Emotional Abuse Characteristics:
5 Significant Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.



Lack of "emotional safety" is the number one indicator of a potentially dangerous relationship. It may seem subtle, yet it is ever so significant with respect to your well-being.

When you have emotional safety, it's palatable. You can feel it in every fiber of your being. When it's missing, you may feel its loss. Or, you may simply know of it not being there by the presence of these five glaring signs.

1) Not honoring your privacy
If something is in a drawer, it's in a drawer out from public display. Someone having no business in that drawer may be drawn to explore its contents. And further, this uninvited explorer may take issue with what is discovered. Beware of these signs of emotional abuse.

2) Not respecting your boundaries
If you say "no," will it be the end of a discussion or the beginning of a negotiation? When "no" means "maybe" and becomes a challenge to convert into a "yes," beware of emotional abuse! You may be enticed to surrender your initial preferences simply to divert the consequences of your failure to comply.

3) Not appreciating your experience and/or your feelings
If your inner world is not noticed, or factored into decisions involving both of you, beware of this non-empathic partner. Your inner world may interest him or her when, and only when, it serves their needs. Having an interest in your experience merely because it's an expression of you is not to be expected with an emotional abuser.

4) Not being willing to have mutual involvement in your interests
Mutual involvement doesn't mean equal time doing your interests verses theirs. Rather, it is reciprocal "interest" (or acceptance) in that which interests you. The emotional abuser does not show an interest (or awareness or understanding or involvement) in your interests because these activities or things please you. Instead, he or she shows an interest only as it serves him/her.

5) Not honoring you for who and what you are.
Intentionally seeking to alter who and what you are to suit one's own preferences, rather than accepting you as you are, is the most glaring of these signs. (Be mindful of the distinction between someone's efforts to alter you to suit their needs verses offering constructive criticism to contribute to your growth.) The emotional abuser will seek to mold you to become who and what he/she desires.

While each one of these undermines emotional safety, in combination they make it impossible. If you encounter this cluster of signs, you are probably looking at an emotionally abusive relationship. Seek to understand the constellation of symptoms defining intimate partner abuse before the emotional abuse spirals out of control.

For more information about recognizing and ending emotional and verbal abuse, see Emotional Verbal Abuse. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people recognize, end and heal from verbal emotional abuse. www.PreventAbusiveRelationships.com

Jeanne King, Ph.D. Domestic Abuse Prevention and Intervention

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© Copyright 2009 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. www.PreventAbusiveRelationships.com

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.