20 Tell-Tale Signs You’re Emotionally Abusing Your Partner

Relationships are a two-way street. Sadly, there are people out there who fall victim to emotional abusers, and they get sucked in and only realize it when it’s too late. At the same time, there are instances when you, yourself, don’t realize that you’re starting to get emotionally abusive toward your partner. Be more mindful and check out the 20 tell-tale signs of emotional abuse through the list we’ve created!

Gaslighting Your Partner

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In more ways than one, gaslighting is considered to be abusive. The GBV Learning Network states, “Gaslighting is abusive behavior used to coercively control and gain power over another individual.” This occurs when you repeatedly and constantly undermine your partner’s reality and force them to think a certain way. You deny facts and try to control their feelings and needs.

Threatening to Withhold Your Love and Affection

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When you threaten your loved ones like this, you play with their emotions. That is, no doubt, a form of emotional abuse. When you threaten to withhold your love and affection, you’re trying to manipulate their feelings. You try to get more power over them by using their thoughts and emotions and treating them as your partner’s weak points.

Invalidating Your Partner and Their Boundaries

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When you invalidate your partner’s feelings and boundaries, you disrespect them. You are undermining them by refusing to accept what they feel. You accuse them of being “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or even “too crazy.” A paper published by Gregory Witkowski validates this statement and notes, “One form of emotional abuse is emotional invalidation.”

Monitoring Your Partner Constantly and Not Allowing Privacy

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Invading one’s privacy is wrong in and of itself. However, in the context of relationships, it also shows your lack of trust in your partner. A research paper by Karen Levy of the Journal of Cybersecurity explains that the people closest to us have the most access to what we hold dear. Sadly, at the same time, these people can exercise coercive power over us.

Calling Them Names and Giving Them Derogatory Nicknames

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Name-calling is a form of verbal abuse, but it also attacks a person emotionally. Sharon Stark of Monmouth University said, “Verbal abuse is a specific type of psychological or emotional abuse.” If you call your partner names or give them derogatory nicknames, you attack a person’s dignity and integrity.

Constantly Criticizing Your Partner and Their Actions

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If you’re an emotional abuser, you tend to constantly criticize your partner and their actions. It might seem harmless to you, but finding faults in others is, in a way, isolating them. Also, although you deem it harmless on the outside, deep inside, you’re harboring ill intentions toward your partner. Your unrelenting criticism and relentless devaluation of their character all scream emotional abuse.

Controlling Your Partner’s Finances

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Economic abuse is also emotional abuse. Although it can be subtle, controlling your partner’s finances gives you more control over time. Do take note that this not only manifests in taking charge of the money you have now; you can also be considered an emotional economic abuser if you insist your partner quit their job by making them believe you’ll care for them since coworkers undervalue them, then suddenly stop supporting them.

Blackmailing Your Partner

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Emotional blackmail is one of the worst types of emotional abuse because just one word or look can cripple them and induce fear. The Young Women Christian Association of Idaho believes that emotional blackmail is one of the most powerful ways of manipulation. It may be done intentionally or unintentionally, but one thing remains true: it plays with a person’s emotions through fear and guilt.

Guilt-Tripping Your Partner

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A paper by Courtney Humeny of the Institute of Cognitive Science at Carleton University explains that guilt trips are considered one of the many manipulative tactics that exist today. Aside from targeting one’s emotions, an abuser’s claws grip on someone by psychological power play. Aside from manipulation on the end of the abuser, guilt-tripping can also lead to resentment, low self-worth, anxiety, and stress on the end of the person being abused.

Isolating Your Partner From Family or Friends

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This is one of the giveaways if you’re an emotional abuser. When you isolate and manipulate your partner, you try to sway them from spending time with people they love, including friends and family. By forbidding them to do certain things, you treat them as if they are your property or possession. This can come as a form of jealousy as well.

Controlling Your Partner’s Appearance and Tastes

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Emotional abusers typically display a lot of controlling behavior. One such way they show their true colors is by controlling their partner’s appearance and tastes. According to Southwestern University, they’ll claim that the so-called requests they are making are out of concern for the victim’s welfare, but in truth, it’s powered by their selfish desire to gain more control.

Humiliating and Embarrassing Your Partner, Especially in Public

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Emotional abusers will often shame their partners, especially in public. The shame they feel will push them to hold onto their abuser as a lifeline to get them out of the situation. Humiliation and embarrassment, therefore, are also other ways for abusers to manipulate their victims.

Love Bombing Them

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Psychology Today notes that there are many dangers to manipulative love bombing. This is because it’s an attempt to influence and manipulate a person through over-the-top displays of affection and declarations of love. Emotional abusers use love bombing as a way to hook their victims, and when they’re sure they are caught in their web, they either suddenly drop them or use the victim’s affection to manipulate them to do certain things.

Pinning the Blame on Them

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The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime says that victim blaming is a devaluing act. Abusers typically blame their victims for the current abuse they are going through or have experienced. They make victims believe that the problems lie with them, and that is why they are suffering. Unfortunately, this manipulation tactic is very effective, especially when an abuser and their victim are already in a deep state of relationship abuse.

Exploiting Their Insecurities

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If you’re someone who uses your partner unfairly and selfishly, especially to your advantage, then you’re exploiting them. When this happens, a relationship usually has a power imbalance, and you try to control someone by using their shortcomings as leverage. What’s worse, if you’re exploiting your partner’s insecurities, you’re belittling the trust they gave you when they first shared their insecurities and weaknesses.

Manipulating Their Understanding of Events

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Manipulating your partner’s understanding of events is a lot like gaslighting them. You curb their thinking and try to make them believe that whatever wrong occurred was because of something they did. Again, you’re trying to exert power over their minds and emotions, thus making you an emotional abuser.

Threatening to Hurt Their Family, Friends, or Pets

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Abusive people display certain traits that make you think twice about their character. One of these traits is the cruelty to children and animals. Though abusers may not act on it, just the fact that they threaten their victims with it is enough of a red flag.

Telling Them They’ll Never Find Someone Better

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This is another red flag that someone must be mindful of. When you say this to your partner, it’s like showing them how possessive and narcissistic you can be. It’s also a tell-tale sign for them that in the future, your abusive and possessive tendencies can get worse.

Cheating on Them to Show Power

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Teni Davoudian of Marquette University claims that the desire to obtain power is a primary driving force in life and romantic relationships. Sadly, in a toxic relationship, an abuser seeks to get power by cheating on their power to show that they are better than them. The victim, however, is so crippled by the manipulation they have experienced that they are unable to realize how wrong the situation is as a whole.

Selfish Expectations Toward Them

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If you’re an emotional abuser, then you consciously make unreasonable demands of your partner. You expect them to put everything aside just to meet your needs. Aside from this, you remain dissatisfied and ungrateful, even after everything they’ve done for you.

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.