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amy55 06-13-2019 12:39 AM

What is emotional abuse? Can anyone define this?

I didn't do much research to find the best article on this, I just think this should be discussed.

I can give many example of emotional abuse, well that is just because I was married for so many years.

My example, and I have many more, my ex and I went to a July 4th fireworks. I took my children to get them ice cream. They were 5 and 3 at that time. I was holding their hands the entire time, except when I went to get the ice cream cones and to pay for them. My ex took the kids while I was paying, he went back to where we were sitting, which was up the hill, he didn't tell me or let me know that he took them. So I got the ice cream cones, went to give them to my children and they weren't there. I searched for 15 minutes for my children before walking back up to the hill where we were sitting. They were all there, and I got blamed for not being a good mother and knowing where my children were.

Does anyone else want to talk about the emotional abuse that they went through? It can help others.


amy55 06-13-2019 12:46 AM

A bit calmer of one. I weighed 130 lbs, I just lost weigh. My ex asked me why the fat on my knees jiggled when I walked.

amy55 06-13-2019 12:51 AM

I guess what I want to say here is that the things that someone says to you aren't really true.

Seren 06-13-2019 01:30 AM

I've been married twice. My ex husband (first) got to a point where he was emotionally abusive during and after his affair (during the divorce). I didn't know it was emotional abuse until I'd been a member of this forum for a while and read the stories of others.

With my ex, it ran along the lines of that old joke about the grumpy husband and his wife who would fix him breakfast every day. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get it right for him. If she served scrambled eggs, he wanted fried. If she served fried eggs, he wanted poached. If she served poached eggs, he wanted srambled. On and on...

One day, she decided she would fix eggs in several ways. So, she prepared scrambled, fried, poached, and hard boiled eggs. Pleased with herself, she served them to him on a platter.

He told her "you scrambled the wrong one".

With my ex, I couldn't do anything wrong. Not only could I not be a good enough wife for him....I couldn't be a good enough ex-wife. He even told me once "You aren't doing good enough" in response to something for which I fell short in his eyes. I finally told him that yes, I am doing good enough. I'm doing the best I can. By definition that's good enough. It may not be good enough for you, but that is your problem, not mine.

dandylion 06-13-2019 04:40 AM

This article talks a bit about what defines emotional abuse...Ö

Mango212 06-13-2019 08:30 AM

Hi Amy,

Emotional abuse can come in many forms. It can look like a lot of things, from blantant to very subtle and covert.

I've been accused of isolating DS12 from family members. Their story, experience and viewpoints are from within a different framework of fears, denial of family dysfunction, etc. My truth is having protected DS12 and myself from active addiction and family dysfunction.

Between SR, Al-Anon, DV help centers, etc. I started identifying what was healthy behavior, what was abuse and finding skills in stepping away from being a target. I continue to learn, pick up new skills and becoming stronger.

One of the techniques I like for dealing with past events is to meditate and allow myself to approach in my thoughts something that happened with the skills I have today.

Dandylion, thank you. Great description!

Emotional abuse is an attempt to control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control another person. The only difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical hitting, kicking, pinching, grabbing, pushing, or other physical forms of harm. Rather the perpetrator of emotional abuse uses emotion as his/her weapon of choice.

SmallButMighty 06-13-2019 09:00 AM

Every time my AXH looked me in the eye and lied, knowing he was making me doubt myself, that was emotional abuse. The intentional erosion of my truth so that he could continue to feel comfortable in his disease was diabolical.

Manipulating me with talk of suicide, making sure I lived a subdued life in that kind of fear and anxiety, absolute emotional anguish.

The push and pull, the fleeing or disappearing acts followed up by false promises and love bombing... just to have it happen on a steady repeating loop... so utterly crazy making and abusive.

I could name off hundreds of specific incidents, but I really try not to delve into that anymore... unless a newcomer to SRF&F really needs to hear some ESH.

