How to Prevent Emotional Abuse

Do you know what to do?

Posted Mar 09, 2019

If you have already discovered that you are in a relationship with an emotional abuser, this article will not tell you how to change your partner into someone who will not emotionally abuse you.  You cannot change your partner.  All genuine change comes from within and comes as a result of a deep desire for change.  And even then, the process is often long and arduous.  Worth it, but long and arduous. 

I also want to be clear that this article in no way holds the abused accountable for the abuse.  In other words, this article will not tell you how to make someone else stop abusing.  You are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior, words, thoughts or feelings. 

But with those disclaimers firmly in place, let us proceed to how to protect yourself from emotional abuse.  It starts with your picker.  Who do you pick to be in a relationship with you?  How do you pick?  This should be a very careful process, one that includes a great deal of subjective and objective observance—using objective observation skills and the subjective intuition and discernment skills necessary to make a healthy decision about in whom you will invest your time, energy and emotion.  But often, too often, all the signals, all the red flags are ignored while we just fall into the falling in love process. 

The object of this picking game is, of course, to pick well.  To choose a partner who is not only romantic, but who is also considerate, who gets you—really gets you; who can own his own psychological baggage; who does not blame or shame you for anything—most especially his own actions, words, feelings or thoughts.  He needs to be able to say, “I’m sorry” meaningfully, and to make appropriate amends.  She needs to be able to take responsibility for her end of any dynamic with you.  He must be able to openly discuss difficult emotional issues, taking responsibility for his own emotions.  She must be able to demonstrate intimacy skills—the ability to let herself be known and the willingness to know someone else really well.  These are not just fancy wishes.  They are requirements of a healthy relationship. 

If you find that you are falling in love with someone who lacks any or all of the above capacities, it is time to end that relationship and spend some time in therapy finding out more about your picker.  Some people just have a broken picker.  They get attracted again and again to people who will just repeat old childhood traumas and dramas.  They do this because they have not resolved their own issues about these old childhood traumas and dramas.  Once these are resolved, they will start being attracted to healthier people. 

Andrea Mathews
Traversing the Inner Terrain
Source: Andrea Mathews

In order to attract healthy people, you have to be a healthy person.  What is a healthy person?  It is a person who is well acquainted with his/her own issues—those from childhood and otherwise—and who takes responsibility for these issues—refusing to project them onto others, or blame or shame others for them.  It is a person who can own his own emotions, anger, fear, shame, joy, happiness, resentment, and others, and use those emotions to clarify and identify his own path.  It is a person who has appropriate boundaries.

The word boundary has taken on a lot of baggage over the last few years.  Many people think that a boundary means that you have the capacity to make others behave as you want them to.  You lay down a boundary and that means they will honor that boundary and do right by you.  But that is not what boundaries are.  Boundaries are to bind YOUR behavior, not someone else’s.  So, you might say to another “You can’t treat me that way anymore” and think that you are laying down a boundary for them so that they will stop treating you that way.  But in order for that boundary to be real, you might have to have to put yourself out of their reach—so that they truly cannot get to you to treat you that way anymore. 

Boundaries are very important to the ability to pick well and to have and hold a healthy relationship.  But in order to have boundaries, you have to know enough about yourself to know where you need the boundaries to be.  So, getting in touch with and starting to live from the authentic Self is going to be very important.  If you need help with that, seek out a therapist who knows something about the authentic Self and do the work.  And I can recommend “Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self.” 

The way to prevent emotional abuse is to avoid getting involved with an emotional abuser, or if you find yourself involved with one, to leave that relationship, and get into therapy to learn the appropriate skills for attracting and holding a healthy relationship.  If you have trouble leaving that relationship, get into therapy to get help with that.  Please be reminded of the above disclaimers and remember that you are not responsible for anyone else's behaviors, words, feelings or thoughts.  But you are responsible for your own life choices—and that's something you can do something about.