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Emotional Abuse: Invisible Violence Can Destroy a Relationship

By HERWriter
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Emotional Abuse: Invisible Violence Destroys Relationships jandruk/Fotolia

True or False: If nobody hits you, you're not being abused.

The correct answer is False!

Abuse comes in many different shapes and forms, with physical violence being just one visible type of abuse. Emotional abuse is one type of domestic violence which is very difficult to recognize from outside the relationship.

While many people may assume men are more commonly the abuser in a relationship, abuse including emotional abuse can come from either partner, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race or economic background.

According to loveisrespect.org, emotional abuse is “non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or 'checking in', excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.”

Emotional abuse can affect your physical and emotional well-being. Other signs of emotional abuse may include trying to scare you into doing or not doing something, false accusations, humiliating you in front of other people, or threatening to hurt you or someone you love.

Emotional abuse often starts with placing blame, such as overreacting to situations or claiming the response was the partner’s fault for “pushing buttons.” This may take the form of shouting or criticism.

More common “silent” forms of emotional abuse include disengaging from conversations or activities, or “stonewalling” by refusing to listen or consider someone else’s perspective.

This kind of behavior can make you feel like you don’t count, don’t have value, or don’t have a partner in parenting and other areas of life.

Domestic violence, including emotional abuse, centers around trying to get power and control over a partner. The abuser often believes he or she has the right to control the other person and that only the abuser’s feelings or needs deserve to be considered.

If you are concerned that you might be in an abusive relationship, compare your situation to a healthy relationship. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, a healthy relationship includes two key elements:


Both partners understand and respect each other. Both partners are able to speak openly about their thoughts and feelings. Both partners listen to each other and are willing to compromise in different situations. Both partners feel supported to do things they enjoy and celebrate each other’s success.


Each partner is able to set limits on what he or she is comfortable with for their sex life, finances, family and friends, and includes spending time apart with individual family and friends.

With appropriate boundaries, partners will not obsessively check up on each other or require the other to check in. Partners will not pressure each other to do things they don’t want to do, or constantly accuse each other of being unfaithful.

Emotional abuse can undermine your emotional health as well as your relationship by making you feel like you have to change who you are to keep the abuse from happening. This can amount to “walking on eggshells,” as you try not to set off the next round of abuse.

If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, whether you are being abused or are the abuser, you need help to end the cycle. Change is never easy, but it is necessary for your emotional health, as well as that of your partner.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has trained advocates available 24 hours a day, who can give you advice or connect you with other resources in your community.

You can reach them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Remember — no one deserves to be abused.


The National Domestic Abuse Hotline. What Is a Healthy Relationship? Web. December 22, 2015.

Love Is Respect. Types of Abuse: Emotional/Verbal Abuse. Web. December 22, 2015.

Psychology Today. What Drives Emotional Abuse in Relationships. Steven Stosny, PhD, Web, December 22, 2015.

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Violence Against Women: Emotional Abuse. Web. December 22, 2015.

Reviewed December 23, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

I have been married for 42 years to my one and only boyfriend. I was 17 when we met. I fell MADLY in love with him. We dated 5 years before marrying. After years of infertility and miscarriages, we succeeded in having 4 children. He has cheated on me since we met (I did not know this until after the marriage). Was not 100% sure of the cheating until 6 years ago when I discovered some emails left open on his computer that were quite explicit. I filed for divorce, but decided I could not go through with it. He promised many things that I requested when I told him I would stay (none have been carried through). He is retired, now, has gotten involved in a life long hobby of mine and totally destroyed it for me as I am apparently an idiot who has no idea what I'm talking about - on this subject or any other for that matter. Three of our children are very troubled in one way or another, I believe because of their father's emotional abuse and disinterest. They are all in their 30's, now, and 2 are quite dependent on us, though one is getting married, soon. I feel that there is so much chaos in their lives, I cannot risk disrupting them further by running off to save myself. I do not have the emotional strength to deal with this man and so try to ignore it, but frequently fantasize about hanging myself. I hate myself so much for who I have become. I just hate myself. I lost the closest of my 3 sisters last year, which has made this even harder. She was my rock. 9.5 months younger than me, like my twin. It's been over a year and it still hurts so much. I have no partner in this life. I do not hang myself for my kid's sakes, alone.

July 10, 2016 - 10:03am

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December 24, 2015 - 8:52pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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