Worst of all is the fact that I allowed it to keep happening for as long as I did. It absolutely sucks that he could treat me like that, but it's worse that I let him. I was raised by a codependent mother, she was my role model... that's a whole other kind of messy emotion situation.

dawnrising 06-13-2019 09:31 AM


Originally Posted by dandylion (Post 7205062)
This article talks a bit about what defines emotional abuse...Ö

Thank you for posting this> This section really spoke to me :

He may think that he knows whatís best for his partner or what looks correct to the outside world, so he is constantly trying to control her every move, criticizing her harshly when she doesnít do it his way or threatening her when she seems to go outside the lines. He may verbally attack her when she argues with him because her arguing is convincing evidence to him that he is not in control of her. He may criticize her talking, her walking, her dressing, her interactions with others, her style of living and coping in order to gain and keep control over her.

So funny my ExAH always said I was "raising the bar" to a level he couldn't be successful. My bar was - sober, emotionally present, honest - thats it and honestly I expected the sober to be a work in progress I would have taken emotionally present and honest. Our therapist 16 years ago called it (this was before the alcohol got out of hand) -" he continues to find something wrong, something undone, something not good enough because its not about you its about him." Its so clear to me now after having gone through it all. It must be so exhausting trying to control everything I absolutely cannot imagine living like that.

hearthealth 06-13-2019 03:22 PM

I have so many examples. I thought at first he was a j***. He would state and I would try to stand up for myself. I never realized that I could never stand up for myself enough to him. When I went gray rock is when he realized I wasn't playing his game anymore. I also place his actions on a private calendar so I don't forget his tactics and realize how often they happened.

pizza67 06-13-2019 03:36 PM

I struggle with grasping this concept. Sometimes I think manipulation is emotional abuse.

amy55 06-13-2019 11:57 PM

I was trying to think last night about how you can identify more subtle forms of emotional abuse, you know, the red flags in a relationship. The worst for me was the Silent Treatment, but looking back I saw so many red flags, I just didn't recognize them. There was this one time that I was going to spend the weekend with him, and he asked me what I liked to drink, I told him pink lemonade. I go over there and he told me that he got the smallest mix for this because he didn't want to waste his money since I'll be gone soon. Another time we played table tennis topless, his remark to me was that I played like a paraplegic. There were so many signs, and I chose to ignore them.

Yes, Seren, I was never able to do anything right. I would make homemade sauce, he would complain that it was too smooth, and he wanted tomato chunks in it, so I would make it that way, and he would accuse me of buying store bought sauce and he didn't like that, and why did I stop cooking things the way he liked it. It was all crazymaking. Hence, the walking on eggshells, you try your best to do what they want, and then they change the rules.

When I went to my attorney and therapist I had kept a list of all the things that I was doing wrong. I think it numbered 137 or 147 things, they were all contradictory. I'm so glad that I kept that list, because it proved to me that the problem wasn't me, he was going to attack me with whatever he could just to try to start a fight. He had to have a "win", he had to take me down, so he could feel better about himself. He always told me that he had to be one-up on me. I didn't know what that meant. I thought when you are in a relationship you talk things out and compromise.

I think the worst emotional abuse I suffered was the Silent Treatment. With that torture, you feel like you are not being heard, you are totally shut out. I use to feel like I was in a straight jacket with tape on my mouth. I didn't feel like he saw me as a human.

There are many stories of many people. Each has their own story and how it affected them.

After I left, I remember being really triggered by questions like where would you like to go to eat? or what movie would you like to watch? Do you want to go to the Mall? I just had a reaction to that, like is this a trick question? Are you going to get mad at my answer, and wow, why are you doing this to me, I'm going to have a panic attack.

I think emotional abuse is the same for everyone, but yet different for everyone. I think it all depends on your fears, your self esteem. I think abusers narrow right into those and that they will do anything to put you down, so they can feel above you. Also, yes, it is about control, most times you will try to convince the person that is abusing you that they are wrong about you, but they won't listen, they only listen enough so that they can use whatever you say against you the next time.


velma929 06-14-2019 06:40 AM

My husband just gave me the impression that whenever I talked to him, he had other things he'd rather be doing.

The last couple years of our marriage, I didn't speak to him unless spoken to. If he noticed, he never said anything!

