And then there was Emotional Abuse...

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

Too many women - and men - don't realize that domestic violence does not only entail being beaten up black and blue. Perhaps the physical expression of domestic violence, as bad and horrible as it may look, does not have such lasting effects as emotional abuse.

Unfortunately, in many cases neither the abuser nor the abused, realize what is happening. And I am not one to have all the answers, but from my observations and experiences, there are some things I can share that could be enlightening to people who continuously feel bad about themselves in their relationship and don't really know where it comes from, or how to label it.

To start with the abuser: in many cases emotional abuse is the result of a deep inferiority complex within the abuser. There are many men - and women - in the world who feel that they are worthless, and take it out on the one they love most: their partner. And, as stated before, oftentimes they are not even aware that they are doing it.

Here's a scenario to consider: take a person who has always felt bad about him- or herself, due to whatever reason. On a blessed - or not so blessed (depending on whose side you perceive it from) day - this person meets a nice other one, and they fall in love. As soon as the initial ecstatic splendor is over, real life and real personality surface: the person with the low self esteem, the aspiring abuser, starts suspecting every move of his or her partner, the aspiring abused, unable to comprehend his or her fortune to have run into someone so well-balanced, smart, and righteous.

And here's where the lose-lose experience starts for the abused: say something, you're doomed; don't say anything, you're damned. The abuser will do anything in his or her power to crumble his or her partner's personality, because he or she perceives that to be the only way to remain in control. The general train of thought in this case is: "If I can make my partner feel bad about him- or herself, he or she will neither have any appetite to be his or her sparkling self, nor think that there's anything better available than me."

And thus has the downward spiral for the abused person started. What makes it even gloomier: the abused often doesn't realize that he or she is actually being abused, and keeps blaming him or herself for everything that's wrong: "I'm immature," "I'm a blabbermouth," "I'm shallow," "I'm insensitive," "I'm egotistical;" you name it.

All these thoughts, that were never there before this person met his or her abuser, are now regular parts of the abused person's day.

The effect? Such an abused person may never get out of this situation, for the very fact that he or she does not acknowledge the nature of the relationship as abusive; or because he or she is too embarrassed to bring it up to the parents, friends, or siblings that had warned him or her long ago about the character of his or her partner.

Now, let's see if we can come up with some typical signs of an emotionally abusive bond. If you agree with the majority of the below-listed points, you may want to reexamine the quality of your relationship:

The above points are just the tip of the emotional abuse volcano, and I'm sure that many people who have experienced or witnessed emotional abuse can add numerous additional points.

But if you are the victim of emotional abuse, you should realize that your partner will never admit that he or she is an abuser, and definitely not that he or she needs professional guidance. On the contrary! He or she will always tell you that you're the weak one in desperate need of help. And you know what? Your partner is right! For no one should allow him or herself in such a relationship. Not even for a day!

Remember: every relationship you engage in with another should add to the quality of the relationship you have with yourself. If it is not, you should discard this acquaintance and move on. Life is short. Please, make it sweet too!