How can I tell if I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship?
June 7, 2016 4:50 AM   Subscribe

Hi I’m a bisexual female in my 30s in a long-distance monogomous relationship with a man the same age. My boyfriend and I have been dating for 10 months now. We visit each other, talk every day, he is a charming, good looking man and our family and friends get along. However, there are some problems behind this surface and I am begining to wonder if perhaps we are entering into an emotionally abusive dynamic. Though he is funny with his friends, he suffers from depression and doesn’t seem to have the energy to charm me when we are alone. Often after a party he will stonewall me for having unintentionally embarrassing him and when I try to talk about it, he gets very defensive, and fights with me in an angry condescending tone, twisting my words out of their original context, mocking and belittling me.

This is complicated not only by the fact that I am the collared submissive in our DS relationship, but also that since we started dating I have also become a semi-professional dominatrix to pay my student bills. Though he was relucant at first, he has accepted this as a vocation of mine and imposed limits on what I could and couldn’t do. He has friends in the bdsm scene who are dominas and has even said he is proud of me. Nonetheless this has been hard on our relationship. Recently, he was furious when I recalled a particularly funny domming incident to MY friends when he was in the room, even though I am “out” about my job to all who know me well.

Lately I feel like I am walking on eggshells with him and everything I do triggers him. He reminds me of my own father, by whom I was verbally abused when I was younger, and I am beginning to wonder how to qualify this dynamic and if it is partially my own fault. I am loud and outspoken and I know sex work isn’t exactly peachy for most relationships, but the recurring fights are exhausting me emotionally. I want to give him an ultimatum to see a therapist or im out but I’m also worried that this will backfire-he will accuse me of trying to act like a victim and a progressive martyr, that his behavior is normal given my wrongs and that I am “gaslighting” him, which he has told me before. My friend says he is a controlling and conservative guy obsessed with his image of being progressive. But he has never physically harmed me, and he hasn’t called me any particularly bad names. I know it is normal for couples to fight. Am I just overreacting?
posted by jacobnayar to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't quite feel it's my place to declare whether it is abuse, but it certainly isn't good for you, it certainly isn't fair on his part, and it certainly sounds like it is making you unhappy. Which is reason enough to act.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:54 AM on June 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


No! You are under reacting! You feel belittled and unheard. You're wondering what your part is in a very negative communication style.

These are signs that your relationship is not working. You should feel like your partner is your team, not the enemy. You can dump this person and consider therapy. Or you could try therapy to try and fix this relationship but your description really makes it sound like this guy treats your poorly. I would dump him now!
posted by Kalmya at 4:59 AM on June 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


How considerate of him to reveal his true colours before you waste any more of your precious time! You deserve someone who adores you, not someone who has never called you "any particularly bad names". Feel free to DTMFA with extreme prejudice.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:10 AM on June 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


Terrance Real, in his book "The New Rules of Marriage" says,
"You can behave annoyingly, even repugnantly, without actually abusing anyone. You can be ditsy, or self-centered, or ungenerous. Your behaviour can be downright gross... The line separating unappealing behaviours from abusive behaviours is your line, the one that should be standing between you and the person taking liberties with you"

"Behaviours are abusive when they violate your psychological self, when they cross your internal boundary. These boundaries are universal and not determined by your partner. "

Psychological boundary violations include, "Yelling and screaming, name calling, shaming or humiliating, telling an adult what he or she should do, making contracts and then breaking them, lying, manipulating" (pg 104)

I found these guidelines really illustrative. Maybe they can help you parse it out...

But as other people have noticed: his behaviour doesn't have to be abusive for him to be a completely terrible match for you, or for him to be a selfish person, or whatnot. If he isn't treating you according to your standards and if he doesn't make you feel good as a person (or even a better person for having met him), you should DTMFA
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:11 AM on June 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


Often after a party he will stonewall me for having unintentionally embarrassing him and when I try to talk about it, he gets very defensive, and fights with me in an angry condescending tone, twisting my words out of their original context, mocking and belittling me.

Treating you one way in public and another way in private is classic abusive behavior.

