Abuse comes in all forms. Whether you’ve gone through physical, emotional/mental, financial, or sexual abuse—and even a combination of each—just know that each form of abuse matters and you are not alone.
I dedicate this piece to all the women that have ever felt silenced, dominated and controlled by emotionally abusive, manipulative, and unhappy men—the men that are functioning in our societies today, still disguised as the “Mr. Nice Guys.”
Emotional abuse leaves wounds that are much deeper and lasting than physical abuse. It is also much more difficult to talk about and explain to the outside world. The abuser normally has a dual personality or “two faces”. The “Mr Nice Guy” – everybody’s friend, loving spouse, successful, life and soul of the party is the face that they present to the world and the emotional abuse is reserved for the victim.
I suppose it was the realization that I no longer really loved him anymore. Maybe a part of me never really did…or maybe that’s what I wanted to tell myself to justify why I stayed as long as I did in the relationship. It was our last major fight—the fight where he threatened to throw my phone and smash it into pieces against the wall—the same fight where he told me to “shut the fuck up” (he always needed to be in control and hated anyone talking over him, and this was not the first time he told me to “shut the fuck up” before). I tried desperately to grab my phone back—a phone he ironically helped pay for that he would later use as emotional blackmail to rub in my face. I was angry, I was scared. I had felt this type of fear on more than several occasions throughout the course of our long on and off relationship when we would get into arguments, and each time I felt awful and like less of a person, but each time I foolishly told myself that I still loved him.
I tried shoving him away, but physically, he had always been stronger than me. He fought back and held my arm in place, putting pressure on my thin wrists. Eventually he pulled at the front of my top, ripping and stretching the thin fabric. He had never torn an article of clothing of mine before out of aggression, until now.
That’s when I realized this was it. What the hell was I doing? What was I still trying to hold onto? There was no more hope or faith left. All I saw was the truth in front of me. I saw a monster. I saw someone I could never find true happiness with because for years all he ever did was bring me down more than he lifted me up. Just because he bought me pretty gifts, just because he was sometimes nice, that wasn’t exactly love…He was hot and cold, but most of the times he was cold. Deep down inside, I knew this had to finally end once and for all. Things had finally started to get better again true, but why did this fight happen? It was just confirmation that things would always go back to the way they were—chaotic, confusing, and emotionally abusive and mentally draining. It was time for me to accept reality and finally walk away. I did not love him anymore. I possibly couldn’t love him anymore.
Why would anyone stay in an emotionally abusive relationship for years, you’re probably wondering?
I was once caught up in a toxic relationship of on and off emotional abuse for six years. Now, when I tell people this, many are shocked and can’t believe why anyone would stay in a kind of relationship for that long. Most people just want to put the blame all on you. And those that are more blunt will simply say, “Wow, only a stupid person would stay in that kind of relationship.” It’s clearly very complicated and all I can say is this: I was young and naive. I just really wanted my relationship to work. I clearly had no idea what real love was supposed to feel like, and I always tried to see the best in people. It was my youth, my naivety, my uncertainty of myself/insecurity, and uncertainty of what love really was. It was my ability to just want to love someone despite all their flaws, no matter how much it sometimes hurt me.
…it was the fact that he could switch on and off from charming and nice, to cruel and controlling, back to nice, and people liked him as a friend (many still do)…I made excuses. Now I see so clearly just how wrong that really was.
On a deeper level, I also became codependent. In simpler terms, I was what you’d call a “doormat,” or some might say a people-pleaser. It was my fear of forever being alone if I just gave up on this person (he broke up with me a few times during the relationship, but always came back, and I let him because I desperately wanted him to at the time. He always made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough or I was the problem, so I vowed to do better and keep the relationship going). I just wanted to love and be loved, but in the end I clearly confused the true meaning of love. And sadly, it was the fact that he could switch on and off from charming and nice, to cruel and controlling, back to nice, and people liked him as a friend (many still do)…I made excuses. Now I see so clearly just how wrong that really was.
