As someone who has survived and thrived despite having experienced various forms of emotional abuse, thanks to involvement with narcissists in my own life, it was often hard to see while I was in the "thick of it."
So how do you know if the relationship is really emotionally abusive? When it's physical abuse, it's often pretty obvious, but emotional abuse can be incredibly hard to detect, especially if your victimizer is a narcissist.
On the plus side, there are plenty of warning signs.
If your significant other is a narcissist, he (or she) might engage in certain narcissistic behaviors and types of manipulation, such as the ever-pervasive gaslighting tactic that is the bane of so many victims of narcississtic relationships.
How to Know if You're Being Emotionally Abused
Does your significant other:
- Isolate you and prevent you from spending time with friends or family members?
- Force you to account for your time when apart from him?
- Act really jealous and possessive sometimes?
- Make excessive and unreasonable demands for your attention, even to the detriment of your other responsibilities?
- Make everything "all about him?"
- Make you the scapegoat for all the arguments or problems in the relationship?
- Consider himself the "boss" and insist on making all the decisions in your relationship/family/life?
- Snoop through your stuff? Does he refuse to allow any privacy? Does he go through your mail, hack your email or Facebook account or go through your personal belongings?
- Get excessively angry without warning or over tiny things?
- Have the whole "Jekyll and Hyde" deal happening – where one side of him seems charming or even sweet and loving, while the other is mean, spiteful and downright hurtful?
- Play games with your head? Tell lies in order to confuse you or blame you for something you didn't do?
- Become overly critical of everything about you when you don't do what he wants?
- Take control of everything in your life, such as your finances?
- Feel entitled to everything from your attention and UNCONDITIONAL respect, regardless of how he treats you?
- Feel entitled to your financial or other kinds of support?
- Cause damage and/or give away/steal your personal property?
- Harass you whenever you're away from him because you have to be (such as work or school)?
- Make threats about how he will "ruin you" or otherwise cause trouble for you at work, to your family or to others?
- Say overly critical things about your body and appearance?
- Have weird sexual issues?
- Become excessively pushy or forceful about sex, or even hurt you during sex?
- Become angry or sullen (or even display narcissistic injury) if you don’t go along with his sexual demands?
- Drink excessively or take drugs, and then blame his awful behavior on alcohol, drugs or his own history of abuse or tragedy earlier in his life?
- Pressure you to use alcohol or other drugs, even when you say no?
- Cause you to become anxious about confronting him about literally anything?
- Threaten you with physical harm or make you feel afraid of how he will react when you speak or act in general?
- Manipulate you with the constant threat of mood changes and impending narcissistic rage?
- Make you feel like you're always “walking on eggshells” or living with constant stress, anxiety or generally in fear?
- Withhold affection in order to punish you?
- Give you the "silent treatment" when you don't do what he wants?
- Humiliate you?
- Expect you to ask for permission to do stuff, as though you're a child?
- Threaten to hurt himself when he doesn't get his way or if you threaten to leave?
Physical Abuse: DO NOT WAIT!
Listen, emotional abuse is awful and can make you completely miserable. But physical abuse is a whole other ball of wax. While you should never stay in an abusive situation, when physical abuse is a factor, there is absolutely no fixing it - and your life could literally depend on you getting away safely.
Ask yourself, does your significant other:
- Physically abuse you in any way? Push, shove, grab, punch, hits or strike you with hands or fists?
- Threaten or assault you with weapons, such as household objects or knives?
- Blame you for his abusive behavior, saying things such as "look what you made me do," or "well, if you hadn't done that, I wouldn't have had to hit you?"
If so, there is no time to waste - get help and get out before it's too late. Here are some resources for you.
Sexual Abuse: GET OUT NOW!
According to Dr. Phil, the following are signs of sexual abuse. If you're being sexually abused, you can't wait - you need to get out ASAP. If you don't have any support (which is unfortunately common for victims of narcissism and abuse, since abusers often isolate their victims), start here, and check out these resources as well.
You are being sexually abused if your partner:
- Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles.
- Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
- Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
- Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts.
- Held you down during sex.
- Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you.
- Involved other people in sexual activities with you.
- Ignored your feelings regarding sex.
More Resources for Victims of Narcissists
If you're in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, you might want to read one of these books.
- Take Back Your Power: How to End People Pleasing, Stop Letting Life Happen to You and Start Getting What You Want
Are you experiencing (or have you experienced) emotional abuse? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.