You friend is right; this behavior is really controlling. As for accusations that you are gaslighting him-- also classic, turning it around on you. You don't need this.
posted by BibiRose at 5:11 AM on June 7, 2016 [38 favorites]


1. Of the sex workers I know, the majority have happy, long-term relationships that meet their needs. Of the ones with romantic troubles, the only time I have observed it to be a problem is when the partner has a problem with the mere fact of sex work. If you are in a good place about the work you are doing, there is no reason you can't have a good relationship when you find the right person.

2. As words like "triggering" and "accountability" and "gaslighting" have spread through bohemian/artsy/punk/activist/sex worker/whatever-non-mainstream circles, I have noticed them to become weaponized. It's easy to say to a principled but maybe young or inexperienced person "oh, you're triggering me, you're a bad person" or "oh, we had a misunderstanding, that's because you're gaslighting me, you're a bad person" and have that young or inexperienced person doubt themselves when they should not.

At this point, honestly, I am skeptical about the usefulness of those words in interpersonal relationships unless there is already a shared framework and a lot of trust built up - I think those words are so vague to most people that they just operate as pejoratives. Based on what I've seen in my social circle, I actually view people who jump to "you're triggering me because you are a bad person" as kind of suspect in themselves, because I've seen that used to control people and keep them from leaving or complaining so much now.

3. It does not matter whether this dude clears some bar for "abusive". He is making you unhappy, he gets angry when you talk to your friends about work and it sounds like when you do very ordinary life things that most people do, it upsets him and he views that as your problem, not a sign that he has stuff he needs to work through. You're also worried that you are recapitulating your relationship with your father.

It troubles me that you worry about asking him to see a therapist "backfiring" and worry that he will "accuse" you of things. In artsy social circles lately, I've seen this type of thing happen - one partner has legit grievances and wants to fix them or leave, and the other person puts a lot of stuff around the social circle or on the internet about how the leaving partner gaslit them or whatever in order to control the narrative and maybe keep the partner from leaving. My suggestion is that if, at any point, you think someone is going to "accuse" you of something when you want to leave, you hurry up and leave already. Ride it out if there's social consequences, because the people who believe that stuff aren't your friends, really.

In short, this guy sounds like no prize and you should listen to your gut.
posted by Frowner at 5:37 AM on June 7, 2016 [63 favorites]


This guy fucking sucks. It hurts his ego to be dating you because you're not 100% submissive 100% of the time and it makes him feel like less of a big domly dom, so he has to belittle and undermine you in order to maintain his twisted and unhealthy idea of what it means to 'dominate' you.

"You only think I'm hurting your feelings because YOU have issues"? Kick this asshole to the curb.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:40 AM on June 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


Despite agreeing to it (although the "reluctantly" says it all), he is clearly still uncomfortable with you undertaking work as a dominatrix. I suggest you ask him directly if this is the issue. This may clear things up with regard to the rest of his behaviour. It may eventually be a case of having to choose between the two.
posted by ryanbryan at 5:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Whether or not it's abusive isnt really the issue; this behavior is unacceptable and would be a deal breaker for me. You don't have to be ABUSED to justify leaving a bad relationship. You can leave because he is a jerk some of the time and you are tired of dealing with it.
posted by gatorae at 5:42 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hey. Sex worker side of mefi chiming in; different branch, but the situation you're describing is a clusterfuck of HUGE red flags for further abuse, whether you continue your work as a domina or not. He is "furious" about your telling work stories to your own friends? No. +1 to Frowner. He may have friends who do sex work or who are in the nonprofessional BDSM scene but that kind of rage when you talk about your work, that rage that comes from a contempt for the work itself, is the death knell of a relationship, it is emotionally abusive, and it is a signal that you need to get out ASAP before the abuse escalates. Right now it's in the emotional abuse/blaming/verbal abuse stage, but escalation from that attitude is the norm, I am sorry to say. (I'm not clear if he was angry because you were talking about sex work or angry because you were talking about being a domina and undermining his dominance in your own BDSM relationship or what, I hadn't even considered that until showbiz_liz brought it up, but that's a gigantic red flag for abuse in a BDSM context too. A good dom doesn't have that fragile of an ego and doesn't get "furious" because his sub is topping other people.) Hugs and good luck. I promise the good ones are out there, but this guy is not it. Stay safe.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:46 AM on June 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


A couple of thoughts:

Abuse doesn't have to be physical to be abuse. It doesn't even have to be verbal.

