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Love has a positive effect on people. Life seems breezy when your partner makes you feel like you have a million butterflies in your tummy. With your rose-tinted glasses on, you fall in love but here’s the thing about love: it blurs a lot of lines between what is right and wrong.
And so it is extremely important for you to step back and analyze if your relationship is healthy or not, because your love life affects your mental health too-especially when there is emotional abuse involved.
We talked to Dr Bhavna Barmi, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist, to understand the subtle signs of emotional abuse in a relationship. “If at any point in time, your relationship can be described as constantly feeling insulted or wounded, where you are not able to satisfy your partner emotionally, walking on eggshells all day, you are likely being emotionally abused,” she says.
“This consistent pattern of abuse can wear down your mental health in terms of your self-esteem, confidence, ability to look out for yourself, and general strength in dealing with your partner. In fact, such abuse can occur in other relationships you have as well, be it family, peers, or co-workers,” she adds.
How does an emotionally-abusive relationship affect our life?
“It can make you lose your sense of self, become critical of your own self, and lose good relations with others who might be pointing out exactly why your relationship is abusive in nature,” she explains.
Talking about the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship, Dr. Barmi says, “There are several ways in which emotional abuse can have certain trademark characteristics, regardless of the subtlety of the actions. Remember that even if only a few of these characteristics are adopted by your partner, they are abusive nonetheless.”
Here are seven signs of an emotionally-abusive partner. And if you can relate to even a single one of them, then it’s time to call it quits:
1. Making you question something you know is true
Also known as gaslighting, this entails your partner making you question your own reality. They could have done something out of line but when confronted, completely deny it. It is done in a way that will make you question your own sanity and understanding of things.
2. Denying they did anything wrong
When you tell them they did something that affected you negatively or hurt your feelings, they will go on to say there was nothing wrong with their actions and hence, trivialise your emotions. This will, over time, make you believe that your emotional needs are not the priority.
Dr. Barmi refers to this as invalidation, and says: “They do not consider your feelings and emotions and are either dismissive or indifferent towards them. They feel that their opinions are more important than anything you might contribute and might be sarcastic towards you. They may accuse you of being too sensitive/emotional or acting crazy. They do not offer you a space to explain your side of the story.”
3. Keeping you from socialising or ‘not allowing’ you to see certain friends
Your partner might start by telling you that they’re not comfortable with you spending time with certain friends or even family members. Soon, this will turn into a full-blown outburst every time you go out. This isolates you from your friends and family, as you will eventually reduce or stop socialising with anyone else just to avoid having a fight.
Dr. Barmi says that isolation is an extremely important characteristic of an emotionally-abusive relationship. “They will attempt to distance you from your support system, be it your family or friends. They are critical of these systems and always find faults that are used as reasons to prevent you from engaging with these people,” she says.
“They could become physically intrusive such as reading your messages, listening to your calls, hiding your keys, or in situations where you do go out, demanding to know exactly where you are through GPS live tracking. Social interactions are good for them but might be limited for you”, she adds.
4. Making fun of you in front of others
From what you say to your outfits, if they think they should be criticising you or making fun of you in front of others, then things can quickly turn toxic and hamper your peace of mind.
5. Belittling you and acting superior
When someone is emotionally abusive, they will make you believe that your interests and likings are inferior and don’t deserve as much attention as what they wish to do. This makes you put your own needs behind theirs, while you often settle for what they want to do, says Dr Barmi.
“They feel that you deserve to be blamed for their problems or mistakes and behave like they always know what’s best or right for you. They make jokes at your expense, talk down to you, and don’t consider your say in matters,” she says.
6. Making negative comments about your appearance
A very important component of a romantic relationship is attraction. When your partner makes negative comments about you, it is likely to make you feel insecure and less attractive-making you lose confidence in yourself as well as making you feel not worthy enough of his love.
7. Keeping a strong check on your social media
From whose photos you like to who follows you, your partner’s eyes are always on your social media profiles and often, your online activity becomes a cause of fights. In some cases, your partner might even demand that you give them your passwords but it is highly advisable that you avoid doing so in order to maintain privacy.
If these are some of the aspects of the relationship you’re in, then it’s time to rethink your priorities. “Ensure that if any of these signs are present in your relationship, you acknowledge them. Many try to rationalize such behavior, especially if they have been experiencing it for a long time perhaps. But you should only accept the occurrence of these situations and not the situations themselves. Only through accepting that such signs are present, can you move on to reclaim your life,” she concludes.