7 Red Flags of Covert Emotional Abuse

7 Red Flags of Covert Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is extremely harmful, but it's not always easy to spot.
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A slap in the face is obvious enough as physical abuse, but emotional abuse is far more difficult to define. It aims to take power away from a person using manipulation and a slow-but-steady degradation of a person's self-esteem. Not only is emotional abuse extremely harmful psychologically, but emotional abusers tend to be extremely intelligent and will rarely make their abuse obvious, making it extremely difficult to spot. Here are seven major red flags that can indicate that you may be experiencing emotional abuse.


1. They joke at your expense, even if it hurts you

Most forms of joking are completely harmless, but there is a fine line between poking fun at someone and using jokes as a form of manipulation. Someone who innocently pokes fun will stop if you calmly let them know that their jokes are bothering you.

An abusive person, however, will use your hurt as an excuse to hurt you more. Instead of empathizing with how you feel, they’ll let you know that you’re oversensitive and “can’t take a joke”. Most importantly, they’ll continue to make the same jokes in spite of how you feel.

2. You feel guilty or ashamed most of the time

Most people feel ashamed if they have done something legitimately wrong, but an abused person will feel this way more often than not. Emotional abusers use this as a tool to get away with their behavior by making their victims feel that they are “bad” and unworthy of better treatment.

They latch onto any small negative trait or action. Whether it’s the time you had a small bout of road rage or the time you forgot the milk in the trunk, they use it as a means to belittle you. They may even give you a long-winded lecture about your actions, even if you’ve already acknowledged your wrongdoing or mistake. This makes them the better person while making you feel small, flawed, and in need of their guidance.

3. They are never wrong

For emotional abusers, any criticism of their behavior is deflected back to you. What they did is either your fault or you’re remembering a situation wrong. They may even flat-out deny having said or done something, leaving you to question your memory or make you feel as though you are reacting inappropriately.

For as much as they are never wrong, you are never right.

This is called gaslighting. It’s a form of emotional abuse designed to make the victim question their recollection or response to an event, and therefore their own sanity. The abuser gains control because the victim eventually trusts them more than they trust themselves.

4. They don’t show empathy

“You’re overreacting.” “It can’t be that bad.” “Other people have it worse.” “You just want attention.” “I went through something far worse.”

These are all responses from a person who lacks empathy. It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is; they simply cannot see it from your point of view. Even worse, they will typically use any problem you are facing as a weapon against you, either by taking advantage of your emotional vulnerability or by using gaslighting to convince you your response to it is abnormal.

5. They treat you like a child

Instead of your thoughts and ideas having the same weight as theirs, you are treated as not much more than a child. Emotional abusers use this tactic to make their victims feel reliant on them by questioning their own ability to make decisions or develop solutions.

6. They use forms of emotional punishment

A good rule of thumb is that punishment does not belong in a relationship whatsoever. An abuser may withhold affection, sex, or engagement as a way to punish their victim.

They may do this by being especially difficult or moody on an outing they didn’t care to go to, or by ostracizing their victim at a party. They do this to “train” their victim to behave a certain way, much in the same way one trains a dog or a child.

7. They use “Love-Bombing” to get you to forget anything was ever wrong

Abuse of any form is cyclical. It goes from bad to worse, and then suddenly the clouds clear and everything is sunny again. Soon after, the clouds start rolling in again.

Love-bombing is when an abuser says and/or does something so overwhelmingly kind, loving, and selfless that you are swept off your feet into oblivion once more. It can be a sudden apparent epiphany and promise to change, or lavish gifts, heartfelt sweet nothings, or anything else that satisfies what your heart has been deficient of during the abuse.

Love-bombing is the most dangerous part of emotional abuse because it can act as an eraser for the terror a person has put you through, and it can be used to confuse the resentment and pain you’ve developed in response.

These signs on their own may not necessarily indicate that you are experiencing emotional abuse, but cumulatively they can point to major issues. Furthermore, emotional abuse does not only occur in romantic relationships. Friends, family, and co-workers can all use emotional abuse as a control tactic. It is almost important to know that abusers do not change, no matter how much they promise that things will be different. They fully know that what they are doing is wrong, they simply don't care. Knowing the more subtle ways this abuse can manifest is the first step to emotionally arming yourself against it and moving on.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Literally, so hot RN

Literally, so hot RN

As Much As You May Want To, You'll Never Get Over Your First Love

You never forget your first

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Your first love is just that: the first person you've ever truly loved (besides your family and friends). Maybe you've kissed a few people before, but with this person it's different. They mean something to you that no other person ever has before. Maybe you met this person when you were younger in high school or met them a little later in life as I did at the end of my first year of college. Meeting my first love transformed me, both for the good and the bad, and as much as I may want to, I'll never get over my first love and neither will you.

