Recognizing Emotional Abuse
More than sexual abuse or domestic violence, I’ve seen congregants and now clients of all ages who are in emotionally abusive relationships. While every relationship in which abuse takes place is a hurtful, not every hurtful relationship is abusive. An abusive relationship is one in which a partner (a male more than 95% of the time, though the number of female abusers is growing) uses power, be it muscle or manipulation, to control another. The irony is that an abuser can’t control themselves. Often emotional abuse escalates to physical abuse...even after many years of marriage or partnered relationship.
Joan Zorza, director of the National Center on Women and Family Law believes that emotional abuse is far worse than physical abuse. Emotional abuse goes to ones essence, breaks the spirit, damages self-esteem and scars their soul. It’s tough to pin-point. The emotionally abused woman loses herself and collapses in the chaos. She ceases to have choices. Numbed to avoid the pain, abusive behaviors recycle over and over because there are no visible wounds. Even when friends or family witness the behavior they often second guess themselves and don’t dare say anything.
Here’s a checklist that can help you identify if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Does your partner:
Emotional abuse runs the gamut of a gradual grinding down of self-esteem into psychic trauma. Emotional abusers walk away with clean hands because often they rarely lay a hand on their partner. Instead they undermine another’s sense of self, break their spirit and keep them off balance. Emotional abusers always know how they can hurt you. Because emotional abuse is never about anger. Instead its about power and control. “He was in a bad mood” or “she’ll change.” But he/she won’t. Because they can’t. Abusers need to control others the same way that alcoholics need to drink. And they’ll always keep their distance from anyone they think knows.
If you feel at call the National Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE. They can direct you to a counselor in your area. Or contact me at 502-409-7221 for an appointment. If you want to learn more about emotional abuse I suggest the book by Dr. Mary Susan Miller, “No Visible Wounds.”
Dr. Beverly Weinhold