What is love? A question that has circulated throughout history, pondered by greek philosphers through to current researchers. Is it what most people hope for? Crave even? A happy ending, to find their soul mate, their partner for life, peace, solidarity and contentment? Being in love can be the most wonderful feeling, passionate, exciting, a shared union of souls. It should feel nice, it should feel like home. Love should never hurt.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always a bed of roses. There will be times when you fall out with your loved one, have disagreements and argue. It hurts when you ave been upset by your partner, that is perfectly normal behaviour. What isn’t normal behaviour when a loved one continually makes you feel bad about yourself, makes you feel like you have to walk on egg shells because of the fear or worry about the implications if he or she were to become upset. To be made to feel like you are controlled or coerced into changing your behaviour is not OK, that is not normal behaviour. If you feel a constant dread or are punished through neglectful behaviours such as being ignored for an extended amount of time, having your money taken away, being criticised or ridiculed or verbally abused then these are all examples of emotional abuse.
What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is recognised today as a form of Domestic Abuse, it is incredibly difficult to prove as it is well hidden and coercive, it affects the mental health of an individual and there are no actual physical bruises or marks. It is a dangerous weapon and can potentially damage an individual’s mental health, wellbeing and identity. It is now recognised under the Serious Crimes Act 2015 and can have serious implications, with potential of imprisonment of up to 5 years.
Having lived through a toxic and bittersweet relationship for over eighteen years I had no idea that I was a victim of emotional abuse. I knew it wasn’t right, being repeatedly ignored, sometimes for weeks because I had said something my ex didn’t like, or if I questioned his actions. It wasn’t just the not talking that was upsetting, it was the atmosphere and mood alongside that heightened the anxiety and worry. I was permanently walking on egg shells. We had three children, during these times I felt I was always trying to overcompensate with the kids, keeping them busy so they wouldn’t pick up on the atmosphere, the toxic mood or my unhappiness and stress. If I did try and speak up about what was happening it would always be turned against me, punishment through being ignored, violent rages, shouting in my face at the top of his voice. His actions being thrown back at me, if I tried to argue back my words were twisted, he would focus on one word which had nothing to do with the topic in hand, for example if I were to say ‘my kids’ instead of ‘our kids’ that would be the new direction of the argument (this is known as gas-lighting, using what you hold closest to your heart to throw you off balance). These are only a handful of examples of what I have experienced, but what I hope to highlight are examples of an emotionally abusive relationship. I felt controlled with the fear of my ex kicking off, violent rages and to the other extreme being totally ignored. No words of hello, no eye contact, walking past me as if I didn’t even exist. These episodes may have lasted hours, days or even weeks. They in turn made me feel isolated, alone and neglected but when I questioned his actions for example what have I done, he would just shrug me off or tell me not to push him.
You have the right to break away from an emotionally abusive relationship, it will not be easy as the type of person you are dealing with is a key manipulator. You will probably be blamed for everything that has happened in your relationship, there will most likely be a smear campaign to prove to others that they are the innocent party and you are the perpetrator. But that is OK, don’t let the fear stop you from what is the right thing to do. Your real friends and family will know the truth, would have most likely seen you struggle and will always have your back. There will be health implications too: stress, anxiety, depression, possible PTSD because of the traumatic events you have encountered. Keep close contact with your friends and family, talk to your doctor, involve yourself in mindfulness activities and learn to breathe. Take each day a step at a time and remember you are strong and you will overcome these difficult times.