Are you like this reader, missing the signs of emotional abuse? Take some of the advice our dating coach gives.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
I dated a guy for 6 years who, while we were dating, was on probation and eventually went to prison for drugs and his past record. He was gone for 3 1/2 years, he is now out and contacted me thru email. I responded even though I knew I shouldn't have. I was curious. Now things are getting back to the way they were before. He wants to know and thinks he deserves to know everything I did while he was gone. He searches things on me on the web and confronts me about them. He never really held a stable job before he went to prison. Now he has a felony on his record, so it will be even harder for him. Why do I feel like it's so hard to break away from him? I know better. Some advice please!-- Contributed by: Point me in the right direction
Dear Point me in the right direction,
When most women think of abusive relationships, they think of domestic violence as being physical abuse. However, there are other types of abuses that occur in a relationship that don't require hitting. Domestic violence includes such things as belittling, verbal assaults and emotional battery. Although there is usually no physical abuse involved (it can lead to physical abuse), this doesn't make the abuse less dangerous. In fact, these types of emotional abuses can have a long lasting and devastating impact on the victims.
So what is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse is used to break down the mind and the soul of its victims. According to Jill Murray, Psy.D, and author of But He Never Hit Me; The Devastating Cost of Non-physical Abuse to Girls and Women, the goal of the abuser is "To squash the person into the ground, to make sure she's always going to stay with you because she has nothing else."
What does emotional abuse look like? Yelling and screaming at you. Disrespecting you, blaming you and accusing you of things. The hardest part of emotional violence is recognizing the signs. It can be hard for a woman to know when verbal abuse has crossed the line. Often the abuser will convince his victim that she is the cause of his anger and frustration. Signs that indicate this behavior go beyond just an argument, your partner engages in stalking behaviors, or harasses you, your family and/or friends. He controls the finances, withholds affection, or he creates rules that only you have to follow. Often times the abuser will convince his victim that he is only doing these things out of a deep love for her.
To learn more about emotional abuse and to seek some support, I encourage you to call one of these hotlines and/or check out their websites. Safe Horizon 800-621-HOPE; safehorizon.org and the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE; ndvh.org
Please don't wait. Your boyfriend may be feeling desperate given his recent incarceration and may take his frustrations out on you without meaning to. Here's the catch, each of us is responsible for our own behavior, which means each of us has the responsibility to control our impulses. There is never an OK or justifiable reason to hurt another human being. One more thing….you can't help your boyfriend; he has to seek out his own help. You can only help yourself, so don't wait.