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Just_Justine's avatar

Did you ever have a relationship with a person who was emotionally abusive?

Asked by Just_Justine (6481points) March 27th, 2010

I had a long term relationship with a person whom, when looking back I realize was emotionally abusive. It is like anything in life slow insidious and you are not aware until the late stages. When things have gone so far. I was not allowed to speak to anyone without permission, if people looked at me, I was in shit, I tried to go to work, but such drama ensued that we nearly had a physical fight. Jealousy was the order of the day. I became isolated from friends so I had no escape. I was not allowed friends, if people came to visit they were “iced” and left quickly.

I realize today, that I never got over this relationship as I have never had a permanent one since. I mean as a live in partner. Have you experienced this and how did you heal, or are you still battling?

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51 Answers

Mikelbf2000's avatar

Not a sexual relationship. I have however been around people who were emotionally abusive

Response moderated
dpworkin's avatar

My former wife was abusive, and I eventually needed therapeutic assistance to leave the relationship. It’s never too late to get help. I suffered for a long time.

meagan's avatar

I’m the emotional abuser. I had a boyfriend who made me the other woman in a relationship I didn’t even know existed.

I ruined his life with a smile on my face.

PacificToast's avatar

I had a friend who manipulated anything I told her to be negative and burn my reputation. She ridiculed anyone I hung out with when I could have been hanging out with her. A few years ago I realized this and got counseling to leave the relationship.

Just_Justine's avatar

@PacificToast I know exactly what you mean. Everything you say is twisted, until you yourself get confused about how you started at point A and landed up at point L. I’m happy you moved on and sorted it out :)

janbb's avatar

Aside from my mother, you mean?

Lothloriengaladriel's avatar

I was in a very long 6 year relationship with a person who was extremetely emotionally abusive, Making me feel like I was nothing witout him, and that I couldn’t do better, After that relationship ended I got into another relationship the lasted around 2 years on and off and he was a good talker that made me feel super low all the time without even trying, I don’t think I’m that bad of a person, I just don’t think I’m strong and people I choose to have a relationship with can see that.

Seek's avatar

My mother, my stepfather, my mother’s family, my stepfather’s family, my church….

I have my husband now, and my son. They are my family. I have cut all ties with the abusive culture, and I live to please myself – not those who simply desire to make others as unhappy as they are.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Lothloriengaladriel It kind of goes back to part of the women staying with losers question. Men have all kinds of levels of strength of character. Weak ones tend to be scared and they need someone to tear down to make themselves feel better. It doesn’t make you a bad person in anyway when you run into this type of person.

whyigottajoin's avatar

@janbb My mother too! She yelled at me daily when I was in puperty and was still living at home.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Yes, I have. I think my parents got the ball rolling, my dad being an emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic, my mom being emotionally abusive in her own way. They say sometimes you end up dating your parents to help resolve childhood issues, so then I went on to have a couple of emotionally abusive romantic relationships, one of which almost turned physical (I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten the door shut and locked in time). Both were women, so it’s not just men.

@Adirondackwannabe – It’s less simple than you think, the whole “women staying with losers” thing. They don’t start out abusive, usually.. because how could they suck you in and make you want to stay if they did? So, you start out and they’re charming and sweet, and over time, you fall into their trap. That’s when they start in on fucking with your head. It’s a slow, subtle process. In the beginning, you look back at their original sweet behavior and think, oh, it’s just a fluke. Then, before you know it, they have your head all twisted around, you feel beaten down and unworthy, you start questioning yourself and your value, and you begin to wonder who else would ever love you. It’s a total brainwashing mind-fuck, that if you haven’t experienced it, I’m sure looks absolutely pitiful and ridiculous from the outside. It feels completely different when you’re in it, when you’re the target, just trust me. In hindsight, it’s so clear what happened, but at the time I was so messed up in the head I believed it was all me. It’s a really evil thing to do to someone and I kind of would like to seriously hurt them both for doing that to me.

