Defining Emotional Abuse, Part 1

Emotional abuse is real and very destructive. Emotional abuse is a pattern of defensive behavior used to gain and maintain power and control over a partner—wittingly or unwittingly. This form of abuse is a pattern of behavior including constant criticism, humiliation, and dismissiveness of another’s thoughts and feelings. These patterns of manipulation and intimidation lead to the loss of a person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth, which further results in significant anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal feelings.

Long-Term Emotional Abuse

Over time, repeatedly occurring emotional abuse leaves the victim feeling confused, unsafe, and alone. Physical abuse leaves visible bruises; emotional abuse leaves emotional scars that no one can see. The bruises are felt, not seen, causing incredible harm to the victim.

I often hear women say, “I don’t feel safe or heard in my marriage.” When I ask them to explain, sometimes it’s hard for them to articulate what is happening. Why is that? Because the victim of emotional abuse has been told repeatedly that they are the problem, that they are making up their concerns, that they are the perpetrators of abuse.

Four Aspects of Emotional Abuse

In subsequent blogs we’re going to discuss in much more detail the different aspects of emotional abuse and the impact on the victim. We’re going to explore why perpetrators of abuse often display a lack of empathy and how this lack of empathy and anger causes victims to feel unsafe and unheard. We’ll discuss how being told they are the problem leaves victims feeling confused, questioning their reality and identity.

We’re going to focus on four main aspects of emotional abuse:

  • An assault on identity, worth, and value
  • An assault on perception of reality
  • A lack of empathy and disregard for feelings and needs
  • Use of anger as a weapon of control

Focusing on these central aspects of emotional abuse, you will have a greater understanding of this hidden problem and feel empowered to seek change. We cannot heal from something unless we name it, own it, and set upon a clear path of healing.

Help for Healing

We at The Marriage Recovery Center have developed a comprehensive path of healing for individuals and couples whose marriages are impacted by narcissistic and  emotional abuse.  Based on our Healing Together philosophy, men learn to recognize and dismantle their abusive behaviors in a program called The Core, while the women go on their own healing journey in a corollary program called Redeemed.  Finally, when appropriate, we bring couples together for intensive couples counseling.

To get started on your path to healing contact our Client Care Team at (206) 219-0145 or

Marriage Evaluation