Close this search box.

Recognizing the Signs of Emotional and Psychological Abuse

I waited more than two years to tell my family that my marriage was over, afraid to say what had been happening in our home.

There was no way to explain my ex-husband’s ongoing, despicable behavior, and I was ashamed of how I’d put up with so much for so long. I also knew that if there were a chance of saving the relationship, they would never forgive him.

When I eventually opened up to one of my sisters, it was the day after I’d finally gotten him out of the house. She listened, and then firmly told me that I had been in an abusive relationship.

It was one of the most shocking statements I’d ever heard.

How could I, an educated, independent, intelligent, successful woman, be a victim of abuse? I had run my own business, managed people for years, and traveled chunks of the globe by myself. I was even trained as a crisis counselor! It was impossible that I, of all people, could have been so blind.

During my training two years later as a state-certified domestic violence advocate, I not only learned how right she was, but in how many ways I had been living with domestic violence for nearly half my life.

Since that revelation, I have talked to hundreds of some of the most intelligent and capable people who thought the exact same thing, that domestic abuse happens to the uneducated, the weak, the poor.

How is then possible for it to be the second most-reported crime in my upper-middle-class town full of achievers and success stories?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of socioeconomic background or education levels, and it includes way more than physical abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is essentially a “pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another person in an intimate relationship.”

Emotional and psychological abuse, including narcissistic abuse, are much more insidious than physical abuse, because they do not leave obvious marks.

At the beginning of most relationships, people put their best face forward. In toxic relationships, however, controlling behaviors and intimidation emerge and become more common as the relationship matures.

Some behavior can appear romantic in the beginning. For example, showing extreme jealousy of your friends or family, and not wanting you to spend time on other activities because your partner would rather be together may initially make you feel valued.

But this control is a common manipulative technique that an abuser will use to eventually isolate you from as many people as possible.

Is this topic front and center for you right now? BTGO has an interactive workshop that goes far beyond what we cover in this post. Learn more.

Pressuring you to do things that you are not comfortable with, such as having sex, or even doing specific sexual behaviors, is a form of emotional abuse. This is often followed by statements claiming how prudish you are for not wanting to do what the other person asks.

The same goes for pressuring you to use drugs and alcohol when you don’t want to.

Putting you down is another common form of emotional abuse. Insulting what you are wearing so that you not only feel unattractive may lead to questioning your own judgment as well.

This can insidiously make you start doubting yourself and preventing you from making your own decisions, a classic form of manipulation which will gradually make you more emotionally dependent. I have seen countless victims of domestic abuse who find it extraordinarily hard to make simple decisions; they have been told what to do and think for so long that they temporarily forget their ability to do so independently.

Other insidious forms of emotional and psychological abuse are minimizing your feelings, or denying that something happened, which is commonly referred to as “gaslighting.” An abuser also tends to shift the blame for his or her own terrible behavior, using the idea that the victim caused it to happen.

Physical abuse is the easiest to recognize, because there are often visible bruises. Yet emotional and psychological abuse leave painful scars. What makes it worse is that even after exiting an abusive relationship, the other person’s voice often remains in your head, and it takes quite a while longer to heal from that.

Remember, the nature of domestic violence is not just physical injury, but harm through persistent power and control over another person.

For more information on specific types of abuse, see the website for the National Domestic Violence Hotline at, or call 1-800-799-7233.

And if you think you or someone you care about may be in a questionable situation, take our free Toxic Relationship Quiz, which provides more specific examples of emotional abuse. And visit for more information and resources.

Editor’s note: If emotional abuse is an issue in your relationship, and you’d like to know more – especially what you can do about it – consider viewing our interactive workshop, Emotional Abuse & How to Break Free, which is available in BTGO’s Sanity School now.

Help someone else by sharing this story

About the Author:

Leave a Comment:

104 Responses

  1. Im in a bad relationship. Its been 3 years and few month’s ago he gotten worse. He pulls my hair and calls me names. I know he seeing someone else but he wont say anything. He makes me stay up late. Knowing i have to be up at 3am. Im tired and told him to leave so many times i believe he enjoys watching me suffer and to be sad and unhappy

    1. Hey Trina, , please believe the thoughts (the real and raw thoughts) that go through your head are real. So sorry this is happening to you but at the same time you know exactly what is happening to you! Get out and don’t go back!!!!!

    2. Wow I am going through the exact same thing and want out so bad..Im saying a prayer for you and me also that we find the strength to leave these abuse relationships! God bless ❤

    3. ive been in an abusive relationship for 3 years now im 16 and as we have grown up he became more abusive towards me, we have been through a lot together last year i found out i was having his baby unfortunately due to some drug issues ive had i lost the baby i couldnt bring myself to tell him so 2 months after i told him he was so supportive when i first told him then a few months later we had a argument and he punched me in the stomach and said something like its okay you killed our baby anyway but from about that time we havent had any fights or any abusive comments im wondering if hes changed? its been all most a year and before he would beat me on a regular basis. im nearly 17 and i want to know if this will happen again and if it does what do i do?

    4. Dear Tianna,

      It doesn’t sound like it’s changing, except that it’s getting worse. I suggest you immediately call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. This sounds scary.


  2. ‘Pressuring you to do things that you are not comfortable with’ – sadly this sounds to me like almost any relationship

    and I’m a soft gentle male who lived with a female national champion athlete who had grown up being bashed up by her brother and father, and once threw a cabbage at my head which hit me so hard it could have broken my neck

    1. Wow, what an image!

      I actually disagree about pressuring one to do things he/she is not comfortable with being part of almost any relationship; based on my experience, most relationships are not filled with power struggles, though unfortunately, some of our most significant relationships can be.

    2. I have been with my partner for 13 years with two children and I can tell you they don’t CHANGE! I’ve left him before many times but when someone is at your door and using manipulation on your children every hour and you have Had no sleep in fear of what he will do to you and with no support or help you loose any strength you’ve built. I’m on lots of medication because I’m going crazy I have ptsd, anxiety and severe depression due to the years of abuse. I have no one to talk to and lock down has made my life even worse. He’s narcissistic and controlling severely jealous and he tells me I’m worthless and no one could love me other than him. And let me tell you I start to believe it sometimes.

    3. Tilly,

      Wow…unfortunately, I’m not surprised. Everything you describe falls into the topics we are talking about in our “Top 7 Dangers of Toxic Relationships” workshop, which we are doing live today and tomorrow.

      How could you not believe that you are worthless and unlovable, after 13 years of that kind of torture, no matter what anyone else tells you? I think with the extent of this kind of abuse, the only way out would begin with a community of supportive people…and I’m wondering if there is anyone else you have been able to talk to about your situation yet?

      If you can, try to watch our free workshop, if you get any privacy…also, we will be launching our first course next week, which focuses on getting people like you (where I myself once was) to get the strength to get their sanity back. Hope you are able to hold onto that part of yourself that still believes there is more than this miserable existence. I was able to (after several attempts as well), and WOW, what a complete difference it is on the other side.

      Stay strong, as much as you can (I know how hard it is),

  3. I’ve been in a relationship fir more than three years. My partner will swear at me using very bad words. So much has happened. I came across private photos of other women in his phone. Finding condoms in his bag. He went out for drinks after work. Search other women on Facebook. He visits porn sites but too tired to be affectionate with me. Constantly blaming me for everything. Finding fault with me. I’ve lost control the other night where I broke down bedroom door. I just couldn’t anymore. Is that normal? Can someone be pushed to s point where it got me today or should I go to an institution like he said telling me I’m crazy. But still I love him with all of my heart.

    1. Liezel, all of this sounds very familiar, and is unfortunately common behavior as well. Your getting to the end of your rope also has a name: “reactive abuse.” Sounds like he pushes you to the point of losing it, then calls you the crazy one, and says you should be in an institution. Heard this story several times, sad to say.