The first one had me so messed up that I literally almost did not make it out alive. I tried twice to kill myself, the last time was definitely a lethal dosage, yet somehow I came out entirely unscathed. Kind of miraculous, actually; the people at the hospital didn’t believe me when I told them how many/what pills I took, they said that if I’d taken that, I’d be dead. I was like, no shit, man, I did my research.. but here I am. After that, I took it as a sign that the universe wanted me alive and I gave up trying to kill myself and moved on in trying to repair the damage.

Unfortunately, the damage still lingers. It’s difficult for me to be in romantic relationships sometimes. I have trouble communicating, I find it hard to trust people, and my brain goes into panic mode when I think I see signs of what I experienced that first time. I’ve mostly gotten over it, I think, but the baggage is still there. Two girlfriends ago, she was pretty great most of the time, which I think I needed.. someone who was fairly even-keeled, who would listen to me 100%, would hear my side of things, etc. And then I met my last girlfriend, and the abusive pattern started all over again. Kind, wonderful, sweet, romantic during the first few months, then leading to a total mind-fuck where I couldn’t do anything right, it was all my fault, plus emotional volatility. However, I think my skin got thicker after that first time, plus the relationship ended soon enough to where I wasn’t as damaged.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I understand it’s a very complex situation. It’s just so far beyond my comprehension that one person could do that to another, It breaks my heart each time I see the words.

Exhausted's avatar

I was aware that my father was angry most of the time. As a child I thought he was a mean, mean man. He was hard, emotionally removed (except anger) and critical and hard to please. My mother seemed to be the “good guy” who was our best friend in our battle against the “mean man”. As an adult, I felt as if I were in abusive relationships because I chose emotionally removed men with relationship challanges that I had to struggle with. During my third, failed marriage, I went to counseling and had a lightbulb moment. I realized I was only a victim if I had no other choice. That lead to a journey to find the truth about my life. After years of hard work, I realized I was in abusive relationships, but that I was passive-agressive, choosing to twist my relationships into me being the poor female being mistreated by the “bad guy”. I twisted my circumstances into me being the victim. I chose bad guys so I could be “poor me”. I realized the reason I could not get along with my s/o’s was due to their frustration with my twisted need to be victimized. I realized my father was angry, but he had become that way from dealing with the source of my twisted life, my mother. I am so glad I was able to realize what I was doing and take responsibility for myself and what I had done to the people that tried to love me. Playing the victim is a safe place to be, because everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault. You are sweet, kind and loving, but your life is a mess b/c your “bad guy” is the reason for all your problems! How hard it must be to try and love someone that presents you to world as an evil person, while they sit and soak up everybody’s sympathy. That was my mother (she still is) and that was me, until a few years ago. I started accepting responsibilty for myself and what I had done to others. That eventually opened the way for a GOOD guy to want to share his life with me. I have to work daily, on not reverting back to my old self, (just like an alcoholic does) but since the moment the therapist told me I was only a victim if I had no other choice, my life has started moving in a better direction. I realized I was the abusive one.

annielorena's avatar

I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for over 5 yrs. The only reason I got out was actually another man finding me attractive, and giving me some myself worth back. He would not stop trying to “save me” until I left. I was at the lowest point in my life. I refer to the time as hell. Then my abuser started stalking me, and I mean REALLY stalking me. I would look in my rear view mirror and see him right behind me. His eyes staring me down. I would shudder every time I heard loud tail pipes, as he would stop in front of my house every night and gun his engine. Just so I knew he was there. I was scared he would try to kidnap me or possible kill me. So much so that I left my mother with complete descriptions of the vehicles I saw him in. she knew where I was at all times, when I would be home. If I was more than a moment late she would be calling me. I didnt go to the cops because I was scared of what he would do. I still struggle to find away to maintain a relationship. My boyfriend of 3 yrs broke it off with me last weekend. He said that he could not be in a emotional relationship with me anymore. Sometimes I still see myself as the girl the abuser made me believe I was. I still feel him in control of my life. I have to in those moments forgive myself for letting another human to treat me in such away. Forgive myself for the friends and family that I hurt by staying. I have to forgive myself for the things he had me do, and try to remember that I am an amazing individual.