Over time, the times I did try to speak up and use my voice, it was usually fruitless. And I eventually experienced what is called “reactive abuse,” meaning, I would grow defensive and in turn start yelling at my emotionally abusive partner and say hateful things back whenever we’d have an argument or misunderstanding. But he would always manage to exhibit more control and shut me down. I began to experience feelings of self-doubt, and like I was the problem, I was the issue…and like I just needed to accept that he was right and I was wrong…of course I am not proud of this. It still hurts at times to admit all of this.
But this isn’t a sob story. I got out. I survived. I acknowledge my past mistakes. Of course I’m not blaming myself, but just know that despite all the heaviness, there is a happy ending for me in this story, which I discuss at the end of this article.
After much reflection and research, I recently confirmed what I went through and experienced in my past relationship was definitely in fact, emotional abuse, specifically what is called Narcissistic Abuse. Because of this, I felt it was time to finally address what emotional abuse really is here on my blog, and why it needs to be discussed more in the world. I’ve been happily living my life and have not talked about this for quite some time, but this post is to educate and to inform. It is to spread awareness. It is to open up and finally share more of my story.
Do Narcissists ever really change, some people are also probably wondering? I can’t really answer that, but after all the research I’ve done, it seems like many never really do. Keep reading to make your own judgement.
Kim Saeed, Author of “How to Do No Contact Like a Boss” & founder of the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery site, Let Me Reach
I’ll simply call him S. Ever since I started reading the stories of more emotional abuse victims, watching interviews of past victims, and researching more about the signs of abuse, I couldn’t believe how all the facts from my traumatic past were matching up. It’s officially been a year since I escaped my toxic relationship, but during this time last year I was still being harassed and emotionally/verbally abused by S. because he couldn’t accept our relationship was over.
[Disclaimer: I am obviously not a psychiatric or healthcare professional, nor do I claim to be. Based off research and what I personally experienced, my goal is to share my story and spread awareness and help out others that find themselves in emotionally abusive relationships, or help past victims of abuse like myself, feel less alone. I don’t want people to suffer and have to go through what I went through. Despite what some people may think, this is very serious, and what I went through is valid and really hurt me emotionally and mentally. I understand most people will never understand or get where I’m coming from. This is exactly why emotional and mental abuse can get overlooked, because it’s not like someone is physically being hit, so people tend to overlook it more or not take it seriously, but all forms of abuse matter, and emotional and mental/verbal abuse can be just as bad and harmful as physical abuse.
If you or anyone you know may be a victim of abuse, I urge you to take immediate action and get the help you need, and if possible, try to end the relationship as soon as you can.]
What is Emotional Abuse?
Any behavior designed to undermine and control someone else through fear, humiliation, manipulation or intimidation is emotional abuse. This can present itself in the form of verbal abuse, constant criticism or fault finding. Through these tactics the abuser makes their victims feel that they are inadequate and inferior and erodes their self-esteem.
3 Hard Truths I’ve Learned About Emotional Abuse:
- If people have never really experienced it, chances are they will have a hard time understanding what an abuse victim is going through or have a hard time even believing them, for that matter. I felt alone, frustrated, and like I was going crazy once I finally ended things with my emotionally abusive partner. Many mutual friends turned their backs on me, or I was told to “get over it,” and even months later the ones that stuck around soon eventually disappeared as well without any explanation, while still of course remaining friends with my ex-abuser. Only a few friends remained there for me and truly believed my story. Still, it wasn’t enough, and I continued to feel alone and like I was left to suffer in silence.
- That’s a part of what emotional abuse is. It’s a form of silent suffering. And even when former abuse victims have moved on and are living their lives away from their abusers, they can suffer from PTSD-like symptoms of abuse (this can occur with all forms of abuse, not just emotional), and because many never get the closure they deserve and have endured years of abuse throughout the relationship, it’s not always easy for them to “just get over it” just because the abuser finally leaves them alone.