    2. It’s way common. I’m in a relationship with a medically diagnosed BPD(borderline) woman. I deal with abuse on the regular. There’s days that it’s so bad that I’ve lashed out verbally. One time after I was physically pushed I had used some derogatory names that any woman would find offensive. Unfortunately for me I now look like the abusive one everyone that she’s told what I said looks at me like a pile of garbage. I guess it’s part of the perfect set up. Abuse someone so bad when they lash out, let every one know and they now look like the crazy abusive one and the real abuser gets to hide even further. I honestly feel bad about what I said but it’s not like I wasn’t physically assaulted before I said these things. But now what? I said what I said and technically now I’m the one that’s scrutinized while I’m subject to continued abuse on the regular. I guess it’s if the abuser abuses on the regular it’s just normal and no one cares. If the abused lashes out in anger 1/100 times they’re abused it’s not normal and everyone is freaked out.

    3. James,

      What you describe sounds like “reactive abuse.” I’ve pulled the following from an excellent article on about the topic:


      Reactive abuse occurs when the victim reacts to the abuse they are experiencing. The victim may scream, toss out insults, or even lash out physically at the abuser. The abuser then retaliates by telling the victim that they are, in fact, the abuser.

      Why abusers rely on it

      Abusers rely on this “reactive abuse” because it is their “proof” that the victim is unstable and mentally ill. The abuser will hold these reactions against the victims indefinitely. It could be years later and the abuser will say, “Well, back in (whatever year), you had this reaction and acted all crazy. You’re the crazy one! You need help.”

      Sometimes abusers use this reaction as an excuse to go to police or even file for protective orders of their own.

      Sound familiar?

    4. Yes sounds familiar. And to be quite honest I do fear my wife manipulating the legal system to her favor if I/she ever filed for divorce.

      Just wanted to let Liezel know it’s common even though I didn’t know the official term “reactive abuse”. Worst is we keep the abuse silent of course who wants to announce hey I’m with a raging cluster B who abuses me. Unfortunately though when we reactive abuse their loud and make sure everyone knows. Worst is we feel guilty about losing it afterward, where the opposite isn’t true.

    5. Flee for your life! You are not married to him. Please flee for your life.
      He is out to destroy your soul and in the end when he is finished doing that. He will leave you and move on to His next victim. Or if there be justice he will fall into the hands of the woman that will make him pay for his insidious actions against you. You are not the first and not the last to suffer in His hands.

      For the sake of your sanity, your life and those who love you, please I beg you to flee for your life.

    6. I wish i could help you probably doing that i can help myself too, my husband is also abuser and I haven’t still left him coz i was telling myself i love him, i still do but until i realised there’s nothing good left in this relationship.
      I still scared to start new al alone coz i don’t have no family or friends nobody who can understand me.
      I live in Sydney where do live?

    7. Tilly… I have been married to a manipulating narssistic maniac for 13 years too. I finally had enough on Christmas day last year. I woke up. Packed my sons stuff in my car, my step daughter kept my daughter from coming along. The two of them., my step daughter and her dad was used to manipulate and abusing me. They took my daughter and when I went back 3 days later to go get her they told her I didn’t want her. I have since found out through some digging that he has been stalking me even when he was married before we got together. He targeted me for my fathers company, got me pregnant while he was still married, which I didn’t know as he had told me they already got divorced. I found that out in January when I contacted his ex wife. I have been scared shitless for so long that I didn’t even realized it. I would become ice cold whenever my phone would ring or get a message from him. I would drop whatever I was doing just to make sure that I did whatever he wantef as soon as possible. My stepdaughter would say that I work too hard, and take the broom away and tell me to sit down and relax, but the moment he walked Into the house she would tell him how lazy I have been the whole day. She had more say in my house than me. Even where decorations go, where the bed should stand. What ever. I had left or ended more jobs than I care to think about. He would make me feelbso worthless and a burden that I would think of killing myself to set him free from me. He was extremely jealous, but still had wanted to have threesomes, wanted me to sleep with my friends’ husband while he watched, when I didn’t want to do any of that hr told me to change my believes and that I am too prudish. Then after he would accuse me of having affairs with everybody. I was constantly yelled at for being on my phone. I wasn’t allowed to tell any body. But after all that for 13 years, I had gotten out. Even after leaving g him and telling my friend he contacted me and said I should keep quiet because even if it was all true it had nothing to di with anybody else and I was destroying his life and that if my children because he won’t be able to proviy for them. To this day he hasn’t pays a sent support. I found a group on fb called wonder woman. They listen and support. Its been so freeing. I have gotten my daughter for the holiday due to corona lockdown and managed to file for a protection order to keep him from coming to get her as he had told me he would make a case of kidnapping for taking my own daughter.

    8. I went through it for 5 years it hurt to leave but now after 8 months I feel better and safer and now I see what he was doing . Get away he will never stop.

    9. Yes, Karen, I agree with you in that it will not only not stop, but will probably get worse.


    10. I have been in a domestic violence marriage 32 years and I am divorcing I am lucky I am alive so also my 5 children are all adults now.But you know what I am taking a stand up for myself And pat myself on the back aI want to take a moment and thank my 5 kids and my immediate family my Dad passed away 10-17-2007 I want to Honor my Dad my Mom Sister Two brothers .They helped give me the strenghth to believe in myself and give me that gave me the powet to say Enough with getting abused I can Get Out I say stop with violence to us woman and children elderly..

  4. I was in an abusive, narcissistic relationship over a decade ago. It lasted for less than 2 years, and it took me double that time to heal.
    Really heal.

    Just get out.

    The “love” you feel is not love . It is called trauma bonding. And it is very real.

    I do understand. I felt the trauma as “love” too, until I healed.

    I constantly had to fight my own mind. It was a conscious choice to leave,…I didn’t “feel” like it….and over and over my mind would cycle back around to “the man I loved”. I’d fool myself. I’d would actually crave him.
    I constantly had to re-engage my mind over and over to stay gone. The feelings always came in waves, like this visceral pull. I learned that’s the trauma.
    It is strong, but it does go away if you stay away. The waves die down and you wash to shore.

    This is a battle. Understand.
    It is a battle because there is a chain around your soul. You must break that chain around your soul.

    I called on God.
    I recommend to you calling upon God too.
    He is the breaker of chains.
    And He loves you.

    Please don’t loose your soul to someone who deceives you into thinking control and bondage are love. Please don’t confuse the abuser’s attention as love.
    Control is not Love.
    Attention is not Love.
    Only Love is Love.
    May you leave the darkness and step into the Light! There real Love for you upon the shore.

    1. I was in one of these abusive relationships with my wife for 20 years until I exploded like a volcano 7 months ago. I’m waiting for my divorce in 5 months. I’m far from being healed. I question my own thinking 100 times a day. Question the past. Replay the past to make sure I’m not imagining things. I also write in a journal because it makes it clearer to see the facts in black and white. She of course has accused me of being the abuser because I exploded. Everyone including my family thinks I’m crazy. The hardest thing is trusting your own judgment again. I’m proud of myself for standing up for myself. It’s a long lonely road, but the benefits will be worth it in the end. Her parents have the same relationship exactly. Her father had a heart attack in his 30’s and he is a slave to his abusive wife. That is normal for that family and they don’t see anything wrong with it. 1 of my three children can see the slavery and double standards, he lives with me. He still loves his mother but doesn’t enjoy spending time with her. I feel for the other two.

  5. My father was an alcoholic and a very abusive both mentally and physically to me and my mom and family.That caused alot of emotional scars all my life.I married an alcoholic and he best me mentally and physically and lied to me for many years.I would eventually meet the Lord.He never healed me of those wounds or ever suggested.Protect yourself and get out of the relationship and get away from the person and people that hurt you.Get the hell away from emotional abusers and take back your life.

    1. Unfortunately, people gravitate toward what is familiar, and as I’m sure you know, it is hard to start with recognizing that we all deserve so much better.

  6. Iam so glad that I know longer live with an lying alcoholic.I deserve the very best.I have been single for 8 years and I have went on one date.I trust know one.I just hope that before I die I will find my prince charming the one that I truly deserve.I have needed so much love and healing in my life and I have learned to begin to love me and I walk alone.God never healed after my husband died I lost everything and God always has kept me around men who are very abusive.How cruel.I walk alone now.

    1. Pamela,
      So glad you got out, and sounds like you have learned to love yourself in the process. So many people aren’t able to do this.

