Even the most intelligent of people can fall for the wrong person, and very seemingly nice people can be horrible within the privacy of their intimate relationships.
It's easy to overlook the signs of emotional abuse because they are covert, and abusers use underhanded tactics to deceive, and unconsciously manipulate others.
Having an understanding of signs of abuse is important, not only for yourself and your personal relationships but also for friends and family who mightn't realise they're in an emotionally abusive relationship.
If someone you know is often quiet, passive or just not themselves anymore, let them know you've noticed this. Remind them of their value.
Understand that if someone you know is being emotionally abused, manipulated or bullied they're extremely vulnerable and may not yet be aware of the truth of their situation.
It's important to respect the boundaries of people's relationships and not assume to know or understand what you haven't experienced first hand. With that said, good friends know how to politely enquire when concerned for their loved one's wellbeing, and do so from a place of respect and kindness.
Emotional abusers are often blind to their own wrongdoings, and may never realise the pain they put their loved ones through. The good news is once you know the signs of emotional abuse you can commence the process of regaining your power.
So, what does emotional abuse look like?
Emotional abusers will give you backhanded compliments - this is when something is said that at first seems like a compliment but is in actual fact an insult. It's easy to feel stunned when given a backhanded compliment and you mightn't realise the truth of what's being said until later when you think about it in retrospect. Backhanded compliments can deeply affect a person's self-esteem and self-worth, particularly on an unconscious level.
If you're feeling insecure in the relationship and that your opinions, suggestions, feelings, needs or ideas are often disregarded, chances are that's exactly what's happening.
Emotional abusers use sarcasm or "teasing" to humiliate and put others down. They might even do this in front of other people, which is incredibly demeaning. They are likely to disregard your feelings and say something like, "you're too sensitive" when you express your hurt feelings.
An emotional abuser will try to control you and your behaviour by speaking to you like you're a child. They may even correct or scold your behaviour should they find it inappropriate in some way. This is not conducive to leading a healthy, adult relationship. No one need feel like a child when they are not one.
Sometimes within an emotionally abusive relationship, the abused will sense that they ought to ask permission to go out or make certain decisions, like spending the night with friends without their abuser.
Emotional abusers will withhold sex, intimacy, and money to gain control within the relationship.
They may have strong opinions on how you ought to (or ought not to) spend your money. Emotional abusers are likely to attempt to control your finances, even if you don't share them.
They trivialise your accomplishments and are unlikely to be excited for you when you achieve something.
Confiding in them often leads to judgement instead of supportive listening.
They tell you who they are instead of allowing you to find out for yourself. Their actions often don't match the description they've given you.
When you point out their unkindness or transgressions they avoid you, and the conversation.
They may create an "idea" of who you are, and then judge you based on that idea.
There is a sense that you ought to impress them.
There is a sense that they're always right, and you're always wrong.
Emotional abusers often can't let go of the past and will regularly point out your shortcomings, even if these shortcomings are things of the past.
There's a sense that there is something, or many things wrong with you and that the abuser may not be able to commit to you long term because of this.
They make excuses for their behaviour and blame their behaviour on you. Their emotional problems and dissatisfaction in life derive from you and your behaviour.
They struggle to apologise and often play the victim.