MagicalMystery's avatar

if you ever look talk to a domestic violence counselor (i used to work with one so that’s how i learned the following) there is a pie chart that has different types of abuse (not just physical). on the chart are things like “negative joking.” negative joking are innocent sounding jokes (like teasing but negative and constant) that wear away at your ego. looking at the chart and thinking about past relationships i had made me realize i have been in some emotionally abusive relationships.

faye's avatar

I did for about 3 years but the first 6 mos he was lovely and charming. When he started on my kids it was over, my eyes opened! I had to change my phone number and I don’t think I’m over it yet- from 12–13 years ago.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

We should come up with another category of a response other than great answer. Maybe a heart we could send to each of the respondents to show our respect and support for them. It feels a little wrong to send someone a GA for these answers.

whyigottajoin's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Oh well, I’m sure they know how it’s ment when someone gives them a GA.

nebule's avatar

3 times over and still in counselling… I still get abuse off Theo’s father too. Men do not inspire me very much but I’m finally loving myself

nebule's avatar

thanks janbb xxx love you too

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Just_Justine – It’s OK. You’ll be OK. The knowledge that you have now will help you for the next time. You now know how such people try to manipulate their victims, and you won’t fall for it again, as long as you keep your eyes open, and treat yourself the way you want to be treated.

Also, while that person was abusive, 1) every person is not that way, 2) you are a worthwhile person who is worthy of loving companionship, and 3) what happened was yesterday. Today is today. You are perfectly capable of handling a relationship, don’t tell yourself the story that you aren’t. And sometimes, it’s sneaky, doing its’ dirty work by repeating the same thing in our brains over and over and over.

When that happens, tell yourself to STOP IT. Believe me. I’ve had to go through this myself. My tormentors in a very similar way were some of my maternal relatives.

Read this and this. They really helped me.

faye's avatar

They say loving yourself is most important- I find it a somewhat difficult thing to explain to myself and others.

lazydaisy's avatar

Yes, quite. I am ‘over it’ but still bear the scars.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Yes, years ago and it took 6mos out 8 to get away from that person. Just as you laid out, it was a process but very quickly escalated into something out of a The Living Channel movie. You will keep the scars but also the ‘nose’ for similar types and be able to steer clear from now on. Trust you gut!

Violet's avatar

I was emotionally and physically abused, and then he stalked me for a very long time after I finally left him. It happened about 3–4 years ago
I am far form over it. I have nightmares about it almost every night, I’m still paranoid. Every time I hear a noise outside at night, I think it’s him.

oreo45's avatar

Yes, I was in the same place, I read a book that helped me to leave ,and heal. The book was,
Dealing With Emotionaly Exsposive People. by Albrtt Bernstein, PHD.
Read as much as you can of self help books.

mollypop51797's avatar

I never have, thank the Lord, but I have a great friend who has. I watched him beat her up emotionally and almost physically. He would literally control her, everyday. He payed the taxes, he controlled the internet, he checked the history, he checked the phone bills. He wouldn’t let her leave the house (alarm system) etc. But everyday while he was at work, I would leave a not outside her door, and (we had a knocking code) and she finally got out of that when the police came and got him. She now moved, changed her name and is very very far away from him. She found the true love of her life, has kids, and we have always been there for each other through the good times and bad. Just know, that you always have the truest of friends right there by your side look after you, and it’s NEVER too late to get help.

MagicalMystery's avatar

when i was in my late teens i had a friend who was married to a schizophrenic, but she did not know it at the time. he used to beat her up – i saw him do it a few times, but i did not get involved because i would have been tossed around with her. he used to go to her job and just show up out of the blue. she had two children with him, then found out he was schizophrenic. one of her children became schizophrenic, too.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I want to throw this out there because it’s so common for people to ask, “why does she stay with him?!” Possessive, paranoid, control freak partners have got this thing about either taking and picking you up from work or showing up at random to draw attention to private drama, often jeopardizing our jobs. We need our jobs and sometimes “play nice” long enough to try and get some money put away in order to get away and it’s even harder for women with no family support and/or who have children they want to take away from the situation. We’re not all a bunch of brainwashed, weak and desperate ninnies, many of us are smart, independent and “normal” women who get taken in by deceptive partners who have their twistedness down to an art form.
done ranting