  7. I have been in an physically and emotionally abusive relationship for 12 years I have 2 children I am the bread winner the house is mine how do I make him leave I am sick of this shit I deserve better

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Ugh, all too common story. This is probably a legal issue, so I would suggest asking a local attorney / solicitor about your rights regarding property (we are in the US, so laws are totally different).

    2. leave take your kids and leave start a new life talk to someone you trust and get a support system to help you with the process change your number change locks do what you think is necessary for the safety of your kids and yourself… then leave and don’t turn back!!!

    3. Christine,

      Very good suggestions, with the consideration that this is an enormously difficult process, and much easier said than done. There are far more obstacles than most people can imagine to safely exiting a relationship involving domestic violence.

  8. What do you do when you lived with someone for 32 yrs. I am not aloud a bed. He has two rooms upstairs. i have to ask permission to use the car and usually that entails for 30 min or less. Same as others. He calls me name and blames me for absolutely everything. The problem is I have two grown adult children living at home and my husband treats me like a child. My adult children fight with one another all the time and my husband allows verbal abuse to me from them when it happens. My adult children have more rights than me. And my spouse chooses one son over the other that causes allot of conflict I am a door mat. In addition, I am totally dependent financially after I put him through school (another novel in its self). I am not aloud any access to accounts and my husband uses one son to communicate any information or money through him to me. Very depressing life.

    1. Hi Janice,

      Your comment made me cringe. It sounds like with the pandemic, there must be even more pressure on you, and it also sounds like there’s a lot of financial abuse going on, as well as the emotional / psychological stuff.

      We are planning to launch our first course at the beginning of May, which deals with all of the issues you mentioned; we also just did our first interactive “DeTox talk” yesterday (we plan to do one a week until we put the course out). If possible, take our survey to get an invite, and perhaps others in the community might also be able to come up with some ideas for what you can do right now. I feel for you…

  9. I am currently struggling with my 18 year old daughter’s abusive relationship. She has been involved with this 22 year old “man” off and on for almost 2 years now. He is unbelievably controlling, accuses her of doing “shady” things constantly, he has hacked all of her social media and has taken it over. She has to be in contact with him 24/7. She is about to graduate and I am terrified of her being with him, he is definitely going to ruin her life and she is allowing it. My daughter was a good student, played sports, held down a job. She was a confident and fun person, people love her and love to be around her…he has chipped away everything from her little by little. She has no contact with friends. She has a bright future ahead of herself, but sadly she will probably not be able to attend college because of how extremely jealous he is. If she tries to go, it will not work out for the simple fact that college is hard, with him fighting with her constantly she will not succeed. He makes her stay in FaceTime with him all through the night as if she’s on surveillance. It’s absolutely disgusting! I have tried everything, from counseling, to trying to place a restraining order on him…nothing has helped…I am literally at my wits end…I cannot even blame him anymore because she is the one allowing this treatment from him. She comes from a good family my husband and I have been married 24 years and never has she witnessed treatment like this. I thought we raised a strong confident young woman…sadly I do not know where we went wrong. My heart is broken, and I just want to help my child. I feel so helpless because I happen to know this is out of my control…any advice would be greatly appreciated…

    1. Jeana,

      My heart was breaking when I read this, especially as a mother to a teen daughter (and son). I wish there were easy answers, or could think of something guaranteed to work, though it seems like you have tried so much already, and I can only imagine how terrifying this experience must be.

      I actually have put a call into one of my more expert resources to see if they could come out with something specific, but based on past experience with all too common stories like this, the only advice I’ve heard is to try to keep the lines of communication open with your daughter so that when she does feel ready, and fingers crossed that she does at some point before it gets worse (and it sounds horrifying enough already), she will come to you first, knowing that she can trust you and that you will do your best to protect and be there for her.

      I’m sure this doesn’t offer much comfort, but unfortunately, the reality is that these types of relationships are similar to the experience of someone’s being in a cult – they have been manipulated by a master, and are often under that person’s complete control, without realizing it, and nothing anyone else can say to get them out makes a difference. Sometimes, in fact, it makes things worse because the abuser uses your attempts to rescue her as opportunities to isolate her even more (i.e. “your parents never liked me, everyone’s against me,” etc).

      I will add an additional comment if/when I hear back…in the meantime, I would check out whatever you can on cults and how families handle getting loved ones out. I haven’t researched this myself, but thought it could be a possibility.

    2. Hi again Jeana,

      I actually spent a while yesterday talking to a specialist, and she gave more information than would be possible to put into a comment box. It was actually so meaningful that we are going to add it to our course in the detail it deserves (we plan to launch in May/June).

      The most important tidbit you should know regards safety and safety planning. It was suggested that you sit down with your daughter and tell her that you love and support her, and while you don’t condone the relationship, her safety is key, and that if the situation ever should arise, she needs to know how to keep herself safe. As there was a lot of detail involved with how best to have this conversation, I would highly recommend speaking to someone at your local domestic violence center.

      If you are able to, please sign up for the next Detox Talk (should be this coming Tues), and if there’s an opportunity, I would be happy to share more information on some actions you could take immediately which could really have an impact on what feels like such a helpless situation.

  10. Split up with my ex of 3 yrs he would whatts apl naked pics everyday and grind me down he wants me to sleep with other men and let him watch or send pics not in my nature my mum dies he took overtime at work so he couldn’t go my parents where alcoholics and my ex husband this guy I met off dating site a he vared about was sex sez sex or fantasys told me he didn’t drink 3 yester he is drinking and giving me he’ll told me he had no kids found out he has a son of 18 I just want to heal im in so much pain .

    1. The only thing that is scarie8than leaving an abuse partner is loosing ur children over staying with him. Im sorry but I experienced first hand how there is no compassion for women with children who stay with men like these….but tbh I now understand why. Kids do not get to choose that life they will be damaged and broken by what they see and gear and as mothers we are their protectors….how would we cope without our babies and men like ours would carry on doing what they do and making us feel worse for loosing them. In my experience this was a wake up call we were on the at risk register from the minute my baby boy was born and after 18 months I was deemed a good actually great protective mother who would keep my child safe at all costs. This made my ex hate me more but he never put a hand on me after that. Our children are our world these men are whats wrong with our world. Choose ur kids they don’t have a choice

    2. Hi Amb,

      Excellent point – especially in that our kids don’t have a choice. We as parents have to do everything we can to protect them from others who can harm them – physically, emotionally, and so on. Have you read my blog which goes into more detail on this specific topic, The Effects on Children Growing Up With Domestic Abuse? Here’s the link

      We also devote a lot of time in our Top Seven Dangers of Toxic Relationships workshop to this important, and often forgotten, issue.

      Thanks again for your comments!


  11. Thank you so much Lisa for responding and your very helpful information. We tried the tough love approach at first, cutting her off, hoping she would realize and leave…but it was killing me not to be in touch with her. Also, I feel like it may have pushed her more to him. We fight a lot, but I do feel like we have a very close relationship. She is currently about 2 hours away from home and has been staying with him & his family during this quarantine. Thankfully his mother and stepdad seem to be good people. She left on good terms and I let her know that if she needs me anytime day or night I would not hesitate to get her. She knows she always has a home and a safe place to go. I am hoping at some point if I back off she will see things for herself. This is very hard for me, being that I have always been so very involved in my kids’ lives. I will look into talking with someone at our local center. Again, I appreciate your time and advice. I will hope for the best and keep praying! ❤️???????? Blessings to you!

  12. Thank you Lisa. I have a problem which I really not sure whether is it abusive by my partner or am I abusive to her. I feel she does not love me. She is never happy with anything in her life. Always very serious. no time to express love and happiness. She is a church-going, person and she believes in going to church only. No romantic time. No family time. She is only home if there is a problem that cannot be resolved then. But when is at home unintentionally she would make everybody in the feel miserable. You cannot reason against her idea/decision, If you do so then you started a war for the rest of your relationship, because of every time when you get to a conflict, she will then list whatever weaknesses or wrongs you did ever since you knew her.

    1. Hi Solly,

      Not sure if this is emotional abuse, but definitely sounds less than ideal…

  13. Hi, I am in a very confused state of mind. My partner of 3 years is quite an aggressive character. After being together on and off for three years his drink and drug behaviour and controlling side changed my personality , into more anxious and questioning his where shouts as he has disappeared before. I get called psycho and crazy . And they blame is then shifted to me and apparently how I do worse , makes me question my sanity. He will say terrible words when he’s angry and says that I caused him to get angry and say them, how I’m a narcissist and manipulative, as I’ve said something to cause his outburst. It makes me question my own judgement, but I look back and think what I said wasn’t bad at all, but I question if I could of said it better or if I am acting in a certain way as I feel insecure after all I’ve dealt with over the years, which I won’t go into. He’s lovely , and says how amazing I am etc , but suddenly If I say something that comes across I’m hunting, he says I’m a toxic bitch And how he’s researched people like me and how I don’t even know I do it. But even his mum says he’s manipulative and everyone walks on egg shells with him. I find myself questioning if I’m in the wrong. I’m scared I’m going crazy as I love him so much, but am scared as I’ve caught him out before entertaining girls but never confronted him as he’s aggressive and would turn it round on me. So I’m silently suffering. But he keeps calling me all these manipulative words and how I’m a narcissist but I know he is doing it to me, but I’m scared I’m so insecure about him being disloyal as he’s never been before I’m coming across too much , but he’s noticing me questioning all the time: we have a child too .

    1. Hi Louisa,

      A lot of this sounds very familiar. Many victims of emotional abuse get confused about who is actually at fault, because things get so spun up. I would strongly encourage you to reach out to a local domestic violence center by phone. That would be a helpful first step.

  14. This blog has been really helpful for me to get an idea of what it’s like for someone who is in a relationship with a narcissist. Thanks for all the information!
    Someone I care about very much is in the process of breaking up with their narcissistic spouse. I was wondering if there are any resources available regarding how to best support someone in this situation (as a friend)?

    1. Hi Mandy,

      Such a great question, and there was a similar one asked on another post, which made me delve further into how someone might be able to help someone else in an abusive relationship.

      It sounds like the person you care about has already made a decision (often the hardest step), even though it often takes multiple attempts to get out. The most important issue for him/her is SAFETY. If you call your local domestic violence center, they could assist with the foundation of what is necessary when leaving a toxic relationship. And really glad that the blog has been useful!

  15. I am struggling each morning with the strong emotions of wanting to go running back to an unhealthy relationship. What is helping me the most is calling my support team. They talk my emotions through with me. Reminding me of the reasons I left. We discuss love , and remind me to stay the course.
    Stay strong … call someone you trust when you’re feeling weak ..
    Read as much as you can.
    Ask god for help.

    1. Monique,
      Sooo happy to hear that you have an EFFECTIVE support group that is helping you through this! And thanks for putting it out there, how important it is to have a community of people behind you!

  16. I’ve been in a relationship for 9 years now with two kids my partner is always accuse me of cheating and liying to him he always makes me feel guilty for things I did not nd he always told me he will leave me with kids and never come back. Sometimes he would cold me names and make feel I did something wrong. He don’t want me to work on befriend with ather people. And he want us to get married . We always fight becouse he always call me a cheating lier

    1. Alicia,

      That sounds like a very tough situation, for both you and your children…

    2. Alicia,
      Please flee from this man. You are not married to him. Your children may one day rise up and challenge you for keeping yourself in an abusive situation (based on what you have described).

      Worse still, that behaviour may well run off on your children and they may end up being abused or abusive in future.

  17. I have a question for those of you in abusive relationships… would you say you are obsessed with your partner?

    We are trying to work out if a colleague is being abused. He recently married a woman who openly brags that she is a gold-digger and asked two of us (his female colleagues) if we knew any guys with money in the area that we could introduce her to when he was out of the room. We’ve met her several times and she looks/acts like a sarcastic Jodie Arias. Not a nice woman.

    He used to complain that she told him he could never earn enough money for her and that now they were married half of everything he owned was hers. She quit her job and now mostly lives off him and spends all day either in the gym, smoking weed or drinking too much.

    Since they married he has gone from happy, energetic, confident to depressed, overly serious, anxious and constantly putting himself down. He will make comments about being stupid, ugly, fat, ‘screwing things up’, being the worst husband in the world, etc in meetings and looks like he’s aged a decade in the last year. Last month he came in with two black eyes and said he’d been fighting. This guy is the biggest nerd ever, not macho at all, and one of the nicest people. He’s also tall enough that most people would not bother starting a fight with him.

    Aside from that, the weirdest thing is that he has started mentioning his wife ALL the time, to everyone, in any conversation/meeting. It’s like he’s now obsessed with her. There are several married/dating people in our office and people very occasionally mention their kids/partner if it’s relevant. With him it’s constant. He also keeps telling myself and other women that we should hang out with her and be friends. Or he’ll invite her to work social stuff where no one else is bringing partners. Like he’s not allowed to do anything without her.

    It’s getting really awkward for the rest of us. We have to arrange any social stuff completely privately now, otherwise he will drag her along. And they just insult each other the whole time, which ruins it for everyone else. Or she will make sarcastic comments about whatever we are doing and wreck the mood. She’s just a generally toxic person.

    However, as annoying as it is for us, we don’t have to spend time around her (mostly). But we are concerned about him. It’s become a running joke waiting for him to mention his wife in a meeting. It can be something totally random like someone mentioning their holiday and he will respond with ‘oh, K wants to go there, you should talk to her about it’.

    Do any of you do this with your abusers? Is obsession with your partner a symptom?

    1. Hi Ella,

      Based on everything else you described in such excellent detail, it appears clear that your colleague is definitely in an abusive relationship. And yes, a fixation on one’s abusive partner is very common. Think of this as witnessing someone who has joined a cult, and be aware that your concern for his health and safety, while very kind, is unfortunately not going to be enough to easily get him out of this situation.


  18. I’m just reading some of these. It is so sad that you are all putting up with this toxic behaviour. Your worth is not defined by someone elses opinion. You are all worthy. I hope you all make the right decision. Noone can tell you what to do. Alot of you need to find yourselves again. Realise your worth. You are all stronger then what you think of yourselves. You are beautiful, you are loved.

    1. Hi Fern,

      Yes, absolutely. The hard question is, how?

      It’s not easy, and that’s what we are working on.


  19. Hello all,
    This is the first time I have vocalized all of this and it is embarrassing because I am mental health therapist and help others all the time, but I can’t seem to help myself. My boyfriend is going through a lot of trauma and stress, it has been getting worse lately and his treatment of me has worsened as he becomes more overwhelmed. I am being emotionally abuse, I know this logically and talk to my therapist about it weekly but I continue to stay,justifying his behaviors. I am moving to be closer to him in a week to a small town where everyone knows him as a great guy and businessman. If I leave I am scared to death I will be even more along then I already am because I have entered his territory. I have never had a social support, my family lives 9 hours away, and other than my therapist I have no one to turn to. I am so disgusted with myself for putting up with this and hate myself for continuing to do so. I know what kind of man he can be and I keep hoping things will go back to how they were not that he has gone to therapy… but it’s not. The whole situation is so complex and I feel I have no control, especially since I know live 5 minutes away and will consistently see his family, friends, and him. When things are good I really enjoy myself and I am afraid to lose that and go back to being alone.
    Thank you for listening. I didn’t intend it to be so long.

    1. Hi Angie,

      So much of what you say here resonates with SO many people in these situations. I’m going to contact you privately to respond in more detail to this post.


    2. Hi, can someone help me. I’m married to an abuser he mentally tortures me everyday I’m now self harming to take away the pain of the mental abuse. I can’t carry on like this I have no one I just want it to end.

    3. Dear Lisa,

      Just saw your comment today, or would have responded sooner. Please contact the Hotline at 800-799-7233 for immediate assistance,


  20. Thank you Lisa, I am a bit technologically impaired and have never been on this site until yesterday so please forgive me if I miss your private correspondence.

  21. I am in a similar situation as all of you. Married twenty-five years, four kids, one still at home. I realized that he has been abusive about three years ago. I am soooo tired and I just can’t take it anymore. I am working to get out but it will take awhile due to the financial situation he put us in, and blames me for. Read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. Get out. Just get out. It never gets better. I am a devout Catholic and was taught to stay in a marriage until the end. But when you fear “the end” may be when he takes your life, that’s not what is meant by “death do us part.” Go!

