Are you being emotionally abused? The first step to getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship is to realize that you’re in one. But it can be difficult. Why? Emotional abuse takes many forms and can often be so subtle it’s not obvious even to yourself that this is what’s happening. You just know, deep down, that something isn’t right. Perhaps you’re unhappy more often than you’re happy, and are besieged by insecurities and self-doubt. People are frequently unwilling to “rock the boat” by examining their relationship – and their partner’s behavior – more closely.

However – there are some major red flags to be aware of. If you find that your partner repeatedly does one or more of the things below, it falls into the category of emotional abuse, and should never be shrugged off.


  • They try to control your behavior

Emotional abuse is used to subjugate and belittle another person. One of the ways an abuser does this is by engaging in controlling behavior. They don’t hesitate to treat their partner like a child.

Controlling behavior can be subtle. However here are some signs you should look out for:

  • Your partner tries to control your finances. They withhold money from your account, make you tell them about every single little thing you spend money on, or take money from you without asking.
  • Your partner tries to sabotage your work life. They do this by either making you miss work, calling you at work too often, or telling you what do with your career path.
  • Your partner isolates you from others. They prevent you from seeing your family and friends. If you wish to see other people you must ask them for permission.

An abuser often wants to increase their partner’s dependence on them. The best way of doing this is to take away their partner’s independence. They try to prevent their partner from achieving their personal goals, however big or small.


  1. They hurt you with words

Someone who’s emotionally abusive will use often words to intimidate or humiliate you. This is called verbal abuse. It can take the form of:

  • Name-calling
  • Pointing out your flaws, either in private or in front of others, in a way that doesn’t help you improve.
  • Shaming: When someone shames you they don’t necessarily make you feel bad for something you’ve done but they tell you are bad person for having done it.
  • Threats: An abuser might tell you they will no longer love you if you do something.

These are common symptoms of verbal abuse:

  • You feel you can’t bring up certain topics with your partner.
  • You feel misunderstood.
  • You feel insulted by their use of cursing and foul language.


  1. They deny your feelings

People who are emotionally abusive have a tendency to tell their partner that they are too sensitive. They might show bewilderment at your emotions and blame you for feeling sad or hurt. They say things like, “Well, it’s just like you to take this so seriously”, or “You’re not making sense. Grow up!”

In other words, they take no responsibility. They can fill you with self-doubt and make you feel like you’re going crazy. Emotionally abused people frequently end up blaming themselves for every little incident. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and can be particularly insidious. 


  1. They make excuses

Abusers are experts at making up excuses. They often blame their behavior on having had a bad day or even having had a bad childhood. Sometimes they ask for forgiveness and show their vulnerabilities. That doesn’t mean that they’re lying, but their past gives them no right to hurt others.  


  1. They make the choice to hurt you and you only

Abusers usually don’t abuse everyone rather the people they are close to and claim to love the most. They do this because they feel safe around you and think they can get away with it. Sometimes others are surprised when they find out someone is emotionally abusive. This is because abusers can be good at choosing when and who to attack.


If you think you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s firstly important to acknowledge it – to yourself, and to others. Seek support where you can. You can call a hotline, tell a therapist, or a loved one. You may need help to leave this individual, or to develop an exit strategy for yourself, such as looking for a new place to live.  

While going through this difficult time, remember that abusers don’t change because someone “fixes” them. They must change themselves – and there’s no benefit to anyone in waiting for that to happen.



PARC © 2017. PARC (Park Avenue Relationship Consultants) is a group of highly skilled and experienced NYC relationship therapists working with individuals, couples, and families. We have private office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Riverdale, and Long Island. Each PARC therapist has extensive clinical training and experience, and is fully licensed and certified by New York State. Privacy and confidentiality are guaranteed. Out-of-network only. For more information, please call PARC at (917) 340-7592 or visit