Emotional abuse and coercive control is often really hard to spot in relationships. The gaslighting and emotionally manipulative methods perpetrators use have survivors questioning their own minds - and whether their relationship is really healthy.
"Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time," a Women's Aid spokesperson says, "but if this begins to form a consistent pattern, if it starts to make you feel intimidated, controlled or fearful, then it’s a sign that you could be in an abusive relationship."
They add, "Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small or harmless acts, but together they make up a repeated pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting."
Here, 14 survivors explain the signs someone's behaviour is emotionally abusive or manipulative.
1. "Arguing over trivial things and making you apologise, not letting you wear what you want, name calling, getting angry if you don't reply to texts..." [via]
2. "Overreacting to things. You are upset with them, and calmly explain your feelings. They react wildly to the conversation - getting very angry and yelling, or sobbing and repeating how much of a terrible person they are. All that was needed was a conversation and an apology, but you get super-defensiveness. Their goal, unconscious or not, is to make it so unpleasant for you to bring up problems that you decide it's not worth it. They never have to hear your issues, so they get to ignore them." [via]
3. "[They're] always playing the victim role, and are usually dramatic with some jealousy and control issues." [via]
4. "Any confrontation ends in you apologising, to the point that you become afraid to bring anything up. In a relationship, they may talk openly about the personality/body parts of other people to make you feel insecure, uncomfortable, or like you need to win them back over. They get angry or upset if you spend time with other people, and will often accuse you of not caring about them or not valuing the friendship/relationship." [via]
5. "Threatening to commit suicide." [via]
6. "Somebody who is always cool, collected, and charming with strangers, acquaintances, or even friends but becomes hysterical at the drop of a hat with family or partners. They always criticise you, but anything you say to them that isn't absolute worshipful praise is treated as an attack - and gets either the wounded waif, or the attacking rabid dog response. Somebody who will claim they were always loving toward you but that you were always mean to them, no matter how many times they were physically and emotionally abusive." [via]
7. "They will make you feel like you're crazy and deny FACTS, just to not be wrong or to seem like the 'bad' one." [via]
8. "My emotionally manipulative ex, whenever I was just in a really good mood for no particular reason or having a great day, would always say something to start a fight or do something to piss me off. He seemed to get joy from making me mad. Then once my mood was ruined he would say something like, 'Wow what happened? You were so happy a minute ago!'" [via]
9. "When they craftily shift the blame on you, rather than taking responsibility for their own faults. For example, if you get upset at them for for ditching plans or being unresponsive on the phone, instead of acknowledging their mistake, they turn it around on you and make it seem like you're overreacting. Invalidation of emotions and only accepting whatever is convenient for them." [via]
10. "They make you think you’re responsible for their reactions, in reality they have full control of that. Even though you may have triggered some strong emotions, they have the choice as to how they respond (e.g. I broke all that furniture because YOU made me angry)." [via]
11. "One second you're not good enough, the worst person ever, you cannot do anything right, and next second they give you a small positive affirmation in order to make you feel like its worth hanging around." [via]
12. "How their mood can shift instantaneously. One moment, they're screaming mad, but if that's not getting the reaction they want, they'll be on the verge of tears, or they'll go to neutrality, or they'll go to 'oh poor me.'" [via]
13. "Not giving real apologies. 'I’m sorry you feel that I did [insert thing here]' - which is denying responsibility, or apologising for being a bad person, a bad partner, or anything to make you feel sorry for them." [via]
14. "My ex's parents supposedly neglected him. His friends supposedly abandoned him. Every single one of his exes supposedly cheated on him, or left him. One of the things he said to me when we first got together is, 'my last ex called me an emotionally unstable man child'. And instead of treating that like the red flag it was, I just felt sorry for him. Almost a year later and I know exactly why he was called that, and why everyone seems to leave him. It’s a problem with him, not everyone else." [via]