    1. Annie,
      Yes, the longer and more entrenched you are, the harder it is to leave. Financial is one of the top reasons people stay – somewhere between 75-90% of people say they can’t get out for this reason alone. And I love your last couple of sentences – so well-put. Good luck with the situation…stay strong,


  22. I am a survicor of emotional abuse, gas lighting, manipulation, control and his constant suicide threats. After.17 years of being married, I finally had the courage to leave with my 3 children. We left with just our clothes in my vehicle. It was the hardest thing to do but so worth it now. My children and I are healing still but we did it. I own my own house now. Bought everything in it myself on an EA’s salary. No work no pay. No spousal or child support. My divorce just went through and he has to pay mandatory child support now. We have shared custody of my youngest son but I am stronger now, I am no longer afraid to say no or voice my opinion. I have healthy boundaries in place. This was the hardest thing to do a year and 6 months ago but I AM RELIEVED I DID IT AND PROUD OF MYSELF! I met a wonderful man who my children and I love dearly. You deserve better!

    1. Natasha,

      BIG congratulations for everything. I’m going to get in touch with you directly about your story – so inspirational!


  23. Hi everyone,
    First – I am so sorry to hear that all of you are going through such hard times – believe me, I know the feelings you are feeling and the sadness and loneliness and anxiety associated with them. I pray you’re all holding strong during this time.

    I found this blog looking for support groups for people emotionally and psychologically abused. “Abused”… I never in a million years thought this is what I would one day say about myself, and use this word in such a way to describe the situation I’ve been through and still healing from. The man I met and “fell in love” with seemed perfect. He said the perfect things, did the perfect things, showered me with attention, made me believe that he was it. Until he Wasn’t… and he slowly started corroding my self worth and everything I am and everything good that I thought I was.
    Within months, he was my only support system, friend, family member, because everyone else was forced out so I could keep the peace and make sure he wasn’t upset with my attention going to anyone else. Everything I did, he knew about, every decision i made, he was part of or the reason for making the decision. Yet… I was never enough. Not ever.

    The insults and belittling started way before this- you don’t know how to talk, no one likes you, they tolerate you, you’re too fat to wear that. Lose more weight (I was skin and bones at one point), they hired you because they’re desperate, not because you’re smart. You’re retarded. I don’t agree with anything you say, because you’re an idiot. A retard. Who would listen to you. You’re a dog that doesn’t deserve scraps on the ground.

    I can continue on for weeks and months telling you all what this man put me through. And sad to say… he’d leave me, and come back dozens and dozens of times over the last 3.5 years, and I always took him back because I always thought “there is NO Way he’s really like this. He had a hard life. I’m trying to help him. He’ll change for me I know he will.” And most recently I learned… people like this never change… they only get worse with time. They are a black hole that you will never be able to fill as long as you live.

    I took him back last month, knowing the sadness and despair he’d cause, and he did, like clockworks. So I finally said enough is enough and told him to never contact me again.blocked him for good. And I deeply regret the names I called him while telling him the pain he has caused me because I am not him. Yet I stopped to his level, and called him nasty horrible names. The guilt and shame still eats me up at night.

    One of you wrote that it’s an addiction. You’re drawn to this person viscerally. And it’s so incredibly true. You really are. Your brain chemistry is actually changed. And it’s so hard to normalize it.

    But I also learned that loneliness is 100 times better than despair, knowing that someone like this will ruin your entire life. And I promise you, they will. The loneliness will pass, but when you put things in perspective and realize that despair, and sadness and fighting and and Constant anxiety and lies will corrode the very fabric of your being over time,— loneliness and sadness temporarily as you heal, are a small price to pay.

    Please stay strong. I cannot say my self esteem is anywhere to be found at this time. I have none. I have no self worth or belief in myself. In fact, I truly hate who I am and hate everything about myself. I can’t even look in the mirror without being disgusted. I don’t even know who I am anymore. But I know it will take time and effort to rebuild all of these things. And we must remain hopeful. I can truly say, there is a weight that is lifted off you when you take one step to take back control Of your life… no matter how small the decision. And you may fail and take them back or go back. But that’s ok. Because your eyes are opened each time. And strength will build each time. And you’ll realize each time you do deserve love and peace in your life. And The next time you stand up for yourself you’ll be closer and closer to making it permanent. Believe in yourselves and the strength you hold in you. ♥️

    1. Lori,
      Wow – what you describe here is EXACTLY how it is for so many people, and I’m so glad you’re out, though it sounds as though you are definitely still in the risky period.

      Please make sure to keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for emails about our “Lifeboat” course which will help you start to rebuild the obviously strong, confident, and independent person you were before all of this, as well as connect you with an emotionally supportive community of people going through situations just like this, as well as those of us who made it to the other side who will make sure to cheer you on.


  24. my parents are in a relationship like this and have been for 20 years. My mother comes crying to me about the hurtful things he says: he tries to make her believe the whole family is scared of her, that she ruined his life, that the neighbours ridicule her. He has an ingrained control over her friends, where she goes, what she wears, even forcing her to eat and drink alcohol when she really doesn’t want to. In their early relationship, he threatened her to kill her if she ever tried to leave, one time choking her on their bed. When me and my sister were young he almost crashed the car with us in it many times. Any problems he has- such as alcoholism, difficulty finding friends or inducing fear in the family- he reflects on my mother, making her feel worthless and unloved. She recognises all of this as abuse but is scared to do anything about it, believing that if she leaves he will find her and hurt all of us. My sister and I have tried to get her to leave but she’s holding out hope that he will get better. I really don’t know what to do.

    1. Dear “Rathernotsay,”

      You know, I just finished this past week’s blog on how a parent can try to help a teenager/adult child in a toxic relationship, and never considered writing one for a younger person whose parent is in a toxic relationship which can be just as, if not more, heartbreaking. As a child in this situation, growing up in a household where emotional abuse is present can be so damaging, because you and your sister are surrounded by these behaviors, and whether you like it or not, as they are “familiar” means that you and your sister are more likely to repeat them, and get into relationships just like this, without support.

      This is definitely not an easy situation, and there are no guaranteed fixes at all, but I do have a few suggestions. First, read my other blog on the effects of domestic violence on children (link below) and see if you can convince your mother to read it as well. We also did a video on YouTube called “The Top 7 Dangers of Toxic Relationships” which you can search for. Here’s the blog link:

      Next, if that has any effect (and it may not), sign up for our email list, as we are planning to do a short course related to this very topic later this month called the “Lifeboat” course, and will be sending out a lot of information on it in the next couple of weeks, which could be helpful.

      Lastly, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to see if they have any other ideas.

      Try to remember, though it’s no comfort, that this kind of abuse is deeply ingrained, so it is usually not effective to try to convince someone else to just leave. The whole thing often makes no sense to other people, and usually takes that person in the relationship’s own desire to change occur before anything can be done.

      Good luck, and hope that any of the above start to nudge things a bit,

  25. Hello Lisa,
    I left my narcissistic boyfriend if 1 year. I felt like I was dying inside, my soul could not bear any more torment. I didn’t realize that I was in an abusive relationship until he physically hurt me and I called the national Help hotline. I had been blaming myself the entire time; justifying his excessive jealousy, degrading/hurtful language, and what felt like constant anger toward me. He abuses prescription medication (Xanax) taking up to 3 pills a day. He also uses cocaine two days out of the week. When I asked him to get help for his addiction he blew up on me and denied that it is a problem. Now that I am gone, I am afraid that he will inadvertently hurt himself. I want to tell his mother about my concern for his well being. I love him in spite of the hurt he has caused me and do not wish him ill. Would it be retroactive for me if I made his mother aware of his addiction? I want to maintain above all that I do not relapse back into a relationship with him, but needless to say, his well being still worries me. Leaving was extremely difficult, but I have a strong support from my sister and brother in law. I am confused about what is the right step to take.

    1. Hi Ivone,

      The “blaming yourself” is all too familiar to probably most people in, or having gotten out of, a toxic relationship.

