Listen, I get it — you love him.
You have heard these warnings before, but you love him and that’s enough, right? He’ll change. You can make him better. He doesn’t hit you so it’s not abuse. You don’t want to hear this talk against him because nobody knows him like you do. I get it, because I’ve said all of this before, too.
Abuse isn’t always black eyes or bruises on your neck from a night that doesn’t make you blush. Emotional abuse, as detailed in a Twitter hashtag called #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, isn’t always obvious at first. So, maybe he doesn’t hit you, but…
He Negs to Make You Doubt Yourself
Self-proclaimed pickup artists claim that this is a great technique when, really, these thinly veiled, sugarcoated insults are the stepping stones to an emotionally abusive relationship. “Negging” is a dated dating tactic that involves giving someone a backhanded compliment that makes them feel good about themselves on one hand, but attacks them in the same breath.
Some examples include:
- “You’re beautiful, but you’d be a lot prettier if you put some makeup on.”
- “That outfit looks great — not a lot of girls with your figure would be brave enough to wear that.”
It’s textbook manipulation that takes advantage of normal need for support and validation. It’s subtle and sounds sweet when romanticized, which is why a lot of people with low self-esteem fall for it.
He Keeps a Checklist of All Your Mistakes
Nobody’s perfect and he’s made it his job to remind you.
Healthy relationships have partners who keep each other in check, yes, but when he reminds you of your every mistake just to undermine you, then it’s emotionally abusive. It’s when he makes you feel like you’re lucky he’s with you, despite all the imperfections he reminds you of every single day.
Think about it: have you ever had an argument because he did something to upset you and suddenly, he brings up an unrelated mistake you did, as if that justifies why he gets to hurt you now? He makes you apologize for being upset. Soon enough, you fear confrontation at the risk of angering him as you’ve anticipated what he has to say as if your feelings don’t matter, when they do.
It’s like he’s never at fault while you always are.
He Isolates You from Your Friends and Family
Others might claim this is him being loving and attentive — it’s sweet that he wants to spend so much time with you, right? Ask yourself, then: does he make you feel like you have to ask for permission to see family and friends? Does he invade your privacy and force you to let him know who you’re talking to, saying it’s for your own protection?
Isolation starts small.
He tells you that nobody knows you like he does. Then, he makes you feel like nobody else will ever accept or forgive you like he does. He puts you on a pedestal and when you don’t reach his perfect standards, he gets upset with you and you start to feel like you let him down.
With him, you’re always uncomfortable and anxious, like you constantly have to prove you’re enough so he won’t leave, when it’s just a tactic to make sure you stay. He makes you depend on him and seek out his approval for everything. He takes away your agency, until you believe you have no power left when nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, maybe he doesn’t hit you. Maybe he does and he makes you feel like you deserve it. It’s different for every abusive relationship and…
He Can Be Anyone
Sometimes, “he” isn’t a he at all. Sometimes, “he” is your best girl friend. Sometimes, “he” is your mother or father or some other relative. Sometimes, “he” is you. Abusive relationships don’t always mean the relationship was romantic, but the situations ring the same hurt and truth.
Emotional abuse can come from anyone, and even abusers sometimes don’t know what they’re doing is abuse until they’re taught otherwise. It’s okay not to know — just know it’s never the survivor’s job to teach their abusers anything.
Take care of yourself and of those around you. If you see the signs of abuse, get out. Because, while you may love him, sure — please, love yourself enough to you put yourself first, for once, and do the best thing for you and leave him.