The Sounds of Advice #23: Emotional/Mental Abuse

Dear Sounds of Advice,
Someone I care about I think is being emotionally and mentally abused. I don't know what to do. I just know I can't sit back and watch someone I love get hurt like this.
Worried About A Friend

Aisling: Sit down with this person in an environment where you're both comfortable. Be honest with them. Point out what you've been seeing & let them know that you're there for them no matter what. They may not listen to you right away, with some people it takes time for them to see the signs of the abuse themselves, especially if they're in denial about it & feel ashamed. Just be there for them & help them as best as you can.

Sandy: I would sit down with them at a coffee shop or when you hang out wherever that might be. A place you are both comfortable. Just talk to them. Tell them what you see is going on. It's a 50/50 chance they see it too and aren't sure how to go about getting away or they have no idea what is going on. Sometimes if they don't know they will deny everything you say. I know you will still worry about them if that is the case. However, sometimes people have to learn the hard way when it comes to this. If you have any proof of the emotional or mental abuse you can show them or let them hear what is going on which might open their eyes better then you just saying it. If they don't believe it's going on. Talk to them and go from there. We all worry about our friends and any relationship that is damaging to them, however sometimes no matter what we do to help. It's something they do have to learn on there on. Which is hard for you because you care about them and don't want to see them hurt anymore. Good luck!

Kate: I borrowed this from an article, but I think it has a lot of good information that I hope will help you in talking to your friend about everything. It's hard to talk about, but talking to her is all you can really do. It's up to her to take your advice and do what she thinks is right for her.  Good luck!

While all abuse involves issues of power and control, emotional abuse gets underneath a victim’s skin and makes them second guess themselves. Perhaps their partner would ask simple questions like, “maybe you should eat something lighter,” or, “I don’t know if that sweater suits you.” And by taking these suggestions at face value, they believe they’re just listening and pleasing their partner.

But as time goes on, if these suggestions aren’t followed, they become angry or childish, looking for ways to manipulate their partner into doing what they want. The abuser uses threats, like “I’m going to leave you if you don’t do this,” or plays on how they’re undesirable with something like, “I’m the only one that loves you anyway.” It can get to the point where the victim feels as though the abuser’s opinions are right: no one loves them, there is something wrong with them, and so on.

Remember, this is all based on control. An abuser wants to feel good about themselves, so they may project their own feelings of powerlessness on their partner or try to ensure they are never rejected themselves. But those feelings are their feelings, and are not necessarily rooted in truth.

So how can someone in an emotionally abusive relationship take control back? It starts by setting boundaries with their partner, explaining how they’re open to hearing concerns, but it’s not okay to be attacked. Moreover, what’s now off the table? What is considered okay to do, and what crosses the line? Consider personal values, desires and needs when discussing what can and cannot be done. If they cannot meet these reasonable expectations, then it’s time to move on.

Breaking up can be very scary, especially for someone who’s been suffering from abuse. Reaching out to someone who can offer support will help in the long run, as they can be there during this difficult time. They can also help victims remember what it used to be like before the relationship, and how they are worth and lovable. Whether it’s family or friends, having a place to go and money or a job in place will also provide much needed support. Furthermore, it’s important to connect with themselves again, and work on undoing the damage.

At the end of the day, love is not controlling. It’s not about trying to change a person, but rather about celebrating that person. Everyone deserves a healthy relationship! If you have questions about leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, call us at 1-866-331-9474.

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