- What I also learned is that searching and searching for validation will only cause you more pain and stress. When certain friends/people I mistakenly thought I could vent to turned their backs on me or ignored text messages when I tried to talk or ask for guidance after the break up, it hurt because it made me feel like every single awful thing I had gone through wasn’t valid, like I really must be overreacting or maybe I was really the “crazy one.”But as psychiatric nurse Dana Morningstar says, “Validation can be really hard to come by, and it’s so important that we are able to validate ourselves.”
Everything boils down to power and control, and for a narcissist, it’s all about them getting and keeping power and control over their target…
The Signs of an Abusive Relationship
I just recently stumbled upon mental health nurse, Dana Morningstar. I HIGHLY urge anyone in an abusive relationship or who just got out of one, to watch or ask questions during her live Q&A’s on her YouTube channel, as well as watch her videos talking about narcissistic abuse in depth. She will give you so much insight!! I honestly wish I had discovered her during the time I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and the time when I had just gotten out of it. I learned things the hard way, but that’s how it’s always been for me. Which is why I want to do everything in my power to continue to spread awareness and help out others that are in need or feel alone. I don’t want victims to feel like they’re stuck, or like they must be the problematic one in their toxic relationship, and to keep making excuses and telling themselves, “But we’ve been together for so long, it’s going to get better, they’re treating me a lot nicer now, etc.”
Key word. Shouldn’t they have ALWAYS treated you nicely? With kindness and respect? Isn’t that what a relationship is about? It’s about having mutual respect for one another and not being with someone that puts you down and constantly criticizes you or tries to control you.
The Covert Narcissist
It wasn’t until just recently when it finally came to my realization that S. falls under the covert narcissist category. I kept thinking to myself, Emotional Abuse? Narcissistic Abuse? Is this really what I experienced? Narcissistic Abuse is a real thing?! After finally doing research and finding women like Dana who specialize in Narcissistc Abuse, I’ve concluded S. has many of the characteristics of a Covert Narcissist, and everything I went through definitely fits the description of emotional and narcissistic abuse (For the sake of this post and to keep things easier to understand, I just usually refer to it as emotional abuse). I was mind blown.
What I’ve learned though, is not to get too caught up in the label. Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve had good times in the relationship (stop making excuses for them) or your past significant other wasn’t 100 percent of a narcissist, if you have still experienced any of these emotional abuse signs too many times than you would like/is normal, then it is still emotional abuse regardless, whether they are a “narcissist” or not. What you are going through is NOT normal and NOT okay.
▴ Covert Narcissists, also known as the “shy-narcissist,” are usually well-liked by lots of people, and are often seen as “kind” and “generous” individuals, when in reality, many have anger issues and are prone to constant mood swings.
~shy and soft-spoken around strangers
~loud and aggressive around their victims/partners (controlling/dominating)
~nice-guy, has lots of friends, cooperates with everyone attitude. But…
~can cause petty fights due to anger issues and mood swings with partner (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, or simply put, “hot and cold”)
▴ Covert Narcissists can also be insecure.
~constant criticism at partner or friends (can constantly point out partners flaws or talk badly about friends behind their backs. Every little thing seems to bother them.)
~feelings of jealousy towards friends with sayings such as, “He/She has always been better looking than me…”
~needs to constantly feel validated by other women or men, meaning usually has lots of female/male friends (depending on the gender/preference) and sometimes even flirts or cheats multiple times in different relationships
A female Narcissist I also had the misfortune of briefly knowing for a bit, would talk badly about every woman she knew (jealousy), and constantly fabricate stories about people and even herself (delusional narcissist). She was also a pathological liar and was never satisfied with her appearance.