Whether or not this guy is being abusive is not for me to say. I really love Dressed to Kill's comment on this subject with regards to drawing your own line for what constitues abuse. It's clear to me this relationship isn't working for you, whether or not abuse is happening.

That said:

he will accuse me of trying to act like a victim and a progressive martyr, that his behavior is normal given my wrongs and that I am “gaslighting” him

This is called projection and is a classic tactic of abusers.

Issendai is a MeFi fave, and I highly recommend reading her blog, especially her article on sick systems.
posted by Brittanie at 6:16 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know exactly where the line between "crappy partner" and "abusive" comes in, but he is clearly at least in the crappy zone, and if he isn't to it yet he is definitely headed in the abusive direction. You sound like you would be much happier if you ended this and later found someone who genuinely supports and cares for you.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Lately I feel like I am walking on eggshells with him and everything I do triggers him. He reminds me of my own father, by whom I was verbally abused when I was younger, and I am beginning to wonder how to qualify this dynamic and if it is partially my own fault. I am loud and outspoken...

This, to me, is an absolute sign that a relationship is harmful. (I'm working on the assumption that "loud and outspoken" is not a euphemism for "bullying and abusive," since you've given no indication that that's the case.) Making yourself smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter will slowly erode your entire sense of self. And even if he's bothered just by the sex work, do you want a partner who deals with his discomfort by becoming controlling and belittling? Will you be frightened to disagree with him about anything in the future, or ask him for help if something goes wrong while you're doing something he disagrees with?
posted by lazuli at 6:24 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Question I always ask people: Is your partner making your world bigger or smaller? You deserve to be with someone who makes your world and your life bigger and who supports your making your own world bigger. And no one but you can answer that question for you.

Here are some self-assessment tools from the National DV Hotline to help you think through things.

I am not saying you are experiencing domestic violence but domestic violence is about power and control, so some of what they discuss can help you assess for yourself if the relationship you are in is healthy for you, unhealthy, safe, unsafe, etc. They have a link re: what healthy and safe relationships can look like, too. Finally, domestic or intimate partner violence is portrayed often as physical violence. Physical violence can be one component, but ultimately it is about power and control. A person using power and control over a partner can do so through many avenues, including: emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, biphobia, transphobia, systems abuse (law enforcement, ICE, the courts), isolation, privilege, minimizing etc. Some people use the Power and Control wheel to help understand this concept (note that are many different wheels: LGBT, for example). The Hotline also has trained advocates available to talk 24/7 for free if helpful. All calls are anonymous.
posted by anya32 at 6:32 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you're thinking "Should I break up with him if/because he's abusive?" I would suggest that the "abusive" part is actually not that important, and that you should probably break up with him because this sounds like a bad relationship.

A relationship doesn't have to be abusive to be not worth continuing.
posted by mskyle at 6:34 AM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


Though he is funny with his friends, he suffers from depression and doesn’t seem to have the energy to charm me when we are alone. Often after a party he will stonewall me for having unintentionally embarrassing him and when I try to talk about it, he gets very defensive, and fights with me in an angry condescending tone, twisting my words out of their original context, mocking and belittling me.

Lately I feel like I am walking on eggshells with him and everything I do triggers him.

From this alone, I can tell you that yes, you are in an abusive relationship. He might not even know that he's doing it, he might not know how much it affects you, or he might be fully cognizant of what he's doing and how it affects you but the bottom line is that yes, this is an abusive dynamic.

But he has never physically harmed me

Abuse doesn't have to be physical. You are not overreacting.

DTMFA.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:45 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Adding my two cents - I don't approve of him twisting your words or him mocking and belittling you. Maybe it doesn't seem as bad as name calling or hitting, but it tends to tear down your relationship and your ego. Everything I know about d/s comes from trashy novels (not that one), but shouldn't you be really emotionally safe with your dom?
posted by puddledork at 6:53 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly, who cares if it "qualifies" as emotional abuse or not? It's clear that it's a bad dynamic FOR YOU and it's not making you happy. That is good enough to break up with someone! A dude does not have to be beating you up every night or acting in a way that rises to the level of "abuse" for them to be the wrong person for you. It's hard for me to tell from your description whether this is emotional abuse, an unhealthy dynamic that has developed between the two of you, or simply a bad match between your work and his needs in a relationship. But honestly, who cares? If this dude's behavior is making you miserable, end it and move on to find someone who is a better match for you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:53 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's totally fine for him to have the boundary of "I don't want to be in a relationship with a sex worker." It's very much not ok for him to then try to make you so miserable that you change your occupation. Or try to guilt you. Or mock you. Or anything other than have a grown up conversation about "you know, I thought I could be ok with this, but I'm really struggling. How can we work this out? Can we work it out?"