      My thoughts are that although you care for/ still love this person, you are going to do exactly what you already know will happen if you get back involved with anyone connected to him, and that is indeed “relapse back into a relationship.” It will again consume even more of your emotional energy, and whatever strength you’ve managed to regain since getting out. You would once again be putting his needs before yours and making his drama your own.

      Big congratulations to having managed to physically extract yourself, but it sounds as though you are still very emotionally connected. Definitely keep an eye out for information on our “Lifeboat” course coming out next month, which gets into exactly some of the issues you are struggling with here, and can help you understand exactly what’s happening so that you can best protect yourself and not keep repeating the cycle.

      Hope this helps,

  26. I’ve been with my boyfriend for about two years and I am confused on somethings. Like the other day he hit me for the first time. It was a playful hit on the back and then I got upset and yelled at him and he got mad and like it my face and went to go punch me but instead he choked me…later on I walked away but then we talked and he said he was sorry and that he’s going to learn to control his anger and I told him we aren’t getting back together but I’ll be his friend for now cause he does want to get back together. Is it wrong of me to give him another chance in the future if he proves he has changed and he won’t hit me again?

    1. Dear Chana,

      Without knowing any other details of your relationship, the fact that you have already been choked by this person does not seem like a good foundation for a healthy relationship, especially as it was bad enough for you to already break up with him. Trust yourself – you know the answer to your own question.


  27. Hi Lisa,

    My ex bf of 2 years was staying with me for lockdown. All was going well while he was at mine until I caught him several times watching porn and explained that I felt uncomfortable about it and asked him to not watch it or go back to his own apartment. He agreed he would stop watching it and that he wanted to stay with me. Some days later my ex bf wanted sex but I wasn’t in the mood so he then got his phone out and began to watch porn in front of me while we were in bed together. I was shocked and left the room. My ex bf didn’t apologise for his actions until I brought it up later. I felt he was dismissive and he played it down as an immature impulse. I asked him to leave but he apologised and said he wanted to stay to make amends for what he had done. I let him stay but instead of making amends he carried on using porn and even used it when he knew I would catch him. I became very distraught and asked him to leave.

    Since leaving he became angry because I still wanted to talk about what had happened when he stayed at mine and the more I pushed for answers he became cold and distant and gave me the silent treatment. He also at one point told me I bring out the worst in him. Because I continued to ask for a reason for his behaviour he then threatened to end the relationship. By this point I have become extremely angry and lashed out verbally then after losing my temper it was used against me. My ex bf followed through on his threat and ended the relationship with the reason being we’re just not good for one another.

    I agree the relationship is toxic but I feel confused like this is somehow my fault and if I hadn’t said anything we would still be together. My ex bf has since apologised and has finally acknowledged his behaviour was wrong but he no longer wants to be with me. This is painful to accept and I feel like I have been punished for something I didn’t do although my ex bf insists he hasn’t ended the relationship to punish me but this is for my own good. He is cold and detached there is no affection in his voice and I even feel like he is bored of talking to me which really hurts after we have been together for 2 years. I am hurt and confused and I am beginning to wonder if he is abusive. We have had many problems during the relationship prior to this but this is the worst he’s treated me. I feel like I could be misjudging him or have treated him too harshly. My question is do my ex bf actions seem abusive or is he just being immature and reacting badly because he feels ashamed for his behaviour? This is the reason he has told me. I would be grateful for any advice.

    1. Dear Ella,

      Here’s what I’m hearing in what you said:

      1) Your bf ignored your completely legitimate feelings about porn, multiple times, and continued to watch it — even right in your own bed next to you!

      2) Though his behavior seems clearly in the wrong, he has successfully managed to convince you that instead, it’s all your fault, which is the classic and common goal of most these kinds of people, which allows them to continue doing whatever they want.

      3) You lost your temper after having your legitimate feelings completely ignored, and he is now using this episode against you to justify silent treatment and a sudden breakup; please read my other blog on the topic of the “narcissistic discard,” as I’m guessing that this is what you may be experiencing:

      Does any of this sound familiar?


  28. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question and the link with further information. The clarity you have used to described the situation has helped me to stop doubting my feelings that my ex bf was and is abusive. I have read the break up and the discard blog and realise this has been happening throughout our relationship and is getting worse not better despite my efforts for things to work he finds someway to undermine my efforts and then the pattern is devalue, discard, normally he does not hoover as I am always desperate to put things right and be back in his ‘good books’. I cannot tell you how your words and this website has been a life line and I feel much stronger moving forward standing in my truth.


  29. I know it’s long but it’s worth a read as it’s full of drama. 🙂
    I will share the details with timelines. And m from India(this info matters, you ll know why)
    Apr 29,2017 – engaged
    His mother is single, typical example of narcissism. Father is no more, expired in feb, 2013.
    He told me his mother is insecure and everything about his son giving importance to someone else. So he won’t call me once he is back home from office. I came back from US in Aug, 2017 to be able yo meet him more and all before wedding. But he won’t meet me until his mother asks him to do. I can see he loves me a lot but still he would give me reasons like it would upset his mother and he wants her to get prepared for future so she should herself ask him to go meet her(me). She insulting me for calling her once while she was watching movie(at home)and she said i disturbed her. She insulted my family for not giving enough to her relatives. Still we dumb people couldn’t see all these red flags
    Dec 10,2017 – married
    1. MIl – She would make me work like maids. I am earming girl with a wow IT job. My husband couldn’t say anything much but still he tried
    2. I couldn’t go to my room until 11 in the night
    3. We were not allowed to go or come back from office together. My husband still did it without letting her know, and dropping me near house so as not to upset her
    3. She asked for money -like why your parents have give any cash to you? He would justify her these actions by saying that she wanted to make you feel good that your parents should give you money as you ll feel good after then.
    4. He would ask her if i could go meet my parents, brother(who love 8 miles away) and she would say no. He would fight but eventually he had to subside.
    After 6 months – while he was nice to me, he completely changed. He would say it’s all my fault and my parent’s fault to not agreeing to her illogical ways aa it ll give her some ego boost and she LL LET ME GO MEET MY PARENTS and etc.
    After many many many non sense things – i left him on Jan 8, 2019. He and his family apologized and owned every mistake of theirs. I went back on Jan 20,2019.
    1. He started his behavior of pleasing his mother.
    2. She once yelled at me as door was locked – and yeah he won’t lock his room as it ll upset his mom. So our door would be locked only during sex intercourses and he would do that so lightly so that his mother wont know that room is locked
    3. His mother went to US to his daughter and his behavior totally flipped more. He asked me that i would be the one spending now as he has lot of debts because of his mom and her shopping spree. (Note i had given him 6 lacks till then for daily spendings for last 16 months). I flipped but still ended up spending next 6 months including his pocket money. He earns 20k more than me. He gave me silent treatment for 4 months or more becquse I didn’t call his mother and sister daily. (I used to do it on occasions only). And when his mother came he was all good with her and everything and gave her 1.5 lakhs for whitewashing the house. Until now he was telling me daily, transfer me money.
    P.S. he would not hold my hand or kiss him because i would talk all happily with rest of his family and will do just formality with his mother.
    He would good bye kiss his mother not me as he is upset. It went on for months and months.
    And yes i was not outright judgmental about her. I pleaded and put up with all emotional tortures for more than a year and that is when i stood up for myself and he and his sisters didn’t like this either as he said had i been like before, his mother ego would have been satisfied and things would have been good.
    Also i have seen them in weird positions like she spooning him while taking a nap in the afternoon.
    She would hold his hands while in the car like a couple. And yes it can be just her and her who can sit on front seat with him. He would fight with her on this but then tell me it’s okay because she is single
    He would say that he ll live 3 days with me and 3 days with her when i insisted on living separate from her.
    There is something weird in their relationship.
    Dec 6,2019- i left him again
    Now he has been apologizing a lot. A lot like never before. But m unable to trust him though i think i still love him. I do think of going back when i feel lonely.

    1. HJ

      Sorry for the delay in responding – our server changed and emails have been down, so just saw your story for the first time tonight, but it appears as though you’ve gotten even more clarity in just the past few days, so I’m glad to hear that the article and others’ comments have helped you move forward!


