- Gender and Relationships»
- Relationship Problems & Advice
The Many Faces of an Emotional Abuser Part 1
The Many Faces of Emotional Abuse Part 1
Emotional abuse is behavior that attempts to negate another person's safety, worth, or self-determination. It sets out to make another person feel dependent, afraid, guilty, confused, embarrassed, unworthy, and incompetent. Abusers use a myriad of tactics to achieve these ends.
These tactics include verbal harassment, put-downs, intimidation, excessive criticism, and blame.
This particular type of abuse may be obvious or quite subtle. It can occur in conjunction with physical abuse but the more accomplished abusers will never leave a bruise on the victim. It can be compared to intentional brainwashing; it usually leaves its victims weak, depressed, angry, and numb with unclear thinking. Despite this, the victims often remain loyal to their abusers, hoping the behavior will change.
Emotional abuse is used to weaken others' resolve and to increase the abuser's power. If your partner regularly lies, is extremely critical, or attempts to isolate you from your friends or family or alienate you from your children then s/he is an abuser! It may appear in a relationship in any of the following patterns:
Blaming usually takes the form of an accusation. The abuser will state that his partner is responsible for anything that has gone wrong. He might accuse his partner of lying, cheating, or doing something she has not done. The emotional abuser routinely shifts the responsibility of his own behavior onto his victim of choice. The abuser might also accuse his victim for something she could not possibly affect such as the weather.
A classic tactic of the emotional abuser is to elicit confusion in his victim. Kindness often follows cruelty. It keeps the victim on unsteady ground when she does not know when to expect kindness and when to expect emotional or physical assault.
People who abuse via confusing can be extraordinarily attentive and sensitive; they can also be cruel and callous. In the initial phases of a relationship the emotional abuser is usually exceptionally kind and charming. He is a true romantic! His abusive nature does not reveal itself until after the UNSUSPECTING victim is charmed. Lying is a common type of confusing behavior. The emotional abuser routinely makes false statements or omits the truth to mislead, confuse, or manipulate others, and create doubt.
The abuser who uses confusion tactics acts unpredictably and impulsively. He often acts irresponsibly and expects others to take care of the consequences of his actions. Confusing abuse might also keep others in a continual state of chaos by creating conflict, blowing mistakes and actions out of proportion, and being argumentative.
The emotional abuser denies his abusive behavior and minimizes the extent of his abuse. He might suggest his victim is crazy and unlikable to others but loved only by him!
If your partner denies or minimizes abusive behaviors, lies, attacks you and then offer gifts then be very cautious. He is displaying behaviors of an emotional abuser!
Control and Dominance
The emotional abuser rules others by tactics that establish and maintain his dominance and control. He might cite male privilege and insist upon making all the family decisions. He insists upon choosing the house his partner lives in, the car she drives, vacation destination, and all financial decisions. He controls by intimidating with words, deeds, weapons, threats or orders. An abuser might control his victim through isolation, withholding affection or attention, or by leaving or threatening to leave the relationship.
The emotional abuser often uses consistent, negative criticism to inform his partner that she does not meet certain standards - those of the abuser! He criticizes his partner's looks, behavior, clothes, cleaning, cooking, parenting, family, and friends.
Destructive criticism is different from honest or constructive criticism. It does not seek to build; it is a continued attempt to undermine the thoughts, worth, and self-esteem of the victim by creating unrealistic, often immeasurable standards that she cannot or does not want to meet.
This discussion of emotional abuse will be continued in Emotional Abuse Part 2.