Verbal Abuse
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Emotional abuse can have long-lasting effects, leaving scars and bruises on a person's psyche.  This type of relationship abuse is difficult to pin down, and often goes unrecognized.  Psychological abusers are cunning and subtle, but there are ways to spot a potential abuser by paying attention to the signs and symptoms within yourself, as well as looking for the early warning signs below.

The Red Flags


Commitment Driven

The abuser cannot live without a victim, and so will do everything in their power to net their prey.  They will promise you the world, while subtly pushing for commitment, such as by saying "I love you" weeks into the relationship, or asking to move in together.  Once the honeymoon phase is over, they will continue to ask for more commitment from you by demanding all of your time and attention.


Abusers will twist words and say anything so they come out on top.  What may start out as "white lies" early in the relationship, will turn into lies and denial later on.  Abusers will lie about previous conversations you may have had together, and will deny actions or poor behaviors they may have done in the past.  They may also lie about where they're going, who they're seeing, and what they're doing in an effort to keep you confused and in the dark.


The abusive partner is a jealous partner.  They will become upset when you spend time with a family member or friend, and will likely punish you for it later.  To the abuser, you are their property, and any contact you have with the outside world is a threat to their way of life.  Having friends also makes it more difficult for them to control you and your perception of reality.


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The abuser truly believes they are the victim.  Abusers also believe no one has ever been there to help them, and thus feel they deserve special treatment, as if the rules do not apply to them.  During arguments, they will accuse you of being the abuser, and claim they are the only one comitting to the relationship.  Furthermore, if they feel they are being treated poorly or not up to their high standards, they will demand apologies and compensation; they will punish you if you do not meet their demands.   They resent other people, and feel that they are vastly superior to others.


"If she would just do as I say, then I wouldn't have to retaliate."  Abusers will never take responsibility for their feelings and poor behavior, as they will claim others made them act poorly.  The emotionally abusive partner feels they are always in the right, and will blame you for every problem in their life and relationship with you.

Pettiness or Hypersensitivity

Abusers are hypercritical of their partners, and their complaints often seem petty.  Abusive partners are also hypersensitive, as any small issue could cause the abuser to lose their cool.  Because of their hypersensitivity, it may be difficult to understand why they are so upset, and the abuser's reactions will often catch you off-guard.  With time, you may find yourself walking on eggshells or avoiding issues in an effort to prevent the next verbally abusive blow up from your partner.

Tactics of an Emotionally Abusive Partner

Examples of Psychological Abuse
Credit: Jan Sutton

And Most Importantly...

Stay safe!  Even if your abusive partner has not yet physically hurt you, there is always potential for the abuse to escalate.  Develop a safety plan, and do not let your partner know you are planning to leave, as they will do everything in their power to keep you under their control.  The Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, and offers a plethora of information and resources.  There are also great support groups available online, such as at


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