    2. Thank you for replying Lisa… yeah i noticed my story came up online little late. It’s okay, i understand network glitches. All i wanted to ask – m i doing right?

    3. When we begin the Lifeboat and membership program, probably in July, there will be an opportunity for more discussion, as we interact directly and can learn more about people’s individual situations. But at this point, there is no way for me to answer that question. 🙂

  30. Thank you ss for your comment wherein you said things about trauma bonding. I think m okay without him.

  31. I just recently admitted to myself my mother hates me. Nothing I do is good enough and she has stolen my life. when I left my abusive fiancee she was mad at me. its like she wants to see me unhappy. Ive tried no contact but my wish for her love is so strong I keep calling once in a while. Today was the day I want to say goodbye but why is it so hard.

    1. Dear T. Someone,

      Your words pain me, because I am well-aware of parents like yours, and how hurtful and disappointing dealing with them can be.

      Unfortunately, you already know why it is so hard…because it’s your mother. A parent is supposed to love you unconditionally, and it sounds like you have been aware for a long time that it hasn’t felt like she does.

      This is too big of a topic to be addressed in a blog response comment, but in our upcoming Lifeboat course, one of the first three topics we will be addressing deals with is “repeating the cycle” of toxic relationships, and how to help stop this. Much of what we do and who we choose relates to our childhood experiences, and how our parents and families have influenced our behavior and choices.

      I hope you consider how helpful an emotionally supportive community of people might be in dealing with this lifelong conflict, because it’s certainly way too difficult to navigate on your own…


  32. I have been married for about 8 months. My husband was a great boyfriend. He was kind, funny, caring, giving and outgoing. We both knew what loss was like. I lost my parents at a young age and he lost his father. The common ground was nice. I couldn’t believe my luck! After a series of bad relationships I felt that I found what I deserved. Both so happy we gladly and quickly got married within 2 years of being together. After our wedding in October within days he became a person I no longer recognized. I sold my home right after we wed. He expressed that now we are married he wanted the focus on us building a life together (which was very hard for me). My foundation was important as he knew my struggles. I wanted to rent but to him having my home rented made him feel like I had a back up plan and he was hurt by it. He expressed that my focus should be on us building a life together. We then agreed that we’d both sell our homes to get something bigger together. Trying to be understanding I took the plug and sold my home. He did not sell his as his mother expressed that it would be wiser to stay at his to save. I soon began to regret my decision. 3 days after our wedding we got in a car accident. We were driving his grandfathers car home after we used it for our wedding. When the accident happened my husband left the scene to run and grab him mom who was a few blocks down the road. Leaving me there while the police and fire truck came. As the police office started to question me, I hear my husband yelling across the street with the mom rubbing his arm. He leaves his mothers arms almost as quickly as as I recognized him and runs over starts yelling at the guy that hit us saying that hes lucky. The police ask my husband to calm down that hed regret the threat that hes uttering to the guy that hit us. His reaction was as if someone died. Once the police leave and I exchange my husbands insurnace with the people who hit us (as my husband was no longer allowed to engage with them). Feeling exhausted we head home. The next day realizing the pain I had having to take time off work and see a specialist. I suffered a concussion and whiplash. This went on for a few months. Not able to do much I stay home to rest. As the months passed little signs surfaced. We had to push our honeymoon back due to the car accident. The day before our honeymoon I was out with a close friend getting a pedicure done and planned dinner with her to catch up. He called me asking where I was seeing that I have been gone for a couple hours. He called me a liar seemingly to try and ruin my time with my friend. Causing me so much anxiety I took a picture to prove where I said I was. Said that he didnt want to go on our trip anymore snd that hes not happy with me. He brought up something years prior that I thought was resolved. I didnt leave my time with my friend. I havent been out since our accident in October. I wanting to prove that I was trustworthy and I felt if I left it would show him that his behaviour was okay. When I got home I found him obliterated lying on the living room. He said that I made him drink blaming me for making him so unhappy yelling that he didnt want to go on our honeymoon anymore. Thats when I started to realize that the slop became slippery and fast. He yelled at me making feel like I did something wrong breaking me done to tears trying to understand what happened. I explained how I have planned for weeks and looked forward to spending time with him. We spent the night arguing for hours. The next morning we got up he acted like nothing happen. He quickly packed his things and drove us to catch our flight. It made me feel like I was making up the whole argument in my head. I didnt say a thing in our car ride. Trip was great we get home and the jealousy and anger starts showing more. When I have to work late he says accuses me of cheating. If I get a raise he says the only reason I do is because I’m female. Then covid happened. We are in lock down for a few months things are great again. When I start making time for friends and restrictions alleviate the fighting surfaces again. One night hes working nights so I tell him that I’m going out to my friends for a fire. He agrees. I get a text at 10 asking where I am and I question him why as he knows where I am. He blows up. Says I’m messy and disgusting that the house needs to be cleaned. I remind him that its Friday that because he wants things done on his terms doesnt mesn they wont get done that there is still Saturday and Sunday. He starts calling me non stop so I turn my phone off. I head home and go to bed without messaging him. He gets home from night shift waking me up from speaking loudly in the phone to someone at 7am. I make a coffee anxious for a reaction he says nothing. Again as if I made it all up in my head. I ask how his night was he says good. I ask if he wanted breakfast he declined. I make food for myself and then start cleaning. I jump in the shower and get ready but clesning at the same time. He barged in my closet asking me if I’m done cleaning I look at him confused and he grabs my hand pulls me to the kitchen pointing to crumbs left behind on a coffee table. Then the fighting began. He pushes me I push him back he pushes me again so I smack him aceoss the face telling him that I want a divorce. He tells me to get out of his house. So I go to my closet room to pack my things. He follows me cornering me. I tell at him telling him to leave me be and I grab an canvas and throw it on the ground so he doesnt approach me. He then calls the cops. I leave the house hesd to the police station where he pressed charges for assault and property damge unde 5000. I have to appear in court. Since he has messaged me multiple times begging for me back. I am now living in an Airbnb homeless and have no belongings besides for the few clothes I grabbed during our argument. I have one day to pack and move all my things and require a police escourt to do so. Now making the love of my life my biggest regret.

    1. Dear Shanna,

      Wow. Thanks for articulating exactly what’s been happening – I hope writing it down helped you see that your partner’s behavior is far from acceptable. What you described was very familiar to many of us here.

      What a terrifying experience. That car accident sounds like it not only disrupted your life, but really shook the relationship, and showed you what was underneath; from then on, the violence and emotional manipulation has just escalated. I’m so sorry that all of this is hitting you so fast, and wonder if you have any support – I hesitate to say more in just a public blog response.


  33. I’m sitting here looking up family therapy, signs of emotional abuse and the long term effects of growing up with parents who are emotionally abusive toward each other. I came across this website and I just wanted to talk to someone. I have a little sister who is 3 years younger than me, I have talked to her but I want to be strong for her. I am 23 and I can remember them fighting since I was little. The older I get the more it effects me. My dad is clearly emotionally abusive to my mom. He is extremely controlling and be littles her in front of other people. My mom stands up for herself sometimes but it does scare me because my dad gets so angry.

    Somedays I think I have depression due to being around my parents who fight, snap at each other, and basically act like they hate each other. I also think I have devoted anxiety from “walking on eggshells” all the time.

    For years I told myself “Once we both graduate, mom and dad will be getting a divorce”

    Both my parents think therapy is stupid, that people don’t need to talk to other people about their problems but even just being around my parents when they are fighting makes me so sad. They are both extremely stubborn as well. I’ve told them that alcohol is a huge part of why they fight but they refuse to believe and refuse to cut back.

    My parents love my sister and I more than anything. Many people have commented on how loving and amazing parents they are and how much they do for us which makes me feel guilty that I get so upset with them. I just wish they loved each other and could communicate effectively with one other.

    My boyfriend has noticed everything as well. He’s made comments to me saying he lost respect for my dad hearing how he talks to my mom. He also told me he would never speak to me the way my dad speaks to my mom. My boyfriend has also noticed I say sorry for everything even if I didn’t do anything or it isn’t a situation to be sorry about – I am unsure if that has anything to do with being around long term emotionally abusive relationships?