He would pick fights. If I agreed with him on something, he'd do a 180 and take the opposite side. I learned to say "Mmmhmm" to almost everything.

pdm22 06-14-2019 07:08 AM

There are a couple of books by Beverly Engel that I have that I found helpful regarding this topic. Breaking The Cycle Of Abuse; Healing Your Emotional Self (she has others too).

The book Breaking The Cycle Of Abuse really does a good job of spelling out and giving examples of what kinds of behaviors constitute what kinds of abuse, but there’s too much info to list here. I highly recommend it though.

LovePeaceSushi 06-16-2019 12:26 AM

My ex husband was a narcissist. We were married for just shy of 3 years before I left him. His favorite thing to do was to call me a worthless effing c*nt. The day he told me I was one, my sister was one, my mother was one, and that I came from a long line of c**** was the day I made my final decision to leave him for good. Funny enough, I HAD left him and moved back to my hometown. He was there to help me put together my daughter's toddler bed (in the hopes of getting me back) and all that went down before we could even get to my dad's house where we'd be staying.

It took a long time to get back to myself after I left. When my current husband and I reflect on that time right after I left my ex, he remembered how I would open my mouth to say something, and then immediately close it. I was scared to say anything, for fear it would lead to a fight. (My ex husband was emotionally abusive and then it started to get physical at the end)

I think emotional abuse is every bit as damaging as physical....maybe even more so.

OpheliaKatz 06-16-2019 05:01 AM

So I'm not going to read every post because I don't want to be triggered, but all the symptoms below were things I experienced at some point and then I got an illness I could not and still cannot get rid of.

Post-traumatic stress disorder,
Chronic pain,
Reduced sexual desire,
Gastrointestinal problems,
Increased blood pressure,
And other stress-related health issues.

"And other stress-related health issues" is what I struggle with these days. The thing that bothered me the most though, was not that I had survived the emotional abuse, it's that I now have an overall reduced capacity for emotionally abusive people in other contexts where I can't escape them (like at work). I find it harder to cope with. I have really weird symptoms (some of which are attributable to a stress-related disease and some that are... idiopathic, such as: joint swelling, nerve pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision... and generally feeling as if I am physically 80 years old.) It's as if I had "used up all my resilience". I am happier now, I feel safer now... but I am... tired.

What jolts me awake at night is not all the memories of him gas-lighting me, it is my memories of being in couple's therapy with him and having him gas-light me through the therapist. I later came to understand that he was some sort of narcissist and she was his flying monkey. He manipulated the sessions so it seemed as if I were unreasonable for expecting him to try to find recovery in order to have a respectful relationship not entirely ruled by his addiction. I was told I was too demanding (for example, asking to not be punched in the chest was too demanding because the person who punched you is someone who is "acting that way because they are in mental distress"), and then later I was accused of being "a woman who loved too much" -- as if the problem was mine alone.

I wish that when I asked the therapist, "do you see any red flags in this relationship?" she had not said, "no." She said NO. No red flags.

Since when was addiction NOT a red flag?

Emotional abuse is only one end of the spectrum of abuse. Neither end is worse than the other, although physical abuse can lead to the victim's murder. Emotional abuse can lead to the victim's suicide. Fortunately, I am (so far) a survivor.

There are still shadows on my brain from the way it's been mishandled... but the good thing is that I came away alive, I had the resources to come away from that experience alive.

If not for SR, I would never have started to understand that I needed stronger boundaries. I would still feel terrible for walking away. Not that I don't feel terrible now... but a different type of terrible: I feel terrible that I was in the relationship at all. But it's pointless to regret the past when you can't go back to fix it.

If it takes forgetting ten years of my life in order to move on with the rest of it, I will try to forget, because nightmares are draining. I need my energy for living.