oreo45's avatar

As far as saving mony, my ex was so bad, he wold just take it, I was never able to save any. @Neizvestnaya you are absolutly right, its not as easy as some may think to leve.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I defaulted to lying, sneaking and enlisting friends and co workers to help me out, I figured I was a good cause. I would gather photos and momentos to box up and send away to my mother’s home, sold furniture under the guise of wanting “us” to start a home anew, hid money and created false debts to others so I could have them hold money. I didn’t have a car either so in the end I asked him for bits of his paychecks and took him to the dealership with me to put a down payment on one then and then snuck away when he was at work one day. It took a long time but was soooo worth it.

oreo45's avatar

My ex was of all things…a detective! so he was very good at being a bully.
The frist time I applied one of the tactics from the book I mentioned, I was sure he was going to push me to the floor, but to my shock, and relefe, he turned arond and left the room. This was the begening of my journy out of that nightmare. I urge any one in this situation to read that book.

davidbetterman's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr You rock girl! That is exactly what you need to do to escape abuse. Leave the abusers…

phillis's avatar

What confuses people isn’t just why women stay. It’s why they don’t get MAD.

I never understood that until I was able to look back on it. I was so caught up in the victimization that it never occured to me to be pissed off. If you don’t get pissed, you can’t fight back.

I was a child then, and continued to be that child well into adulthood by finding people who reflected that abuse that I intimately knew. As a child I took those punches. But as an adult, too? This is what confuses people. They don’t understand why you won’t fight back. That is why they think abused women are weak. And they’re right.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Women do get mad but anger can get you hurt and many times the bully punishes you by hurting others around you so sometimes it’s best to pay lip service, swallow your pride and plot towards the big escape picture.

oreo45's avatar

@Neizvestnaya This is most true when there are childern in the home!

phillis's avatar

Hmmm….okay, then :)

Seek's avatar


The hardest part about getting away from a lifetime of abuse, is recognising the fact that abuse is taking place.

Until an “outsider” finally stepped in and said “Wait, something’s really not right with this situation”, I had no idea what was going on.

I cut ties with my family in October of 2007 – I was 22 years old. I’m still just noticing some of the f-ed up stuff they did to me, and it will probably be another 20 years before I recover from the effects.

Everything that happens in your life (after escaping the abusers) reminds you of them. When I was pregnant with my son, I would sit for hours and cry over knowing that I wouldn’t have a loving mother in the delivery room with me, and that no one but my husband would be in my hospital room cooing over the newborn. When I watched the movie “Coraline” recently, the inattentive mother reminded me so much of my own mom’s attitude that I couldn’t watch it. Go figure, it’s my son’s favourite movie, and I’ve been subjected to it about a hundred times now.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – Not one of my firends wanted me to see Precious. They thought Mo’Nique’s beast of a mother character would trigger me. There were some similarities with what I’d gone through, but I was surprised that I felt more compassion than out-and-out loathing for the mother character. I only wished there’d be an social worker around asking me questions back in those days.

It does take a while to heal. One day at a time.

Just_Justine's avatar

@phillis I did get mad, but it was also a suppressed madness, so it turned into despair. When you get mad at an abuser you cause them to get worse really. For me it was not understanding what types of behaviours were right or wrong. Thinking love was possessiveness, thinking love was jealousy, that you were so important to them that they couldn’t bare you being with anyone else. It also started slowly, then got worse. But I did get out, and even in getting out I thought I still loved her. I just wish I had not allowed it to f-up my entire life thereafter. I am also angry that I have only realized it recently. I got a bad name I think in the lesbian subculture for loving and dumping. But it was my protection mechanisms. Now I just don’t date anyone. Sad really. But like @Seek_Kolinahr I came from a crazy home, where love was also shown in crazy ways. Some of us learn the hard way.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Just_Justine – That’s exactly how I experienced the anger, too.. of course I was angry, I was angry at them for so many reasons, but I could never express it because it just made things worse. When that anger couldn’t come out, I internalized it and it turned into despair and depression.

