Maybe he tells you you’re not happy. Or you look depressed. Or you’re crazy.
Maybe your friends have told you you’ve changed. Or you don’t see them as often any more.
Maybe he tells you you’re beautiful, before he tells you to go get changed… you can’t leave the house like that.
Maybe it’s always your fault. Even though you’re the one hurting.
Maybe you’re ‘lucky’ to have him, and he reminds you of this everyday.
Maybe you’re scared of his reactions, and he knows this.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou is a trending hashtag on the effects of emotional abuse. It’s a handle where real women are sharing their stories of partners who’ve been manipulative, coercive, controlling, abusive.
It’s a hastag for an important, powerful, under-discussed cause. It helps build support and awareness around a type of abuse that is as hard to pinpoint as it is damaging. But, as relevant as the hashtag is, it’s important to know that male partners are not the only ones perpetrating this type of behaviour. Women in lesbian relationships, or female partners in hetrosexual relationships, can be just as capable of inflicting pain, manifesting jealousy, causing insecurities and cultivating fear.
Because this type of abuse has nothing to do with physical strength or stereotypes. It’s all about power and the mind.
There aren’t bruises. It occurs over a long period. It can creep up on you, and without understanding it you are in a relationship based on fear, that is completely one-sided, and that has nothing nothing to do with love.
Even though it’s all in the “name of love”.
If someone could look inside your mind, it would bruised and cut and bleeding.
So what are the signs?
You feel small
Whether it's humiliation, embarrassment or blatant insults, language or behaviour that is designed to make you feel small is a key sign of an emotionally abusive partner. Maybe he or she speaks over you, maybe you feel your opinion doesn't count, maybe it's a case of "you're beautiful but..." or "I love you but..."
Beware too many 'buts'. The contingency is on them, not you.
You're controlled and isolated
Maybe you have a joint bank account, for the wrong reasons. Maybe you no longer wear the clothes you'd like to wear. You definitely don't see your friends as much as you used to. If you do go out? You're likely to receive multiple (meaning countless) calls, texts, passive-aggressive (or just downright aggressive), guilt-tripping messages and enquiries as to where you are, what are you doing (because they love you so much).
This is controlling. It's lonely. And it's abusive.
This could occur in several ways. There might be a withdrawal of affection, a refusal to communicate, extreme moodiness or just a complete and utter disregard for your needs and feelings.
When you look at this objectively, or from a distance, it's easy to ask the questions: