Your mind has been racing with thoughts like:

“Why is nothing I do good enough?”

“Am I really that bad of a wife?”

“I’m trying so hard, but it feels like everything I do is wrong.”

Every single interaction with your spouse leaves you feeling confused, invalidated, and… small.

Your head is spinning after the five-hour fight you had. Nothing ever gets resolved, and you often wonder what on earth you brought up in the first place.

It seems like your heart is always racing, and you feel perpetually anxious.

Your relationship feels like a rollercoaster. And it’s so confusing because the highs feel incredible. But the lows drag you into a state of exhaustion and depression…

You’re the only one trying to make things better. And on top of that, everything feels like it’s only on your shoulders — the housework, emotional work, and all parenting responsibilities. The frustration is REAL.

You’re never sure what you’re going to get from your spouse. Will he be nasty today? Or nice again? If you luck out and find that he’s being nice to you, you know it’s not gonna last…

Your brain feels foggy as hell, but you can’t put your finger on exactly why you feel that way.

I hear you. And I’ve been there.

You’ve probably even done some frantic Googling because you know in your gut something just doesn’t feel right…

That’s because it’s NOT right, love. And it sounds a lot like emotional abuse.

I know you’re probably thinking, “No way, it’s nothing like that! That’s way too dramatic!”

But I’m here to tell you that abuse of this nature is insidious at its core. And it can feel kind of — well, invisible.

That’s why it’s so fucking harmful. So let’s talk about some of the telltale signs of emotional abuse so you can protect yourself if necessary.

What defines an emotionally abusive relationship? 

The purpose of emotional abuse is to control. The abuser aims to use fear and humiliation to punish or isolate you. It’s when someone systematically undermines your sense of self and self-worth.

Emotional abuse can take on many forms:

  • Denial
  • Dismissing
  • Magical thinking
  • Pathologizing
  • Playing the victim
  • Entitlement
  • Joking
  • Gaslighting
  • All or nothing
  • Catastrophizing
  • Creating a cloud of confusion
  • Countering
  • Lying
  • Powering over
  • Reductionism
  • Sanitization
  • Grandiosity
  • Excuse making

We’re not just talking about your typical banter…this shit can be covert. And quite difficult to identify.

Some emotional abusers can be calculating and methodical. They’ll gain your trust only to exploit your vulnerabilities — using them for their own gain. This one’s hard to understand… because why would someone do that? WHY?!

A compassionate person will have trouble reconciling their beliefs about their partner with the reality of their partner’s harmful actions. Oh, hey cognitive dissonance! 👋

For me, the abuse produced thoughts like, “What am I doing wrong? It’s me. I have issues, so obviously, I’m the problem.” 

That’s because my partner used gaslighting and manipulation to make me think the abuse was my own fault. 

So I was constantly twisting myself into a pretzel — trying to change myself to please him. I believed there was always just one more thing around the corner that would make it right and make him stop.

But he wouldn’t stop. 

They never stop.

Instead of relief, you’ll find you continue to feel lonely, empty, confused, hurt, and insecure.

Idealize, devalue, reject. Sound familiar?

Abusers operate within a highly predictable cycle

In the idealization stage of the cycle, you were probably love-bombed and completely swept off of your feet

We’re talking elaborate gifts, grand gestures, future faking, and all sorts of irresistible behavior. This over-the-top affection is how abusers trick your brain into accepting harmful behavior later.

After they’ve buttered you up, they begin to devalue you by criticizing, triangulating, withholding intimacy, and threatening. And this is ever-so-subtle. It’s almost imperceptible at first.

The abuser continues to ramp up the devaluation until they ultimately reject you, discarding you as if you were worthless. When you’re no longer supplying them with the ego-boosting attention they need, they have no use for you any longer.

The pain and damage done in the discard stage can be unreal.

Then the cycle starts again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Accepting that you were emotionally abused is fucking powerful.

One of the hardest things for women to wrap their heads around in these situations is the fact that they were victimized.

“But he never hit me!”

It 👏 doesn’t 👏 fucking 👏 matter.👏  Abuse is abuse.

The effects of emotional abuse are severe and long-lasting. Victims are likely to experience depression, PTSD, low self-esteem, and a lifetime of difficulty trusting others.

And according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, emotional abuse is considered a form of domestic violence

Owning our victimhood is really important. It’s one of the most powerful things we can do. 

I’m not talking about living in a state of chronic victimhood… I’m talking about acceptance.

It’s only from that point of acceptance that you’re able to move into a state of surviving.

How can you recognize manipulation and gaslighting in the future?

The good news is, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. 

You’re taking the very important step right now of educating yourself and becoming more aware.

Your grip on reality will return, and you’ll begin to trust your own perceptions. Then you’ll be able to spot harmful people from a mile away.

You’ll be able to feel it in your gut when someone acts like they’re entitled to you, your time, or your body.

And unfortunately, entitled men are kind of running rampant… 

This patriarchal bullshit runs deep… and it perpetuates and normalizes abusive behavior.

Men have this mistaken (and usually unconscious) belief that they somehow own their wives. It’s been so ingrained in our society for so long that we even play into it. We take their names without a second thought.

We become THEIRS.

“I deserve a woman who…” 

“No wife of mine is gonna…”

They believe they’re entitled to us being, looking, and behaving in certain ways. And emotional abusers are really skilled in twisting a manipulative narrative around this in a way that makes it seem like they’re helping you.

Bestselling author, Lundy Bancroft, has incredible insight on this idea. He says, 

“Abuse grows from attitudes and values, not feelings. The roots are ownership, the trunk is entitlement, and the branches are control.

Sharing your story will be healing for you.

When we share our stories, we are able to rise up as a collective and say “Oh, hellllll no.” 

You’ve been trapped in a cycle of feeling perpetually misunderstood and dismissed. When you start to speak up (in very safe spaces at first), you’ll see that women EVERYWHERE can relate. That validation is unbelievably soothing.

So I encourage you to use your voice. Talk about this stuff with people who are safe.

You’ve been isolated. Confide in a safe person. Find the people that you need for support.

Find your voice. Find your ability to trust your perceptions. Find your power. 

If all of this has you questioning the future of your marriage, you’ll need a strong source of support, clarity, and guidance. 

You’ll find all of that (and more!) in my private Facebook group. Click here to join my community full of strong women just like you.

I hope you can rest in the fact that you don’t have to figure this out all on your own.