense of judgment and fills you up with a sense of self-loathing. Your partner will use gaslighting phrases that kill love and keep trying to prove to you that you never felt or said something when you actually did. This is a dangerous sign of abuse and is often used by many people to keep control over their partners.

4. Your partner doesn’t trust your emotions

Complete trust for each other makes the foundation of a good relationship. But in emotionally abusive relationships, often the abusive partner is unable to trust their significant other because of low self-esteem. In a case like this, your emotions become an affront to them.

Due to a lack of trust in the partnership, they assume any expression of displeasure from your end is designed to hurt them personally. The abuser, in this case, sets off an emotional backlash, or in a worse scenario, may even try to physically hurt you.

Related Reading: How does the abuser operate in an abusive relationship?

5. You feel isolated and trapped

Are you asking yourself repeatedly, “Am I being emotionally abused?” If you feel trapped, you might be. An abusive relationship thrives on isolating the victim from the world. Your partner might try to dress up this urge to ‘have you all to them’ as romance, but this way the abuser in this scenario actually isolates you from friends and family – or anyone who could help you or offer support.

Being in an abusive relationship makes you feel trapped as the abuser turns to intimidation or emotional blackmail to constrict your circle of people.

6. Unhealthy jealousy

Jealousy in a relationship is normal but unhealthy jealousy can have dire consequences not just for the relationship but also the partner at the receiving end. If you have stopped interacting with friends from the opposite sex, if you keep looking over your shoulders at the party when someone talks to you warmly or if your partner sees red when someone comes and gives you a mere hug, then you are the victim of unhealthy jealousy.

One of the signs of an emotionally abusive partner is when they are constantly on your case about who you hang out with, who you meet, and are angered by even the remotest hint of resistance from your end. This results in relentless fights and undue surveillance. The question is are you ready to accept that?

7. The mood swings are unpredictable

Everyone has mood swings now and then. It’s only normal. But when you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, the mood swings are bound to catch you off guard. Things such as coming home with a sense of trepidation after buying because your partner could react to it in the most unpredictable way are among the signs that you’re being emotionally abused.

Your partner could go over the moon seeing the dress, tell you to wear it immediately or they could scream, shout or even slap you for splurging on a dress they believe you did not need. You don’t know which side their mood would swing and you are always at tenterhooks about that.

Related Reading: Dear Men, This Is The ‘Right Way’ To Handle Your Woman’s Mood Swings

8. They will criticize, but they can’t take criticism

Criticizing you is their second nature. What you wear, how you walk, how you talk, what kind of friends you have, your family, your work – nothing escapes their criticism. But you can’t dare tell them that they are wearing a wrinkled shirt and they should probably change it before heading to work.

One of the signs of an emotionally abusive partner is that they are never open to any kind of criticism or opinion from your end.

9. Gives you the silent treatment

Couples fighting and not talking to each other for a day or two is okay. In fact, silent treatment could benefit the relationship, in this case, as it allows you to process your feelings and then have an open dialogue. But if someone gives you the silent treatment and ignores you for days on an end, then it is nothing but a kind of emotional abuse.

The abuser builds a wall and wouldn’t let you penetrate it because they want to punish you. This kind of stonewalling is the worst kind of abuse a person could be subjected to. You might have an emotionally abusive husband if he often just refuses to communicate with you.

am i in an abusive relationship
Frustrated upset couple after quarrel sitting on sofa

10. Says “I love you” too many times

Initially, it might feel wonderful when your partner starts the day and ends it with an “I love you”, uttering it at least 10 times in a day in between. But what happens when you are not in a position to say it back immediately? You could be at an office meeting when they call, or you could be preoccupied with something and may take some time to respond to the “I love you”.

Do they get angry and upset when you cannot reply as per their needs? This is one of the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship that you could mistake as crazy love.

11. In the name of care and concern

How many times does your partner say that you don’t understand their care and concern? They could be stopping you from going to your friend’s place at 7 pm and say that it’s because they’re concerned for your safety and well-being.

They could even stop you from visiting the grocery store in the fear that you could meet a stalker there. Their care and concern could eventually chain your independence, clip your wings. This might be their way to show someone they care but could actually be stifling you.

12. There is a constant cycle of apology

Your partner could hit you and then apologize and come home with gifts and even take you out to an expensive restaurant. Don’t get swayed by it. This is only the beginning of a cycle that you would have to grapple with in your abusive relationship.

If someone hits you look at it as a red flag immediately and do not continue the relationship. No amount of apology justifies physical violence. Unless they are ready to see a counselor and address the problem, you shouldn’t even entertain the thought of giving them a second chance.

Related Reading: Karmic Relationships – How To Identify And How To Handle It

13. Your partner abuses you financially

Yes, this is also a part of emotionally abusive relationships. When they refuse to treat you as a financial equal, they are abusing and manipulating you. Financial abuse is something we don’t take into account in a relationship. But if your wife is overspending on your credit card or if your husband insists on keeping your pay and giving you some “pocket money” from it, then it definitely amounts to financial abuse.

If the girlfriend never pays and the boyfriend spends through his nose to take her out, that’s also a sign of abuse too. Some things are not treated that seriously in our society but financial abuse can amount to serious mental and emotional stress in the long run.

14. You are perpetually on a guilt trip

Asking yourself, “Am I being emotionally abused?” Well, think about whether your partner sends you on a guilt trip often. If he didn’t get a promotion at work, you could be blamed for asking him to leave the office on time to be home to spend time together. If they have a stomach bug, they’d blame you for feeding them something rotten.

If they partied late with their friends and came home drunk, they had to do it because you have been a nag. The blame game is endless and you are expected to feel guilty about everything. This is one of the major signs of an emotionally abusive relationship that you should be able to understand quickly.

Related Reading: How To Deal With Domestic Abuse During Lockdown

15. Withdrawal of intimacy

Withdrawing affection and physical intimacy comes very easily to them. They could be using it as a means to punish you. This is an absolute sign of an abusive relationship. A hug is the easiest thing to give to a partner. But if they are purposely keeping a physical distance, then you need to pay heed to it. Your partner is not just being childish, there is more to it.

16. Manipulates you

Manipulative behavior is a sign of emotional abuse. You decide on something but they would manipulate you in such a way that you would change your decision without even feeling that they have a role to play in it. This is a dangerous sign of power struggle in relationships. Manipulation can be so subtle that you could be giving up everything that you hold dear in your life not for once realizing that you have been actually forced to.

17. Excludes you from their life

When it comes to your life you cannot do anything without their permission. You can meet your friends only when they allow that. They could even insist on coming with you all the time. But when it is their life, you are excluded most of the time.

You don’t know most of their friends, they don’t take you to family parties and you are mostly kept out of their travel plans. They shop on their own, hang out with their colleagues and have a life of which you are not a part in any way.

Related ReadingHow To Get Out Of A Controlling Relationship – 8 Ways To Break Free

18. Threats are normal

One of the signs of an emotionally abusive partner is that they make you feel threatened. They may use physical violence to threaten you, tell you they would harm your pets or children or even themselves to get you to toe their line. Threatening you is a part and parcel of their system. They could even threaten you with suicide if you try to walk away from the relationship.

19. No concept of privacy

One of the most common tricks in the abuser’s playbook is to keep a tab on you by handing over their passwords and smartphone to you and telling you to do the same. You may look at it as a great sign of love but if you are not the nosy kind, you may never go through their emails and phones. However, they would, always.

This is one of the major relationship red flags that people often condone. People who abuse have no concept of privacy so they would keep stalking you on the phone, on email, and on social media.

20. Very charming to others

One of the major signs of an emotionally abusive relationship is that your partner could give you hell but they’d be an epitome of charm to other people. In the book When I Hit You written by Meena Kadasamy, the abuser in the relationship was such a charming and nice personality that the wife’s own parents would not be convinced of the kind of hell he was capable of giving their daughter. So when you see too much charm beware.

If you think this sounds a lot like your relationship then don’t wait – talk to someone who can help. If the relationship is affecting your mental health, work or study, everyday life, and close relationships, then it’s not worth holding on to. Talk to someone you trust and find a way to get out of this relationship that is draining you.


1. What changes in behavior could be indicators of abuse?

Changes in behavior could include aggressive tendencies, mood swings, refusing to talk, stonewalling or neglecting you.

2. What are the side effects of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can leave you completely crippled and heartbroken. You might question your own sanity, lose self-esteem and confidence, and in general become submissive in relationships.

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