The story where the woman got plates of food for the children, could not find them because her partner had moved them, then was berated for not knowing where her children were... is similar to one of the things that happened to me. I got a plate of food for my ex, could not find him because he had left me by myself, and when I did find him, I was berated for embarrassing him by showing up with a plate of food in front of his friends because this made him look like a "bad husband". I was told that I ruined his day by showing up with a plate of food. I was made to walk backwards out of a room, while he was lecturing me, I was made to sit on the dirt outside while he stood over me, lecturing me about embarrassing him by showing up with food. Later that day, one of his "friends" took me aside and apologized for not knowing I was my ex's wife, because my ex (then husband) had not told them I was his wife... and the last time they saw him, he was with another woman. And to this, our couples therapist said, "if I were withdrawing from a drug and in pain because of withdrawal symptoms, I would have done that too. You are expecting too much."

Never. Ever. Think. You. Deserve. So. Little. That. You. Expect. Nothing.

You know the old adage: if you want to know what your husband/wife will become, look at their father/mother? Well... I didn't think this was true. But I have found it to be true for me. My ex's father was an abusive alcoholic. He was emotionally and physically abusive and he played the victim very convincingly.

Alain de Botton has been interesting to me lately:

It's called "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person." I wish I had seen this when I was younger.

There are also a few sections in Lundy Bancroft's "Why Does He Do That" that address emotional abuse. That book was a huge eye-opener for me. I basically nodded my head through each chapter and thought, "yes, he did that."

ScaryTime 06-16-2019 08:02 AM

Emotional abuse, I believe, is definitely about control. I go out of town quite often for work and I remember going one time over my birthday. I went out for dinner that night and called him told him I missed him and such. Thought all was fine. Tried to call him the next day and he wouldn't take my calls. That went on for the entire week that I was gone. I called my daughter and asked her to go to our house because I was worried about him. She checked on him and he was fine. Got home and he was livid with me because I didn't answer the phone the night of my birthday as he tried to call me later that night and I didn't answer. That was it, I didn't answer one of his calls so he wouldn't answer mine for the rest of the week! He then went and bought me a birthday present. It got to the point that I dreaded my birthday or holidays where he would want to buy me something because it would make him look like this great, thoughtful guy and he just isn't that guy. The present he bought me that year I purposely left when I packed and left him. It just reminded me so much of all that crap that he put me through. I still feel a lot of the time very damaged. I know it is not all him, I am from an alcoholic family as well and I believe somewhat susceptible to that kind of treatment.
He was a master at that type of manipulation. Also as someone mentioned, appearing to be more interested in anything else other than me when talking to him. Would Facebook while we were talking, stare at the TV, anything other than look at me. It affected my self esteem greatly, still I feel at times that others cannot possibly care what I have to say, or feel that I am not important in certain situations. In therapy, I would run scenarios past my therapist and ask her if it was me just feeling weird, if I was weird and having a wrong reaction to something. I lost count of the times she had to reassure me that I was ok and it was just another manipulation tactic of his.
yep the threats of suicide by him, once he disappeared for about 1/2 hour and found him in the garage tying up a noose, that was it, I told him that if he wanted to harm himself there was nothing I could do about it and that I was going to call the police and get him some help as I didn't have the power to fix him. Well he dropped it came back in the house and went and passed out.
our first wedding anniversary he left me at the restaurant and walked home, or tried to, he got picked up by the police on the highway. Our first wedding anniversary!!! And I stuck it out for 19 more years.
Yep it helped a little to think about those times this morning as it just reaffirms that I did the right thing by leaving him. It has been a tough, emotional roller coaster at times but I have something that I didn't have when I was with him, hope! I have hope for my future and I know that I am enough and I am taking my power over my own self back!

QuietlyTired 06-16-2019 08:54 PM

We recently went on a trip during which I played along and did all the things he wanted to do. When it was my turn he was too drunk and I ended up doing my Things alone. Any time I call AH out on something itís immediately: well i will sleep on the couch tonight. I didnít know you hated me so much. If thatís really how you feel I wish I had a gun and I would kill myself right now. I canít even tell him everything I think or feel (like you should be able to with your spouse) because he will get drunk and tell his friends and or mother and or entire effing family. And itís very much THEIR family. None of them ever do anything wrong. Anyone who marries into it is never accepted as an equal family member. They probably blame me for his alcoholism.
Lately, Iíve been wishing he would just meet someone and leave me for her. I am too timid? To leave. Idk thatís probably not the right word. As another post said my mother put up with my dadís bad behavior. He was not an alcoholic but had serious anger issues and was emotionally abusive so maybe I learned this tolerance.

amy55 06-16-2019 11:29 PM

I didn't know what abuse was. I didn't use a computer until 1999. I thought everything was all my fault, because all my life, I was told everything was my fault. I didn't know the signs to look for.