He definitely sounds like a jerk, and I think that listening to your friends is often a good way to get a just-objective-enough opinion about a guy or a situation.
posted by instamatic at 6:58 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think I've recommended this book before on the green, but if you are so inclined, I recommend that you check out The Emotionally Abusive Relationship.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:59 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Think about how you treat your partners in your role as a dominatrix. As much as you might slap them around and call them names, I'd wager that you are also perfectly aware that you have a responsibility to your subs - a great responsibility, considering the fact that you have assumed the role with the greater amount of power and the sub is putting trust in you physically and emotionally. In your role as their dom are responsible for their safety, their pleasure, and their emotional well-being, and if you're any kind of dom at all, then you take that responsibility seriously.

If one of your subs was "emotionally exhausted" from your interactions, would you tell them "stop acting like a martyr" or "my behavior is normal, given your wrongs"? If you knew one of your subs felt like they were "walking on eggshells" around you all of the time, would you be ok with that? Would you take their complaints and twist them around until they were all about your needs, and basically tell them to keep their mouths shut because what they are feeling is not really valid?

I think that if you imagined yourself doing these things to a sub, you would be revolted. So why the hell is he allowed to do it to you?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:04 AM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


We visit each other, talk every day, he is a charming, good looking man and our family and friends get along. However....

This appears to be the best you can say for your relationship. So he brings... good looks and charm. Where do they rank on your list of ten essential qualities for a partner? How does he score on the others?

Even leaving aside the frankly unacceptable behaviour for a moment, he just doesn't seem much of a catch.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:07 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hopefully hearing what a healthy non-traditional relationship can look like will help. If not, ignore.

My husband and I are in a very open relationship. We've been married almost 17 years. We've certainly had disagreements and every day is not a happy bed of roses, however: He has never made me feel like I'm walking on eggshells. He has NEVER twisted my words to use them against me and he has never, and would never tell me what stories I could and could not or should and should not share with my friends.

He is not your person.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


But he has never physically harmed me, and he hasn’t called me any particularly bad names.

Yet.

You've been together for 10 months. Not even that -- you've been in an LDR for 10 months. This is way too early to be saying "Well, he hasn't called me any particularly bad names."
posted by Etrigan at 8:00 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


He may have friends who do sex work or who are in the nonprofessional BDSM scene but that kind of rage when you talk about your work, that rage that comes from a contempt for the work itself, is the death knell of a relationship

I don't think one necessarily has to be comfortable with one's partner becoming a sex worker, but I am damn sure that if one chooses to stay in that relationship, one has to respect the job. Not just put up with it--treat it like any other job. In addition to the usual issues, it sounds like he also really doesn't like the idea that you have any power outside the relationship. That's scary.
posted by praemunire at 8:58 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It sounds like he's okay with your sex work conceptually, but doesn't want to hear details about. That's what stuck out to me. It would make me feel really uncomfortable to hear my partner talking about their sexual activities with another person and have them expect me to laugh. If they were talking about it with their friends in front of me, it would feel belittling and humiliating. That said, he sounds like a huge jerk. If your sex work is a problem, he should say so. He can't tell you it's okay with him and then punish you for it. It's not wrong for you to expect him to be emotionally mature and forthcoming enough to respectfully let you know what his problem is. It's not okay for him to call you names, even if they're not "that" bad. anya32 has it right. It sounds like he's making you and your world smaller, and that's not okay. Also, what good is the fact that he's funny and charming if he never turns it on for you?
posted by serenity_now at 9:01 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hey mefite friends, a PSA: if you are not familiar with the specific abuse spiral that happens when a (usually cis male) partner fixates on his (usually cis or trans female) partner's sex work as a locus of rage, an eternal badge of shame, and a wrong they have committed both to him and to society in general, and how this is used to trap women in violent relationships where they are made to feel like the one who's done something wrong? Please put the brakes on the "well I wouldn't be OK with dating a domme/escort/stripper, so I guess his being upset is reasonable..." talk. This "his behavior is normal given my wrongs " thing? It's an industry-specific issue. It's like the kind of relationship dynamic where one partner gets into rages about their partner's sexual past and pulls out that "you're a slut! You fucked the entire football team in high school [or whatever Chasing Amy activity you want]" card at any time in the relationship to justify all kinds of abuse, only dialed up to 11, because there's a freight train of social stigma backing that "but you're eternally in the wrong, because you beat men/take off your clothes/have sex on camera for money" accusation. It's scary and can escalate quickly. Please don't feed it.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:18 AM on June 7, 2016 [33 favorites]


