Are You Emotionally Abusive?

It can happen to anyone.

Posted Apr 24, 2019

Source: fizkes/Shutterstock

Anyone can become emotionally abusive in a long-term intimate relationship. The path to emotional abuse begins when resentment starts to outweigh compassion.

Resentment is the predominant emotional state in our age of entitlement. Because we perceive ourselves to have a right to feel good, it follows that those closest to us have an obligation to make us feel good.

Because it makes us feel like victims, resentment has a built-in retaliation impulse. If you're resentful, you’ve probably devalued, demeaned, sought to control or manipulate or 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 like less.

One problem with resentment is that it builds under the radar—by the time you're aware that you're resentful, it’s 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 understand the pain you have suffered and the harm you have inflicted due to resentment.

Here are questions to help determine whether you or your partner are at risk of emotional abuse.

  • Does it feel like your partner pushes your buttons?
  • Does your partner have a way of putting you in a bad mood?
  • Are there times when you don't want to speak to or even be near your partner?
  • Do you feel like you swallow a lot of insult or unfairness until you can't stand it anymore?
  • Does your partner frequently do things the wrong way?
  • Do you feel like you have to tell your partner the same thing over and over?
  • Do you criticize your partner for not being more efficient, reliable, or a better person?
  • Do you treat your partner in ways you couldn't have imagined when you were first met?
  • Do you ever make your partner feel like a failure as a spouse, parent, or lover?
  • Does your partner tell you that you sometimes yell and scream or lash out?
  • Do you automatically blame your partner when things go wrong?
  • Have your friends ever suggested that you treat your partner badly?
  • Would your family and friends be surprised to know the way you treat your partner behind closed doors?
  • Do you resort to name-calling, swearing, or devaluing your partner?
  • Do you belittle your partner in front of other people or your children?
  • Do you threaten to take the children away so your partner will never see them?
  • Do you need to know where your partner is at all times?

The Way Out: Condition Core Value

Resentment results from coping mechanisms of blame, denial, and avoidance. When these become habits, it’s necessary to recondition the emotional system with new habits of coping that lead to states of self-compassion and core value.

Self-compassion is sympathy for the hurt or loss that causes resentment. It instills the motivation to heal and improve, rather than punish your partner.

As we develop more self-compassion, we’re motivated less by temporary feelings and more by our deepest values. As a result, we automatically become more compassionate to the people we love.