When we met, we didn't meet in some fantastical way, we met on Tinder right after a surprise breakup of mine. We had instant chemistry, and I didn't get to kiss him for weeks because I ended up getting mono right after the breakup (haha whoops). He was the first person I've ever kissed who I didn't want to stop kissing- ever. Yes, second semester freshman year me was super extra when it came to him, but being with him was so different than anyone else. Things progressed through the summer as we talked every single day, even though we never got to meet up because we were both busy, and at the beginning of my sophomore year, I lost my virginity to him. That was a big step for someone who thought she'd wait until she was married. He made sure I was fine and didn't push me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with. I'll treasure that forever.

He was someone I loved with all of my being, to the point where it was physically hurting me in the end because I knew what I felt wasn't going to ever be reciprocated the way I wanted it to be. That's when I had to end it, which was one of the hardest things I've ever done. To me, he was a boyfriend, but to him, I was a friend with benefits. I wanted something more and he wanted less, and I didn't want to accept that. I wasn't his first love but he was mine, which he doesn't know and probably never will. I have had moments where I thought I was over him, but then all the emotions flood right back. In hard moments of hurt is when I miss him the most, but also in moments of joy too. If I see a nice car I think of him, or of other little things, like a french bulldog or The Fast and The Furious.

Your first love leaves such a monumental effect on you as a person. They have seen parts of you others have not. You will always remember your firsts more than anything else, which is why your first love never leaves you. As roughly as things ended between he and I, he's always going to have a piece of me that no one else will ever have. The relationship we had wasn't what you'd expect from someone you call your first love, but his mark on me is what helped shape me into who I am today for better or for worse.

Don't let any negativity remain when it comes to your first love (if there is any). Let it go and remember the good. They will be a part of you forever, so you can never truly get over you.

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Why You Keep Falling In Love With People Who Don’t Love You Back In Your 20s

It's embedded in our human psychology to always desire deeper connections and meaningful relationships with the people we hold close to our heart, even if the feeling aren't necessarily mutual.

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Can love truly be both beautiful and heartbreaking?

It's a question I silently asked myself, sitting shotgun in a car next to someone I considered my friend.

A "friend" seemed to be the right label to define our relationship. To him, I was just a friend—who just happened to be a girl, a girl he texts regularly, jokes around, and can grab a drink with. And we loved each other as friends, because we both trusted each other, we had fun together and each had our own independent lives which would connect occasionally in a complete, non-questionable platonic way.

But slowly, for me, he was becoming everything I've ever wanted in a guy, standing right in front of me. But he wasn't mine to have.

And imagine being so close to someone you want except you can't have him because it might just ruin everything you've already shared together. Because what if you scare him away? What if he replies by telling you "No"?

That's the simple nature of falling in love with someone you can't be with.

In our early part of our lives—particularly in our 20s and during our college years, we all experience this type of heartbreak.

To name a few: A high school boyfriend who lives halfway across the country now. The hot guy you sit next to in lecture who already has a girlfriend. The casual hookup who you just can't manage to stop thinking about as you endlessly toss and turn at night. The platonic friend who doesn't quite see you as being something more.

We all at one point in our thoughts have imagined "coupling" or sharing a life with a guy who we can't seem to have for ourselves. We've always dreamt how things could actually work out if you actually shared your feelings with him except the closest we'll ever reach to it is in our dreams, not reality.

And to examine the logic behind why this happens, we have to first admit how we always want what we can't have.

Because it's embedded in our human psychology to always desire deeper connections and meaningful relationships with the people we hold close to our heart, even if the feeling aren't necessarily mutual.

So, it's not really this case of the whole Romeo and Juliet "star-crossed lovers" BS but rather, it's purely a one sided love which can most definitely be beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Beautiful because there's always a connection you feel which makes you all warm and bubbly inside but heartbreaking because you know this connection is merely flowing in a one way track.

So then, why do we tend to maintain our connections with these people who hurt us?

One reason is because you're afraid to lose him altogether. Perhaps you think he's going to go on full freak-out mode after you spill the beans to him. My piece of advice in this scenario would be to just suck it up and take the chance. Talk to him about how you feel because honestly, what's there to lose? Unless you're not reciting some sappy, over-the-top love story about how many kids you plan to have with him, you're fine.

But perhaps, the most common reason is because we assume he might eventually fall in love with us, too.

And if this pertains to you, gear up because I can write on for days about why this is a big no-no. Heck, I can probably teach a class or lecture to all of you about my elaborative theory of why you will definitely know whether a boy truly loves you or not. It's plain and simple—if he loves you, he'll make sure you know.

And you can't force someone to fall in love with you. Even if you pay them a million bucks, you can get them to pretend to love you or force them to be with you—but it's never going to be true love. Because true, unrequited love is effortless. It comes naturally. The fiery passion will be shared mutually and you won't ever have to question whether or not you belong with him.

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