▴ Exhibits feelings of depression and low energy
~doesn’t really like to get out much
~withholds love and emotional intimacy in the relationship claiming they believe in “tough love” or that they are afraid/fear losing a part of themselves if they give too much, because past relationships were bad to them
~nothing ever seems to be good enough for them, and they are usually cynical or jaded, and critical of their partners (projects their issues onto others/their partner)
▴ Highly controlling and will shut you down when you try to speak up for yourself or call them out on something. (This applies to all narcissists)
9 times out of 10 it felt like my way was always the wrong way in my past relationship.
~you accuse them of cheating but they will deny it or call you “crazy” for thinking that way, even when in fact, they indeed DID cheat (gaslighting and lying/denying. Narcissists are BIG liars).
~will sometimes want you to be more assertive in the relationship, but when you finally are, they will still have to dominate and control the situation and expect you to go back to being submissive (hypocritical).
▴ Emotional Blackmail/Manipulation.
This can be through rage, shame, intimidation, or guilt.
~silent treatment tactics when arguments erupt. They hardly, if ever, want to talk it out and can even go so far as to threaten to end the relationship if they do not get their distance on their terms
~This can happen even after you end the relationship. When I finally ended the relationship, S. tried to blackmail me with photos and at one point told me on the phone how he wanted to kill himself. Threats of suicide are another form of guilt manipulation as well, and is sadly common in abusers, I found out.
~Besides the silent treatment, Narcissists will often erupt in rage and proceed to yell and belittle you during arguments (aggressive and negative manipulation through outbursts of anger).
What to expect and what you should avoid after you finally walk away from your toxic relationship
I’ll tell you straight out: Trying to end things with an abusive partner is not going to be easy—there are even chances that they might try to still contact you/stalk you (hoovering), manipulate you and emotionally and mentally abuse you even after you try to escape. After all, that’s what happened to me.
▴ Rage ▴ Intimidation ▴ Threats ▴ Guilt-shaming ▴ Aggressive manipulation ▴ Harassment
The emotional & mental abuse I personally experienced when I ended my toxic relationship:
▴ threats such as Blackmail (example of shame and intimidation as stated above)
▴ he hacked into my Instagram and started deleting people I met through him (an example of control and rage)
▴ hateful anonymous hate messages/prank phone calls calling me names, that he denied for months later, but were for a FACT from him (example of lying & denying & trying to guilt/shame/intimidate)
▴ when he wasn’t trying to terrorize me, he would try and go back to being nice and apologize and even brought me flowers (an example of hoovering tactics and switching from mean to nice, and he never gifted me with flowers in our actual relationship because flowers were a waste to him he used to say)
▴ emails showing me photos he had taken and gave me updates about his life and how he was trying to “improve” his life and himself (An example of more hoovering and trying to be nice)
▴ demanded I return the phone he helped me buy, the dresses he bought for me, and showed up unannounced to my house and took back a bike he had once gifted me, when I thought he showed up to just pick up his T.V. (childish and petty acts are also common for narcissists)
▴ told me he felt like he was dying and was very “sick” with something, and then not too long after he was fine.
Now please read this excerpt below…
When a survivor has gone no-contact—in other words, the survivor has chosen to disengage completely from the abusive person—often the person with narcissism will attempt to see if the door is still open for more narcissistic supply. He or she may “hoover” prior survivors by emailing, texting, phoning, or showing up at a survivor’s workplace or residence under the pretext of apologizing for transgressions, delivering flowers, hitting the reset button, or feigning illness or a need for assistance (money, return of belongings, etc.).
While he never offered to return anything of mine and gladly took instead, it is obviously clear that he could not accept that I was leaving him, and basically went crazy with rage while trying to be “nice” at the same time (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality). This is why I mistakenly tried to talk and hang out with him occasionally, even after the break up, thinking it would help keep him calm, thinking maybe we could at least try to remain on friendly terms. Awful, AWFUL mistake. Never do it!!! It will only backfire on you. This is why it’s extremely important to go NO CONTACT. No matter how angry or hurt you feel, or how much you are being harassed, it is extremely important to disengage completely and ignore them at all costs. If they threaten suicide, it is not your job to be there for them. Call their friends or family members if possible.
