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What Is Emotional Abuse?

It's important to note that emotional abuse is not limited to just romantic partners. It can also occur within friendships or family relationships. Emotional abuse does not discriminate based on the type of relationship.

One form of emotional abuse is intimidation and threats. This can manifest as shouting, aggressive behaviour, or actions that make you feel scared. The purpose of this behavior is to make you feel small and prevent you from standing up for yourself.

Another form of emotional abuse is criticism. This can involve name-calling or making unpleasant and sarcastic comments. These actions can greatly diminish your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Undermining is yet another tactic used in emotional abuse. This may include dismissing your opinions or making you doubt them by suggesting that you are being overly sensitive. It can also involve disputing your version of events or suddenly being kind to you after being cruel.

Being made to feel guilty is a common strategy in emotional abuse. It can range from outright emotional blackmail, such as threats to harm oneself or frequent emotional outbursts, to constant sulking or giving you the silent treatment as a means of manipulation.

Economic abuse is another form of emotional abuse. This can include withholding money, excluding you from financial decisions, or even preventing you from obtaining employment.

It's crucial to recognize that emotional abuse can occur in various relationships and take on different forms. By understanding these behaviours, we can empower ourselves and others to seek help and break free from the cycle of abuse.

How can I determine if it constitutes as abuse?

However, the crucial factor in discerning whether the conduct is abusive is how it impacts your emotions. If your partner's behaviour induces feelings of insignificance, control, or an inability to address issues, then it falls under the category of abuse. If you sense that your partner is inhibiting you from freely expressing yourself, it is considered abusive. Similarly, if you feel compelled to modify your actions in order to accommodate your partner's behaviour, it is also deemed abusive.

There could be numerous underlying reasons for this type of behaviour in a partnership. Perhaps your partner grew up in an environment characterized by frequent shouting or sarcasm, or they have previously been involved in relationships that left them feeling insecure. During couples counselling, we may explore these behaviours and their impact on your relationship. However, it is important to note that understanding the reasons behind such behaviour does not excuse or justify it.


Whether intentional or not, abusive behaviour is never acceptable. If you believe you are experiencing abusive behaviour, remember that you have the right to use your voice and you should never be made to feel frightened or insignificant.

Another form of abuse is economic abuse. This can manifest as withholding money, excluding you from financial matters, or even preventing you from seeking employment.


What next?

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, one of the initial steps that can be incredibly helpful is reaching out to someone outside of the situation. Speaking with someone who is not directly involved can provide you with a fresh perspective. It can be especially beneficial if you are uncertain about the dynamics of your relationship, as behaviours that have become normalized to you may appear clearly unreasonable to an objective outsider.

This person could be a family member or a friend, or even a professional relationship counsellor. A counsellor is specifically trained to navigate situations like yours, offering guidance and support to both you and your partner. They can help you identify the root causes of any abusive behaviour and assist you in working together towards a healthier and more respectful relationship.

Initially, you may prefer to seek counselling on your own, especially if you anticipate that your partner may not react positively to the suggestion.

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