It can happen to anyone. That's right; anyone can become emotionally abusive in an intimate relationship. The path to emotional abuse begins at the point where resentment starts to outweigh compassion.
Resentment is a predominant emotional state in our age of entitlement. Because we perceive ourselves to have more of a right to feel good than previous generations, it follows that those around us have an obligation to make us feel good.
Resentment is a misguided attempt to transfer pain to someone else, specifically the shame of failure to feel good, i.e., to create more value, meaning, and purpose in our lives. Blaming this core failure on someone else justifies a sense of self-righteousness, along with low-grade anger, which temporarily feel more powerful. But the temporary empowerment comes at the cost of making an enemy of the beloved.
One problem with resentment is that it builds under the radar - by the time you're aware that you're resentful it has reached an advanced stage. You don't realize how much it has taken over your life until, through therapy or some life-changing event, you become more compassionate and look back on the years you have wasted being resentful. Eventually, with deep regret, you realize the pain you have suffered and the harm you have inflicted due to resentment.
Because resentment makes you feel like a victim - it feels like someone else is controlling your thoughts, feelings, and behavior - it comes with a built-in retaliation impulse. If you're resentful, you are probably in some way emotionally abusive to the people you love. You have devalued, demeaned, sought to control or manipulate and deliberately hurt the feelings of loved ones. But you've been so focused on what you don't like about their behavior that you haven't noticed what you don't like about your own. You probably have not grasped that resentment has made you into someone you are not.
Here's how to tell if you are an emotionally abusive man or woman.
If you answered yes to any of the above, here are some things that your wife or girlfriend probably says about you:
If you answered yes to any of the above, here are some things that your husband or boyfriend probably says about you:
In addition to the above, you can take this useful emotional abuse quiz.
The Way Out: Self-Compassion
Self-compassion begins with greater sensitivity to the resentment that causes emotional abuse. It is sympathy for the perceived hurt or loss of self-value that causes resentment. Most important, it includes motivation to heal and improve.
Since the experience of resentment rarely improves anything and never heals the hurt that caused it, most resentment - and all acts of abuse - are failures of self-compassion.
As we develop more self-compassion, we are motivated less by temporary feelings and more by our deepest values. As a result, we automatically become more compassionate to the people we love.
The key to a successful relationship is maintaining a sometimes delicate balance between self-compassion and compassion for loved ones.