Just leave him.

Not that sunk-costs should be the end-all and be all of relationship decisions, but it's been 10 months, not 10 years. You guys should still be in the happy-lovey part of the relationship (past the honeymoon phase sure, but your 1st anniversary is coming up -- you should be unconditionally looking forward to it).

Re: therapy and gaslighting -- I want to nth that abusers who get their hands on the language of why abuse is bad tend to have no problem turning around and using that same language to try to make it seem like the underlying problems are their victim's fault. If you stick around while this guy gets his therapy, there's a good chance that he's going to use the tools that he's learning as weapons against you (in some ways, that's a natural response). Some relationships with better foundations can withstand that period. I don't think that yours can/is worth it.

The BDSM thing adds a whole 'nother angle to this too. I think that your boyfriend is at best extremely irresponsible for continuing to dom a collared submissive while not having his head on straight. He shouldn't be putting himself in the situation to put you in this situation. It would be one thing if this were just the occasional play session in an otherwise vanilla relationship, but if it's going to be 24/7, you need someone you can trust to put your needs before his. At worst, he is a controlling abuser at heart and the layout of your relationship is convenient for him (except now it isn't, because you are declaring your independence in *some* things).

You guys are LD, it sounds like your friends are not his friends, it hasn't even been a year yet -- it will never be easier to leave than right now, so just do it. Maybe he'll get his shit together and do the work he needs and be a better person in a couple or three years. You don't have to hang around waiting for him.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:54 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is complicated not only by the fact that I am the collared submissive in our DS relationship

i am the submissive in my 24/7 relationship that has been going on for approaching a decade. relationship submission shouldn't feel harming, it shouldn't feel shameful, it shouldn't feel like you're walking on eggshells. my sir is delighted in my expressions of self, proud when i make a room laugh with stories, gladdened when i am successful. i've had other doms before - ones who i shrunk around, who i felt a great pressure to please, where i never measured up. it doesn't have to be like that. it shouldn't be like that. you think the submission and the sex work are mitigating factors for his behavior - and i agree, but from the other side - those are reasons why his behavior is even further out of bounds, even more unacceptable. if you need to hear he sounds abusive (or like he can turn that way), i'll say it, but he also sounds like a shitty dom and a bad boyfriend. there is better out there, i promise.
posted by nadawi at 10:15 AM on June 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


Echoing many of the comments here: This relationship doesn't sound very healthy to begin with -- even whether it's according-to-Hoyle abusive or not doesn't matter so much as the fact that it's making you unhappy -- but in particular showbiz_liz and nadawi: A good dom should not have so fragile an ego that he yells at you for embarrassing him, and should make you feel loved and secure, not the opposite.

You have this Internet stranger's permission to dump the guy.
posted by Gelatin at 10:25 AM on June 7, 2016


Often after a party he will stonewall me for having unintentionally embarrassing him and when I try to talk about it, he gets very defensive, and fights with me in an angry condescending tone, twisting my words out of their original context, mocking and belittling me.

This is not ok. This is shitty and sounds like no fun.

Ds isn't a complicating factor it's a clarifying factor. That's supposed to be fun and interesting and sexy, and ... consensual. This is just him beign an asshole.

