Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Does your lover pursue you with an intensity you’ve never experienced? Does he make you feel loved and special in the beginning, only to criticize you, lie, cheat and make you feel self-doubt, shame and guilt once you are deeply involved? Do any of these scenarios resonate with you?

These examples are some of the many ways abusers manipulate, control and deceive their lovers that Amy Lewis Bear provides in her book, FROM CHARM TO HARM: The Guide To Spotting, Naming and Stopping Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships.

• Does your lover pursue you passionately, with extreme attentiveness in the beginning of your relationship, only to back away with frosty silence, punishment, or reproachful tirades against you once you are involved? Does he become possessive, deprive you of your autonomy so that you will be at his beck and call. Do his needs come first?
• Does your lover alternate between warmth and punishing criticism while you are dating? Does he humiliate you in public, belittle your intelligence and disrespect your feelings once you are married?
• Does your partner use deceptive tactics to create confusion, such as demeaning you in public, and then in private responding to your objections with a claim that you don’t listen to him?
• Does your lover or husband create a ruse so he can meet another woman by criticizing your housework, your cooking, or picking a fight so he can go away for hours and do whatever he pleases?
• Does your husband try to make you think you are crazy by deliberately manipulating your reality, such as telling you to meet him at a specific restaurant, and then taking the kids to another restaurant, to make you think you are crazy?

“The hallmark of emotional abuse in intimate relationships is systematic deception,” says Amy Lewis Bear. Abusers deliver their punches under the cover of words and actions that disguise the abuser’s true intention, which is to degrade the other’s self-esteem and take control. The abused attribute the discord to the aggressor’s personality traits or their own inadequacies. They respond with an endless quest to appease the dominant one and get back into his or her good graces, which contributes to the abuse. Victims disregard themselves and risk the loss of their emotional health and well-being.

In nourishing relationships, the partners may argue, criticize each other, and yes, use emotionally abusive language, but wrongdoers know their behavior is hurtful and inappropriate. They feel remorse and make genuine efforts to improve. In emotionally abusive relationships, abusers rarely exhibit true repentance.

Abusive men and women are creative in their methods of harm and the fallout is immense. The maneuvers emotionally abusive people use on their partners can be referred to as tactics because they are a means to an end. The tactics are used to manipulate another’s thinking, feelings, and behavior in an effort to gain control over them. And these tactics cause harm.

The victims get caught up in an oppressive cycle and unwittingly contribute to the abuse by tolerating it in an effort to keep the peace or improve the relationship.

FROM CHARM TO HARM provides quizzes to determine if you are in an abusive relationship, communication strategies to implement with the abuser, advice on leaving your mate, a safety plan, treatment. Ms. Bear encourages victims to seek individual and group therapy and provides questions to ask a potential psychotherapist and group therapy leaders and what to look for in these groups.

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