Originally posted on WikiHow at How to Deal with Emotional Abuse – wikiHow
Emotional abuse comes in many forms. Sometimes, it’s years worth of a boyfriend or girlfriend, Husband or Wife wearing you down; sometimes, it’s a romantic entanglement that takes a turn into this dangerous territory; it can even come in school under a dominating teacher; or at work under a bad boss. Whatever abuse you have suffered, you can begin to overcome the effects you’ve suffered today. For the purposes of keeping things clear in this article, we will alternate between genders in the steps.
This article is best suited for adults in relationships where there is still room for choice. However, If you’re afraid for your immediate safety, call 911. For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224.
- Realize that you cannot change your partner, only your reaction to him or her. You can attempt to show your partner how damaging these behaviors are and how they are affecting you, and hope your partner will agree that you are being badly damaged. You can hope your partner will then make the decision to change, but ultimately you cannot force change. Your partner must recognize it and decide to end the behavior on his or her own.
- Set new, reasonable terms for the relationship with clear and consistently implemented consequences. Decide (ideally together, but if that isn’t possible, decide for yourself) that you’re going to learn a new way of being in this relationship. Abuse most often exists because the spiritual/emotional weakness of the abuser demands the exercise of control over others (you) to give him or her a feeling of emotional security. Read that again, because it’s important: Abuse really starts because of insecurity or trust issues with the abuser. It is most often enabled by (1) the victim’s inability or failure to recognize the abusive behavior or (2) powerlessness of the victim, as in the case of a child enduring the emotional abuse of a parent. In adult relationships, ultimately, neither partner understands a healthy way to diffuse abuse and to respect each other or themselves. Establish that, effective immediately, all interactions will be honorable, and will specifically and especially exclude: name calling, character attacks/judgments, raised voices, spitting, throwing objects, etc. and that if either partner breaks the agreement, then separation will immediately be imposed until mutual respect is restored. Be prepared to accept that this may never happen, especially in advanced stages of abuse, and that your commitment to a healthy, respectful relationship may result in the termination of this abusive one.
- Set boundaries. Abuse, in general, is an issue of disrespect that usually involves trespass upon individual equality and freedom due to unclear or poorly-defined boundaries. If you are on the receiving end of abuse, it’s up to you to set up clear, reasonable boundaries for an honorable relationship and to consistently stick to them. Let your partner know that you now recognize your responsibility in allowing the disrespect in the past, but that this era has now come to an end. Recognize the damage incurred by the previous era and establish a commitment to obtaining the support needed to forgive and restore the peace and strength necessary for mutual respect in all of your future relationships.
- Develop emotional intelligence. In cases of abuse, both partners are often unknowingly suppressing important emotions. Receivers of abuse are often uncomfortable expressing authentic, respectful anger, which is necessary to establish boundaries. Abusers are often expressing fear, not anger, when abusing. It is the “fight” fear response that is coming through (as in “Fight or Flight”), and in order to end abuse, both partners must be willing to learn new ways of feeling and expressing their true emotions to end the pattern of blaming, shaming, and punishing. Express your deepest and strongest feelings only in forums where they will receive the fullest respect and support, such as a diary, a blog, a group of very close friends or trusted family members, a professional and respectful psychologist (best by referral only), etc.
- Understand the dynamics of relationship. Some relationships are formed on physical attraction only, some on repeating past patterns learned from a parent; some are not of our choosing (as with a parent). Whether you are working out childhood issues on your partner, or simply repeating learned behaviors, it’s important to understand that not many relationships are formed in the realm of intellect and emotion. Some remain largely unformed, others change over time. In a perfect world, relationships would be our highest learning playground. Perhaps the one we’re with has the most to teach us, and often triggers the most extreme emotional responses. If you feel that it’s safe to stay and learn with your partner, then take a good look at the dynamics playing out which have something to teach you. If you don’t feel safe enough to stay, but need to end it, then reflect back on what you might learn about the relationship patterns that were in place. The learning may be about valuing yourself, unwinding old traumas, or expressing emotions healthfully.
- Source your safety. It’s easy to think that your partner is in charge of your safety depending on his or her behavior, but this is not true. You are the only one who can create safety for yourself. You do this by making choices. You have an innate navigational system within yourself that allows you to make decisions which feel right for you, and which will keep you safe and happy. When you learn to pay attention to your instincts, you will know which choices are life affirming, and which ones will drain you of your energy or create chaos.
- Get some coaching or professional help. Find a relationship coach or mental health professional who can help you with this issue. It is possible for both partners to unwind emotional abuse if they choose to. Finding a great support system, preferably one that utilizes a holistic, no-blame approach to healing domestic violence will create the healthiest and most successful environment for learning and healing.
- Know when to say goodbye. Sometimes, relationships are just wrong and cannot be saved. For your sake, and for the sake of your mental health, try hard to recognize as early as possible whether or not this relationship is even worth working on. The reason we date before marriage is to discover whether or not we are compatible. We thwart that process when we refuse to see that being treated poorly by another adult is unacceptable. If you are unhappy in your relationship, and have been for longer than half the time you have been together, leave. (Example: You have been unhappy for more than two years, but you have only been together for three years.) //
- Choose to see yourself and your partner as good people who may, at this time, not know a healthy way to relate to one another. The stress of being in abusive relationships creates hyper-sensitivity. Learning how to relate to one another in a healthier manner may mean there is hope for the relationship. Remember, both parties need to make a concerted effort for true improvement to be made. The abuser may need private sessions without you there. You may need private sessions without your abuser there. Simply make a commitment to yourself to learn what it is you need to know to create a loving, healthy, vibrant relationship. Blaming yourself or others is optional and only keeps the dynamic of punishment going.
- In some cases, the abuse is so severe or the abuser so unwilling to change that you just need to get out, and get out now. If you have tried to stop the abuse repeatedly without effect, or if your partner is abusing you physically as well, get out. Leave the house, do not say where you can be found, and talk to a professional counselor.
- If you choose to end an abusive relationship, be sure to have a good support system in place, and pay attention to all of the choices you need to make to stay safe.
- Do all the reasonable things you can to create a good relationship before you leave, and allow your partner the same opportunities so that there remains no unresolved business, and no internal blame on yourself for destroying a commitment which could have been repaired.
- Remember that unless you are an under-age child dealing with an abusive parent, you can leave whenever you feel like it. No one will blame you for leaving an abusive person and getting yourself to physical and mental safety.
- However, if the abuse stems or originates in your immediate family, it is best to notify and let other members of your family know, and deal with the matter appropriately.
- Own any responsibility that is yours in the abuse, and recognize that these elements will likely carry into future relationships unless they are repaired on your part in the current relationship first.
Originally posted on WikiHow at How to Deal with Emotional Abuse – wikiHow