Leave the asshole, there are kind considerate D out there who will only treat you like shit in the exact ways you want.
posted by French Fry at 10:31 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was in a marriage just like this. He was an amazing friend and people loved him. He emotionally abused me and hit me once. After I left him no one talked to me anymore. I know I was seen as the bad guy. None of them would ever have believed what he was really like and it was the most lonely feeling. It took me years to get over it.
Please please look after yourself. You deserve more.
posted by shesbenevolent at 10:47 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Getting into labels is a problem here, because you may not like what is going on but unless you can label it as emotional abuse it is okay. That's not the best way to look at it. The question is do you want it to stop? If so, tell him. If he refuses to change, dump him. He may or may not be emotional abusive, that isn't really that important.

A lot of folks ask if this is justified etc. Who cares? If you don't like it it is enough.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


My marriage was similar, minus the sex work and some other particulars. The classic tell is having to excuse his behaviors. Behaviors that have no excuse. "Well, he's stressed out from work. Well, his family is being jerks." etc etc. Plenty of people face those issues without going into rages.

I also thought the line was physical abuse, and that I didn't have a right to leave unless that happened (or cheating). My therapist was aghast - "so you're waiting around until he hits you?" That snapped me out of it and I left him shortly after.

Like others said, you don't have to tick off every box on an abuse checklist to be unhappy in a relationship. You can just leave, especially since he seems to have no motivation to change.
posted by AFABulous at 11:49 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


People who twist shit around and turn disagreements into full blown arguments are THE WORST.

DTMFA.
posted by jbenben at 12:18 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Humans are drawn to what we know, even/especially the dysfunctional and inappropriate stuff we learned as children. That this guy reminds you of your dad is troubling. That you're worried that he may paint himself as the victim is also troubling. For whatever reasons, you two are a bad fit. You don't need to obsess over how you've contributed to the situation because he's not. My first dom was deeply damaged but it took me 3 years to figure it out. He genuinely believed that I was responsible for his feelings and got me to believe it. Because he "loved me" I felt obligated to be with him, until I got more therapy and some Al-Anon under my belt. Break up or don't break up but know this: Your first, highest duty is to yourself and your own well being. Collar or no collar, this guy sounds like a pain in the ass. He will always mock and criticize you cause he's doing it already. I, too, am loud and outspoken and my every attempt to make myself smaller for a romantic partner has been a damaging (to me) disaster. Finally, there's a group on FetLife called Dominant Men Who Like Submissive Women with Dominant Personalities because there are some male doms who adore loud and outspoken. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Get the hell away from this abusive person as fast as possible. Don't wait til he hits you.
posted by zdravo at 1:32 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's plenty of information in here to at least say that this guy is a shitty boyfriend who is making you feel bad. That's pretty much the main reason why you would want to break up with someone. It doesn't matter in terms of that decision whether it's "technically" abuse or not, he's not good for you and so you should leave. Go find someone who makes you feel good instead of bad.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty surprised by all the comments here that imply there's no value or power in calling emotional abuse what it is. Yes, it sounds like emotional abuse. Yes, you can call it that. Yes, you should break up with this guy. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by colorblock sock at 12:28 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know it is normal for couples to fight.

Yes, it's normal for couples to have conflict and arguments, but everything hinges on how that conflict unfolds. Fighting in a fair and healthy manner is a lot different from what you describe here. Stonewalling isn't healthy or fair. Condescension can be very damaging (and can be a super hard habit to unlearn.. ask me how I know..) The only way these dynamics can change is if both parties have the emotional awareness and maturity to understand that the dynamics are unhealthy and unacceptable. You both also have to have the capacity and commitment to work on these communication issues. If you're the only person having this awakening, then you should leave him. Actually, even if he claims to know that this behavior is unacceptable, you should still leave him, because he hasn't given you any concrete reason to believe that he's capable of working on this and changing his communication style.

You asked: "How do I know if I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship?"

Answers include:

1. You find yourself wondering: "Am I in an emotionally abusive relationship?"
2. You feel like you're walking on eggshells.
3. Your partner stonewalls.
4. Your partner behaves in an erratic and unreliable manner.
5. You feel small, belittled, insulted, disrespected.
6. Name-calling.
7. One or both of you lack awareness of what healthy relationships look like.
8. Chronic defensiveness.
9. Signs of deception, lying.
10. The relationship is not reliably and consistently supporting your growth and happiness.
posted by Gray Skies at 1:29 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


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