Divorce and Leaving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Divorce and Leaving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship — Divorce is sadly, a common and difficult emotional process for just about everyone. Friends don’t seem to know what to think and begin to take up sides. In the months during the divorce proceedings 90 percent of your friends will simply disappear from your life, never to return. For those who are trying to escape a physical or emotionally abusive relationship or marriage, the twists and turns can be much more severe in nature.

After a prolonged period of time in an emotionally abusive relationship, the victim is worn down, losing a true sense of one’s self. During this period of time, confusion reigns supreme and they often begin to doubt as to whether or not their treatment by their other half is normal or abusive.  Often the victim, as their normal sense of self-worth erodes under the constant bombardment from the abusive party, begins to believe they are the problem and not the abusive party.

Here are 23 signs which will identify that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship:

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  1. The abusive party regularly demeans or disregard your opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs.
  2. An emotional abuser lives for a chance to be sarcastic and they use their sarcasm or “teasing” to put you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
  3. They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to avoid taking responsibility for their actions choosing instead to deflect the
  4. The abusive party will repeatedly humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people.
  5. The emotionally abusive person will try to imply that you’re too sensitive when it comes to their abusive remarks.
  6. The emotionally abusive partner will try to control you and treat you as if you are in a parent to child style of relationship.
  7. The emotionally abusive partner repeatedly chastises you for your behavior, and often does so behind your back to other people.
  8. Not to be confused with trying to maintain a household budget, an emotional abuser will go to extreme levels to try to control the victim’s access to finances and how they spend money.
  9. The emotionally abusive partner will repeatedly over time belittle and trivialize you, your accomplishments, or your hopes and dreams.
  10. The emotionally abusive partner will try to gain control over the victim’s ability to think independently and try to make the victim feel as though the abuser is always right, and the victim is wrong.
  11. The emotional abuser erodes away the victims sense of self-worth by regularly pointing out the victim’s flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings.
  12. They accuse or blame you of things you know for a fact that are not true.
  13. An abusive partner is usually intolerant of any lack of respect or hint of such.
  14. They make excuses for their behavior, try to blame others, and have difficulty apologizing, or offer up empty apologies not followed by positive behavioural change.
  15. The repeatedly dis-respect a person’s boundaries.
  16. They call you names, give you unpleasant labels, or make cutting remarks under their breath.
  17. They are emotionally distant, or emotionally unavailable most of the time.
  18. They don’t show you, or even seem to have the ability to show empathy or compassion.
  19. They disengage, backing off to use neglect or abandonment as a way to keep the victim off centre, or as a way to punish or frighten them.
  20. The emotional abuser doesn’t seem to have the ability to notice or care about your feelings.
  21. They withhold sex as a way to manipulate and control, or demand the victim earn the right to have sex through sexual favours.
  22. They share personal information about you with others in an attempt to control their own reputations at the victim’s expense.
  23. They invalidate or deny their emotionally abusive behavior when confronted claiming they don’t have a problem but the victim does.
  24. They make subtle or outright threats with the intent to frighten or control the abused victim. Those threats may sound like, “I will destroy you mentally, financially, socially, and physically.”

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Leaving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Living inside an abusive relationship is a process that evolves over time, so too does the process of leaving a relationship. Based doctoral candidate Lyndal Khaw’s dissertation work at the University of Illinois there are five stages a victim experiences when trying to leave an abusive relationship.

Stage 1 and 2 – In these two stages, the victim’s perception of their partner begins to change as the victim begins to realize their feelings towards their abusive partner are changing. In this stage a victim may find him or her thinking, “I don’t seem to care as much for him or her anymore.” From then it moves onto stage two where the relational rose coloured glasses come off and you begin to see your partner differently.

Stage 3 – In this stage, a victim begins to notice the effects and the toll an abusive relationship is having on them.

Stage 4 – In stage four, there is an emotional battle which causes to the victim to wonder at times if they should go back to the relationship and try to work things out.

Stage 5 – Getting out and staying out.

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Divorce and Leaving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship does require forethought if one wishes to avoid a potentially violent reaction from their partner. Here are 7 strategies for successfully navigating the difficult process of leaving an emotionally abusive relationship:

  1. Get Some Form Of Support. Friends, family, lawyers, law enforcement are all good aids when it comes time to leave.
  2. Have A Safe Place To Go. While one would hope an emotional abuser would respect a person’s boundaries, they rarely do. It’s imperative that an emotionally abusive person have a safe place to go to where they can feel secure.
  3. Find A Job Or Independent Source Of Income. Learn to stand on your own two feet apart from your abusive partner.
  4. Eat Right And Take Supplements. Emotional abuse over a long period of time has a way, through stress, of stripping a body of important minerals and nutrients. Taking care of yourself physically is absolutely essential during this period of time. Eat healthy, nourishing foods and avoid stress eating.
  5. Exercise. Exercise is a powerful antidepressant and will help with bouts of anxiety, helping you to think more clearly.
  6. Talk it out. It’s best to find a good counselor who understands abuse issues, as continually turning to friends can burn them out. Psychological and emotional abuse can be a very damaging element in a person’s life. There needs to be a season of rebuilding from the inside out.
  7. Avoid Contact. Avoid contact whenever possible with your abusive partner. He or she will do all that is possible to mess with your mind, punish you, and reassert control. It is best to take a strong stand telling them, legally if necessary to have no further contact with you, direct or indirect. Be willing to move out of your community if necessary.

Many emotionally abused people make the mistake of hanging in with a relationship falsely believing their partner will mature or change one day and the relationship will improve. This position is comparable to saying, “One day the two by four board that keeps hitting me over the head will eventually wear down to a splinter and I will no longer feel the pain.” If you are in an abusive relationship, then you must come to understand, the other party is not well, does not know how to relate in a healthy manner, and is putting you in harms way. It’s time to get out.


Divorce and Leaving an Emotionally Abusive Relationship is written by James C. Tanner.

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