The second time, I was able to recognize it much earlier and kind of pacified her until I could get out. Hell yeah, I was pissed. All the time. I hated her behavior, her volatility, how she treated me, when it was all so ridiculously unwarranted. I’d wanted to break up for months, but financially, I couldn’t move out. I waited for her to break up with me and it was all so much easier when she thought it was her idea. I also lucked out that the perfect housing situation cropped up right at this time, so I had somewhere to go.

Just_Justine's avatar

@MissAnthrope I hear you. I also was in a financial trap. I wasnt allowed to work, I know that sounds ridiculous, but she went bonkers if I went for an interview. I became so drained that I gave up. Being drained by a person is the worse feeling ever, it saps you of anything. But I did get a menial job eventually, because she unbeknown to me had started to have an affair. So it was like I was planning my escape. It was so little that I earned I felt like a prisoner carving at the bars with a butter knife. But luckily she fell madly in love and threw me out!!! So the process was speeded up. I also lucked out on a cheap flat. But anyway the rest is history I did very well after that. Career wise, but I never had a relationship (real one ) since then. That was 14 years ago.

Fairylover78's avatar

I started seeing a guy in Jr. High when I was 14, he was so sweet and he was always doing nice things and made me feel so pretty and special…. 3 years later, I had no friends, I was only allowed to wear certain clothes, was not aloud to talk to anyone of the oppisite sex ( and beforehand, all of my friends were guys) he had my self confidence so low I hated myself. And in a relationship like that, it’s not like they start out that way, that’s how they get you…. It’s a gradual tugging at your mind and spirit until you break with out ever realizing what happened. With me, one day I just woke up. I snapped. I threw a clock at his head, when he refused to once again go to work ( I was working 10 hr days 6 days a wk and paying all our bills) I felt SO powerful, it’s like all of the courage and confidence I had was just waiting to break free again, I kicked him out and told him I was tired of giving and giving and giving and getting nothing in return. He never loved me, he loved that I was weak enough to let him comtrol me. At first I beat myself up, how could I be so stupid!! I decided to live for ME for a change, I dated a couple of guys, and as soon as they mentioned Love, I dropped them.. I associated love with what I went through and wanted no part of it. And then I met My Husband out of the blue… we were just friends, we talked about how much we did not want a relationship and screw all the drama…ect… After the first kiss, we talked about how ” I promise not to be one of those guys that tells you what to do or stalks you” and ” I promise not to be one of those bitchy girlfriends who calls a thousand times a day” ect… And then a week later he proposed, lol and the funny thing is, I never had a doubt in my mind, I knew in my soul that we were meant to be. 6 months after we met we married and it is now 14 years later. Everyone is different @Just_Justine but oneday you have to wake up. Remember that you are worthy of love and respect. Don’t be afraid to love again, just be more cuatious and be strong. You know the warning signs now, just keep telling yourself, I deserve better… don’t settle, when the right person comes along, you’ll know, just don’t rush it and go into every relationship with your eyes wide open and remember the first time you realise your not really happy, don’t do it…move on and keep in mind that no matter what that person did, how he/she made you feel, you are beautiful and worthy of only the best, don’t settle for less. I still carry some of the scars, it’s hard not to, it took me a long time to accept compliments from my husband and some days I still feel like he’s too good for me, but mostly, I realize that that’s the way it’s supposed to be… with the scars there is still some sef confidence issues, but I take the time to once everyday look at myself in the mirror and remind myself that I am worth it and eventually you start believing it. Don’t give up, live for you and find one great thing about yourself everyday.