    I have never tried to summarize everything or how I felt. It has felt nice to spill everything out that is on my mind about this.
    I am just lost and giving up hope that my parents will ever change, I feel like I should tell them both that they do not need to stay together for my sister and I. If they want to get a divorce they should because it seems like they would be a lot happier.

    1. Dear Hailey,

      Thank you for writing in. I can feel the heartbreak coming through your message. It is obvious how much you love your sister as well as your parents, and you are trying to do whatever you can to make this situation better.

      I’m sorry to say, but the truth is that urging your parents to get a divorce is probably not going to work. Relationships – especially long-term marriages – are so complex, and there are a number of reasons why people stay. Your parents’ attitude about therapy sounds like they would not be open to huge changes at the moment.

      I wrote a blog article on the effects of growing up with domestic violence which I think you should read, as it may explain some of what you are feeling, which is very common for kids (and young adults) in households where abuse is present. Here’s the link:

      The main thing is to understand that the only person you inevitably have control over is you. This takes most of us decades to realize, if ever. Would you ever consider therapy or a support group for yourself? I think an emotional support group might be extremely beneficial, as you would realize that you are not alone, and learn from others how to help cope with such a difficult living situation.

      In the meantime, I’m so glad to hear that writing this down helped you feel better. As a writer myself who has kept journals since I was 13 years old, I have found writing things down to be extremely beneficial in finding clarity and feeling better. That’s another thing you can do – keep a journal. Just make sure you can protect your privacy.

      We are in the final stages of getting ready to launch our Lifeboat course and membership program, in case any of that might help you as well (if you’re on our mailing list, you’ll be seeing emails with details in the next couple of weeks). And if you need help with anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


  34. I have a question, I’ve tried to leave and he threatened a to kill himself, my question is how do I leave when he says things like that last time he was actually in the process of hanging himself, since that day I can’t bring myself to leave because I don’t want that guilt? Should I be worried about this?

    In the beginning he was amazing, 2 years on after we where married things changed he punched holes in doors, blames me for everything and he can’t explain where money has gone and so on, for awhile I said because our son died, but 2 years on I’m running out of excuses I’m tired and sad all the time but I don’t know what to every time he threatens to kill himself saying he can’t live without me?

    1. Naomi,

      I am sure this is terrifying for you, and clearly you feel responsible. If he did kill himself, I’m sure you think it would be your fault, which is exactly what he wants you to believe.

      Someone who threatens to kill himself every time you try to leave is using it as manipulative tactic to keep you there. This is so common that we actually talked about it in our last video. My previous relationship threatened to kill himself as well (it’s been years since then, and he’s still alive and miserable), and LOADS of other people we have connected with have had the EXACT same experience.

      He might do it; he might not…but you must know that you are not responsible for a grown person’s life – he is.

      This very topic – Common Manipulative Techniques – is what we plan to cover during one of the segments of our upcoming Lifeboat course – and it’s because SO MANY PEOPLE voted it as one of the most popular issues people in difficult relationships often deal with!

      Stay strong,

  35. Just ended a seven month relationship which was on/off with a man I met through a dating site. I truly thought he was the one I had waited for all my life. I loved him, complimented him, respected him and was his confidante. He led me to believe the same. Sadly, I have come to realise that this was love bombing.

    Our chemistry and physical attraction was off the charts with a very sexually charged dynamic. Then at the first argument after a month, it started to go on a roundabout of push and pull. I somehow always ended up being blamed and apologising for everything, even when I was certain he had started it.

    He couldn’t make up quickly, rejected my efforts to make up and demanded that if there was to be a future there could not be any arguments. Impossible, right? Everyone disagrees from time to time. I realise now that what he actually meant was he could be as hurtful, mean, indifferent as he wanted and I should not respond or defend myself, or point out what he had done wrong. He got very mean during arguments, saying incredibly hurtful things a person who loved you would never say.

    Lots of little insidious things that I look back on now and shiver. Comments about make up, and clothes, ghosting me in our long distance relationship for days, recently he slapped me for “hurting him” – physically (I didn’t) I am still shocked by that. He would argue then walk away from me when out and leave me trailing behind like a hurt fool. Calling me a drunk, menopausal psycho. He would go in very black moods leaving me feeling quite lost.

    Saying things like I would never find anyone as great as him again. Running down and mocking my interests. Going to bed alone when I was visiting. He held on to a minor argument that four days later led to him dumping me on my birthday. Then reconciling again, I caught him online on a dating site. Laughing and mocking me when I cried. Lots more. I was emotionally drained, confused and bewildered at the treatment I got.

    I know I didn’t deserve it and I know I’m better than that. I still feel attached and wanting him, (but the him he used to pretend to be at the start) but I know I will never go back now. I mourn that I truly loved him but it wasn’t returned.

    His last long term relationship had broke down badly and his story was she falsely accused him of coercive control, he was arrested but not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. Not the story he spun me, she was lying, manipulative and crazy. I should have ran at that red flag. I took his version as the truth, stupidly…

    I just find it disappointing that when you accept someone’s flaws and mistakes and want to love them, they’re just not capable of returning that love without feeling they have grind your self esteem into dust. If he had treated me right, I’d still be there.

    People, love should not hurt, it should make you feel valued, cherished, safe and secure. Not tears, second guessing and begging for affection. See the red flags waving and get out, never look back. It will never get better, and they’ll never put you first. I’m heartbroken but I know I could never be safe with him.

    1. Dear Disillusioned,

      This is so well-written and relatable – I was right there with you with all the details, because many matched my own experience! You have also have done your research on the vocabulary connected with abusive relationships.

      Saying that you “should have ran at that red flag” is a mistake though – the majority of us defers to what we think is true. Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell came out with a book which I recently read called “Talking To Strangers” which touches a lot on the idea on how most of us, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, will still figure out ways to rationalize that another person – especially someone we respect or trust – MUST not be lying. The book has gotten mixed reviews, but I found a lot of it fascinating, especially in the context of emotional manipulation.

      I’m curious if you’ve been able to find others who can relate to your experience; as you just ended the relationship, even though your brain clearly understands why you shouldn’t, you may be tempted to go back. Hope you have emotional support, and if you need more, we are (fingers crossed) preparing to launch our membership which includes an emotional support community and Lifeboat course within the week, so stay tuned…


  36. Hi I am just out a 19 year toxic relationship my ex used to call me horrible names ,didn’t let me see my family or friends he was taking weed ever day spend all the money on weed and made me buy less food ( we have 5 kids together) he had it in his mind that the world was out to get him he was Aggressive towards Neighbours and me and my children if I was allowed out he phone me every 10 mins asking when am coming home accused me of cheating told my kids I was the Abuser would want sex when he wanted it and if I said no he get Aggressive he force himself on me a few time after I told him no, my daughter so like her dad and am very scared for her

  37. This is really hard to write am just out a 19 year toxic relationship we have 5 children together at the start it was good but he had a drink problem and would come home drunk and that’s when the horrible names started he was aggressive towards me and my kids he would hit us but manly with me it was emotional abuse I would kick him out but he would manipulate our children to let him in it got worse when he started watching David Ick then the name calling would be so bad I was a mess my head was fucked up due to the abuse when I was pregnant with my last daughter he would tell me to have a Abortion even when she was born he would say u should of had abortion he would put my cooking down and spend all money on Marijuana and tell me to take it easy on food shopping he never helped with kids to the point my 3 youngest got put into care for lack off going to school and what was happening in the house I still wasn’t strong enough to leave I have really bad anxiety and panic attack and depression I finally had enough about 9 months ago when he was bad mouthing my daughter after a contact with kids my 3 kids want nothing to do with there dad I am working on getting them back , my oldest 2 don’t talk to me my oldest daughter is so much like her dad and my son is stuck in middle because when he see me when he goes back to dad he is bad mouthing me ,I am finding it hard to become the person I was before I ever meet there dad it very scary

    1. So much of this abhorrent behavior is all too common, and what’s even more terrifying is seeing certain traits present in your own children.

      I hope you are able to find yourself again,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *