Stephanie was very embarrassed when some family friends came visiting and asked after her husband. He had left the house as usual without informing her about his whereabouts. It was now his norm, although she had spoken to him about it severally. He was the owner of the house and did as he pleased. When he was around, he minded his computer and hardly ever helped with the children. He only gave orders, correcting her like a child and demanding to know how she had spent every penny. She was always having to gauge his mood before she brought up any topic The few times she tried to talk about the problems in their relationship, she always ended up apologizing as it was always her fault. It was futile to talk about her feelings as he usually dismissed or minimized them. Over the years, she had come to realize that the man she thought she married did not exist.
Mabel saw the postman leave her house as she drove into her street. By the time she got home, her husband had opened all the letters, including hers. She was tired of this invasion of her privacy and when she tried to complain, he accused her of being secretive because she was having affairs. He also logged into her Facebook account and used her phone, sometimes commenting where she would have preferred to be silent .”We should be open to one another and keep nothing hidden between us”., he argued. She sighed at his hypocrisy as she often stumbled on several acts of monetary kindness he extended to his family members on their social media page. He made all the financial decisions and the needs of his siblings came first before their family. She was constantly being hurt by the several ugly remarks about the shape of her body and her intelligence he made, sometimes in front of her friends and family. He usually insisted it was only a joke and she was too sensitive.
Nancy’s phone was ringing again. Her boyfriend had sent almost 10 text messages in the last 30 minutes and although she had told him the appointments were running late at the GP Surgery, he still kept insisting on knowing her whereabouts. She ignored his call only to receive another text message informing her that he was waiting outside the GP surgery to pick her up. She was upset and beginning to feel suffocated with this display of love. He always had to know where she had been, who she had talked to, what she bought/ate etc. He seemed to operate a tracker device on her constantly and it was making her lose herself. She could no longer join her girlfriends for a quick cup of coffee spontaneously like they used to. According to him, all her friends were jealous and he wanted their relationship to be exclusively them without interference.
All these three ladies (names changed) were experiencing Emotional abuse, a form of Domestic abuse that is subtle but equally damaging to relationships.
Beverly Engel defines Emotional abuse as “any nonphysical behaviour that is designed to control, intimidate,subjugate,demean,punish or isolate another person through the use of degradation,humiliation ,or fear“
When one is constantly being criticized/ridiculed /accused by their partners who find it very difficult to apologize because they are always right and always insist on their own way, they may be experiencing this. For some people, their partner is always the last to acknowledge their accomplishments and like one lady said to me “everybody else praises me apart from my husband”
Sometimes, withdrawal of affection, dismissing another’s feelings, opinion and suggestions being difficult to please or being unpredictable are also signs of Emotional abuse. The keyword is constant with the aim of these various behaviour being to control another.
I also was once involved in a relationship where my supposed fiancé hardly gave room to any variation of opinion. In short, one of the three frequent phrases I heard was “I am the head of this relationship “ and by it, he meant I should just simply follow without questioning. He acted like he was the one appointed to make the decisions for both of us and that peace would reign if only I just submitted as the Bible said. When I voiced a different opinion or didn’t do as he wanted, he would pout and give me the silent treatment. The relationship had to end after a while,( see the post- “Changing my Yes 2 I could not get him to see the importance of both of us being separate individuals who had equal rights to our own opinions due to our unique experiences and values.
Like other forms of domestic abuse, the victim’s self-confidence is slowly being eroded leading to low self-esteem, making decisions difficult to make and sometimes results in depression. I think one of the worst effects of emotional abuse is the resulting inability to see anything positive in one’s partner.
However it is not everyone who engages in emotional abuse that does so intentionally and to be quite honest, it is possible for both partners in a relationship to use abusive emotional tactics on each other and a vicious cycle can easily be entered into which is the bane of every relationship.
It is, therefore, necessary that we, first of all, recognize what is going on and address the issue. There might also be the need to see a Counsellor or a Relationship coach as one works through the issues of finding out why and how they can stop the destructive pattern. I repeat again that it is important to take responsibility for our behaviours especially when our partners bring it to our notice or hopefully as this article has done, we take concrete steps to stop it so that our relationships can be healthy.
If you do need further help, kindly send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org because we are passionate about healthy relationships.
PS: Although our examples today have portrayed the female folk as victims, women could also be perpetrators of emotional abuse to men.