I admit there was a time months after the breakup, that I came across a post of a mutual friend he had been talking to and just seeing his username pop up brought back all the anger and emotional pain inside of me again. I lashed out at him and my friend (not proud of that) when he was actually not trying to talk to me. It’s common for abuse victims to struggle with the N.C. rule at times, but I let my emotions and all the pain get to me and I remember him saying, “I apologized. I moved on, why haven’t you?” He was basically gaslighting me because he couldn’t fathom as to why I could possibly still be upset about everything. And if a little apology was really supposed to erase and take back everything, he was still missing the point.
This goes back to how I stated earlier how it is extremely hard for emotional abuse victims to just “get over things.” Even when the actual abuse has stopped, old feelings or PTSD symptoms can emerge, and feelings of anger, shame, and anxiety can take over.
[I must let my readers know though, oddly enough, while working on this essay and finally getting ready to publish it, S. texted me out of the blue more than a few days ago now. This was the last thing I expected. Of course I never texted back. It was a pointless text, meaning it just seems like he was looking to find an excuse to start talking to me again, like nothing had ever happened. I blocked his number a while back, but when I was finally left alone for quite some time, I carelessly unblocked him. I still have no idea what his point or motive is for recently texting me out of the blue.]
Treatment/Getting Over an Abusive Relationship:
For all these reasons, this is why it is very imperative you have a good group of close friends or loved ones that understand what you’re going through or know you are telling the truth and want to actually help you. The breakup can be an emotionally toiling process, but if you can survive that, then you are onto the next step: Finally starting a new life as far away as possible from your abuser, and surrounding yourself with nothing but love and support. It takes time to get over the trauma you’ve endured, but it is possible.
▴⟡ Go to events and shows with friends.
▴⟡ Join support groups/circles
▴⟡ Try new things and visit new places if possible
▴⟡ Be with people that BELIEVE in you. And ACCEPT you for you.
▴⟡ Put your heart and soul into new projects
▴⟡ If you’re at a point where being around people is mentally taxing on you, start writing in a journal or notebook almost every day. Write your thoughts out, what you want and hope to accomplish with your new life. Write out what makes you smile or what your favorite activities or movies are. It’s important to remind ourselves what we’re happy to live for every day.
⟡▴ If you lose friends because of the break up, those people were never your real friends to begin with. You can still make new friends and find people that are better for you. It’s extremely tough sometimes and it hurts when certain people don’t want to be in our lives anymore and it’s even worse when they continue to remain very close to your abuser, but in the long run you made a choice, and with each choice there often comes a huge sacrifice. And a sacrifice that WILL pay off.
Where am I today?
People tell me I seem much happier now. I honestly really am. Despite the nightmare and pain I went through, I found a part of myself I thought I had lost. I am much more carefree now, and no longer fearful of opening up to those I love or saying the wrong things. I gained more uplifting friends in my life, and I have found love with someone who actually makes me realize daily what a normal and healthy relationship is actually all about. I remember S. said a few times during our relationship how I would “never find someone as good as” him. Analyzing that statement with all the knowledge I have and all that I experienced, I can see how misguided and narcissistic that statement really it. It’s amazing how it basically takes being with someone completely different and with a much healthier mindset, to realize just how wrong/harmful your last relationship really was.
I have accomplished so much, and have taken part in lots of cool projects, participated in lots of fun opportunities, and I have gained a lot more confidence in myself as well again. Of course there are times when I experience anxiety and mood swings from my past (minor PTSD symptoms) and I still think about the people I lost in my life, but I am extremely grateful to those that remained in my life. You all have no idea how much it really means to me. And the fact that S. recently texted me out of the blue slightly worries me somewhat, but life will always move forward. And some people just have to get left behind. Don’t ever apologize for it.