I do want to thank everyone for their stories so that others can read this and perhaps see themselves in the same situation and realize what abuse is.

It out starts out slowly. You can be really happy and then something that is degrading is whispered in your ear. It can be something like, you know every guy here is looking at you, why do you have to look like a sl.., to the only reason men talk to you is because they want to sleep with you.

I guess I just think people, newcomers need to hear about emotional abuse. I did develop PTSD because I was always trying to find ways to fix myself, and also ways to not bring on the rage.

((((((( hugs)))))))

Wombaticus 06-17-2019 02:58 AM

AH just did this tp me:
We're at a hotel. The other day he told me that if he wasnt awake, i should take the kids down to breakfast. (He chooses to be in a different room to me).
So this morning I took the kids to breakfast at 9.30 as he wasn't up and his bedroom door was shut. We came back about 1030 to the angry question: "where were you???". You should have told me!!"
Silly man.

I'm not going to walk on those eggshells.

He was up late drinking, and has added a lunchtime and afternoon beer to his daily holiday quota. Awesome.

pdm22 06-17-2019 04:52 PM


Originally Posted by amy55 (Post 7208048)
I didn't know what abuse was. I didn't use a computer until 1999. I thought everything was all my fault, because all my life, I was told everything was my fault. I didn't know the signs to look for.

I do want to thank everyone for their stories so that others can read this and perhaps see themselves in the same situation and realize what abuse is.

It out starts out slowly. You can be really happy and then something that is degrading is whispered in your ear. It can be something like, you know every guy here is looking at you, why do you have to look like a sl.., to the only reason men talk to you is because they want to sleep with you.

I guess I just think people, newcomers need to hear about emotional abuse. I did develop PTSD because I was always trying to find ways to fix myself, and also ways to not bring on the rage.

((((((( hugs)))))))

Do you like memoires? I just read this book, “Yearnings For Nothings & Nobodies” by Jennifer Briggs, written from her point of view, starting around age 11 in the late 80s -90s. Her mother was an addict, unstable and unavailable, and her father wasn’t really with it and not able to meet her needs either. She pretty much flailed along, her life path sort of getting derailed since she had no direction or guidance. Lots of bad relationships/ obsessing on unavailable guys through her teenage -20s years . Her first exposure to any kind of a healing or self awareness type mindsets was Oprah’s show in the 90s, when she was focusing episodes on the self and spirituality. She just never had anyone expose to her to anything like that before.

I related to her story in some ways. Although my parents weren’t alcoholics or addicts, they was emotionally & physically abusive, lacked parenting skills, and neglectful. Also, like the author, I am also of the GenX generation, where a lot of us just didn’t have adult guidance & in many ways, raised ourselves. At least that’s how it was for me & those in my friend group.

I do have long term friendships from that time period, but I remember having all sorts of attachment issues and not letting myself getting attached or too close to “nice” guys who were interested in me back then. Although h I did have a few decent boyfriends in my youth, I also had a couple of just bad relationships. Looking back, I can’t beleive I let myself get treated badly by anyone, but it was what I knew, and at the time & I didn’t realize I didn’t have to take that kind of thing from anyone. .I just didn’t know any better.

Anyways, I did relate to some of what that author experienced emotionally. Luckily I had some exposure to 12 step in my early 20s, and a friend a few years later that introduced me to the world of therapy/ healing type things, so I didn’t get totally derailed. But I do understand what it’s like to not get tools for recovery until a little later in life.

That was a great book, though- sad, but you know it just came from a place of raw truth. If you get a chance to read it, I recommend it.

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