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Fighting is an inevitable part of most marriages and long-term relationships. Most couples simply do not agree about everything. However, there is a difference between getting into a squabble with your partner and facing emotional abuse at the hands of the one you love. Unfortunately, emotional abuse tactics can be subtle, and this line is not always clear. If you are questioning whether you are experiencing emotional abuse, you should watch for certain behaviors.

Some behaviors are not emotional abuse

Before addressing what emotional abuse looks like, it is important to understand what behaviors are not emotionally abusive. Yelling at a partner is common during an argument. Though it is unpleasant, a raised voice does not necessarily mean you are facing emotional abuse. In general, disagreeing with your partner is not considered emotional abuse. If your partner says something brutally honest that hurts your feelings, this is also not usually viewed as emotional abuse.

Beware of these signs of an emotional abuser

Most of the time, your partner will be unaware that what he or she is doing is considered emotional abuse. Emotional abusers often feel insecure, so they seek to control other people. They may also be self-involved and lack empathy. Your partner may also require a lot of emotional support and refuse to respect your boundaries.

Behaviors that indicate emotional abuse

According to Psychology Today, emotional abusers may try to assert control by criticizing their significant others and suggesting who they can and cannot spend time with. Generally, a partner that is overly controlling of your behavior is a red flag for emotional abuse. Here are some other actions that may indicate you are facing emotional abuse.

  • Screaming at you during a verbal tirade
  • Trying to keep you isolated from friends and family
  • Belittling or criticizing your behavior or appearance
  • Calling you names
  • Threatening to punish you for your behavior
  • Constantly checking in via text or calls to find out where you are
  • Punishing you by using the silent treatment or withholding affection
  • Consistently interrupting you while you are talking or talking over you
  • Berating you in front of other people
  • Refusing to accept responsibility for his or her actions

Refusing to accept responsibility for their actions is a common tactic for emotional abusers. When you try to confront your significant other about problematic behavior, he or she will deflect your criticism by suggesting you do not know what you are talking about, or maybe that you are being too sensitive. This is known as gaslighting. It causes you to question how you are interpreting a situation, and it can lead to feelings of insecurity and doubt. Gaslighting also prevents the emotional abuser from admitting they behaved badly.

There are techniques you can use to deflect emotional abuse and perhaps stop it from reoccurring. You may also want to reach out to a therapist, who is trained to help people deal with issues of emotional abuse. If you are facing long-term emotional abuse from a spouse, it may be time to think about whether you want to remain in your marriage.