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Five Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and while most women would agree that physical violence has no part in a love relationship, what are more subtle signs that you are not being treated well? Where do you draw the line between ordinary arguments and emotional abuse? Here are some definite red flags:

1. He’s moody … not just every once in a while, but most of the time. You never know what mood he will be in, or what you did this time to upset him, but he is always sure it’s your fault. Consequently, you find yourself walking on eggshells trying to avoid problems, but it never seems to work. You feel a knot in your stomach whenever he is around you.

2. He’s contrarian. No matter what you say, he says the opposite. It’s always black or white with him. He never caveats his views with “I think” or “In my opinion.” He doesn’t show interest in how you or others see the world. He may call you dumb or naïve or otherwise try to undermine your self-esteem.

Interestingly, while he belittles you in private, he may be quite the charmer in public. This is extra confusing, because none of your friends or family are able to validate what you’re experiencing.

3. He’s mistrustful of you. He’s always suspicious. He says you do things just to harm him. He says you flirt with other men, even though you don’t.

4. He’s unapproachable. You’ve tried talking to him about the problems with your relationship. You’ve tried to tell him how he makes you feel. Every time it’s been a disaster … so you’ve stopped.

He repeatedly blames you for all misunderstandings, mocks your concerns and throws them back in your face. Now, editing your thoughts and second-guessing yourself has become second-nature.

5. You feel stuck. The best way to describe your feelings is “confused.” You aren’t happy, but you’re not sure of your alternatives.

You’ve become an expert in trying to see the world from his point of view. You have a lot of empathy for him and think that with your love he will change, if only you hang in there long enough

Now, I don’t know your particular situation and cannot tell you if your boyfriend falls into the abuser category. But, if you recognize yourself in these above examples, you should know this is not normal and it’s not okay.

So, where do you go from here? Plan your next steps wisely. Educate yourself about emotional or psychological abuse. Seek the counsel of family, friends, clergy, online forums, professional counselors/therapists and other resources local to your town.

Keep in mind that abusive behavior typically has a circular pattern, so even if things seem better this week, the tension may soon build up again, eventually erupting into ugly arguments and the cycle begins again. Don’t assume that things will get better on their own. Often, they tend to get worse over time and might even cross over into the realm of physical attacks.

Trying to preserve things as they are in the name of harmony is simply not in your best interest.

For more information, visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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