Crossroadsgrl's avatar

yes, I just ended an emotionally abusive marriage, of 13 years, the last 3 being the worst.
it happens gradually, and in this case, YES, you hardly notice the subtleties at first, the bullying is VERY smooth and tricky and you’re so busy with kids and other situations, and GOOD things also in your life, that years can go by before you realize, WHAT IS THIS?!!, read and educate yourself that NO, this is absolutely NOT good, NOT kind, NOT anything I should be dealing with, and not anything my little GIRLS should feel I thought was okay..
It’s the hardest kind of abuse to PROVE, and what I’m experiencing is, many choose NOT to believe it, only to go with , “well, I can’t imagine him doing anything wrong he’s soo calm”

even upon realizing exactly what was going on, the manipulation-even involving my GIRLS which are they still mixed up from this crap, ...the deception, lies, the CONTROL,... the eventual isolation, ....still it took me about a year and half to get the strength, support system in place, and organization, to get OUT.
And if the catholics can’t forgive that, well….I guess theyd have to damn me forever

But not the God I know. The God I know will indeed give me and my girls a second chance.
As he will my ex husband, if he gets help, asks for repentance, and CHANGES.

Crossroadsgrl's avatar

Neiz….YES, you hit the nail on the head.

It’s as if the emotional abuse is ALL they have….all the LIVE for…and it seems that ONE person, can be their ONLY victim, appearing to the rest of their community as incredibly charming and normal—nearly making YOU look bad, like you “left a great marriage ” out of a mid life crisis.

I feel stronger than EVER in my life, and if there is anything I can do privately to help someone on this board get out or get advice or materials to read, I’m happy to do that.

Ladies don’t put up with this….make a plan, work the plan carefully, and leave.
Men same thing, get out !

peridot's avatar

I was with an abusive person for way too long. He never hit me, called me names, forbade me from working or having friends—those would’ve been red flags and I’d’ve run like Forrest Gump. His hidden hook was being an “eeyore”. Life and people were scary, everything (including his own body) was out to get him, nobody understood… fwa fwa fwa. I could never use his car to get around—“take the bus” was the response there—but when the scenario was reversed, he’d yell and scream that he was about to lose his job and loudly enumerate all the awful things that would result from that. Also, both his parents were counselors (he himself was a Psychology major for a while). So he was exquisite at mind-fucks and turning any legitimate complaint I had against me. When I left for the last time, I took the cat with me, over his protests that “she’s the only thing keeping me sane right now”. Uh huh. Man literally couldn’t keep a damn houseplant alive. If I hadn’t taken her, she’d have been abandoned when he moved a few years after I left. But yeah, that mentality is really hard to live with, especially when you’re an emotion-sponge like me. Thank ghod I finally nutted up and left permanently… best thing I’d done for myself for a long time. I’m still “the one for him”, of course (we do still communicate occasionally)... I’m just not buying that anymore.

For the record, yes—it does happen to guys, too. I’m glad for them that this sort of thing is getting more exposure; nobody should have to endure abuse. (Unless of course they like it, but that’s a different topic entirely… >;) )

Dsg's avatar

Yes I have…verbal and physical. Its not an easy thing to deal with. Both really mess with your thinking. I’ve heard people say that verbal can be worse than physical. I guess its because the hitting, kicking, throwing…goes away but the words hurt and linger for a long time. At first you think, he must have just been in a bad mood or it was my fault he reacted that way. So, the next time you blame yourself and you start finding yourself shutting yourself off from friends and then family. Its easier to stay with that person all the time rather than go out and have fun because you know when you come home, he will be upset about something. I went through this for 10 yrs….10 yrs too long. Then you start to notice, it is happening more and more frequently and you are constantly walking on egg shells. I finally broke the cycle about 3 yrs ago. I found myself emotionally ready to do whatever it was that I had to do. I had fallen out of love years ago and I couldn’t get it back. My therapist explained that the foundation to our relationship was broken and couldn’t be fixed. Pieces of the foundation kept falling off, the more and more he acted out. I have 2 children and he had done several things that weren’t acceptable and that did it for me. I had been seeing a therapist for 2 yrs and she helped me get strong and to believe in myself again. At that point I went to see a lawyer and started making plans. This was a 3 yr plan in progress, but now its done!! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you decide what you want to do. I’m a good listener. Take good care of yourself in the meantime.

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