Every marriage will have conflict and disagreements at some point, and that is natural and expected. But what happens when this dispute takes a more serious turn? An emotional abuse technique known as emotional manipulation has the potential to cause long-term harm.
Janika Veasley, LMFT, founder of Amavi Therapy Center, explains that "emotional manipulation happens when an abusive or manipulative individual adopts certain methods and strategies in order to control, have power over, or victimize another person." This can lead to problematic codependent tendencies, such as discounting feelings, having difficulties enforcing boundaries, and having issues with trust.
The findings of a 2013 study revealed that emotional abuse may be just a destructive as physical abuse, since both can contribute to poor self-esteem and despair in victims.
Unfortunately, emotional abuse is not unheard of. According to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poll, 47.1 percent of women and 46.5 percent of males had experienced psychological aggressiveness in a relationship.
Knowing the indications of emotional manipulation and abuse is critical if you want to recognize when your relationship is taking an unhealthy and perhaps hazardous turn.
Here are nine indications of emotional abuse that you should be on the lookout for.
1. Playing on your fears and anxieties against you
According to Veasley, emotional manipulators may take advantage of your anxieties, weaknesses, and worries in order to pull you down.
It's possible that they could bring up insecurities while you're already feeling depressed, or that they will point out your weaknesses in front of others.
Alternatively, it might be delivered as a sly backhanded praise. "If your companion says something like, 'Oh, I really like your clothing today.' If someone said to you, "You don't appear to be as fat as you used to be," you'd probably not accept it as a real complement. "You would be offended and really insulted," Veasley explains.
2. Gaslighting is a type of deception.
Gaslighting is a deception technique that might cause you to doubt the truth of the abuse you're experiencing in a relationship. It is also known as deception. According to Veasley, it is a technique used by abusers to cause their victims to question their own sanity or judgment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if your spouse says or does anything to purposely injure you and you confront them afterwards, gaslighting would be when they claim things like "That never occurred" or "Oh my gosh, you're insane!" "The reaction is designed to not only refute the situation, but also to cause you to wonder whether or not it actually occurred," Veasley explains.
This type of manipulation technique is generally used when you are expressing a worry to your spouse about something. In order to make your worries seem unfounded and preserve power, they'll gaslight you when you challenge them with facts.
3. Recruiting new members
In an effort to further manipulate and control you, the abuser may enlist the assistance of others to further their goals of manipulation and control. According to Veasley, they may approach your parents or best friends in an attempt to persuade them to agree to what they want you to do.
Example: You may inform your partner that you wish to quit your relationship, but they may seek to persuade your family and friends that you should stay.
"This is quite troubling because it demonstrates a profound lack of regard for you as an individual and as a partner," Veasley said of the situation.
4. The use of guilt as a strategy
Emotional manipulators may use your feelings of guilt against you in order to achieve their goals.
For example, they may often remind you of wrongdoings you've committed in the past or of pleasant things they've done for you in the past, causing you to feel a feeling of duty to them, according to Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT and founder of Take Root Therapy.
"We are all subject to feelings of guilt from time to time, and some people exploit guilt without even realizing it. Lurie explains that, "a highly talented emotional manipulator, on the other hand, can determine the exact method by which they may implant those sentiments in individuals around them and exploit this to their advantage".
If your spouse reminds you of times you've cancelled plans with them in the past, he or she may feel obligated to shame you into canceling current plans with friends and spending more time with them. In addition to instilling a sense of duty on the side of their spouse, Lurie explains that it also serves to keep them separated from other people.
5. Passive aggressive behavior
When someone engages in passive-aggressive behavior, they are expressing their unpleasant ideas or sentiments in an indirect manner.
A couple of examples are caustic humor, the silent treatment, and a refusal to engage in a meaningful discussion about their disagreement.
As Lurie explains, "finding nonverbal methods to communicate irritation or discontent while not really expressing any difficulties may keep the other person feeling uncertain, uneasy, and on edge, which is essential to manipulation as a whole."
6. Repositioning of goalposts
Changing the goalposts in a relationship is another manipulation technique employed by abusers to make you feel shaky and uneasy in your relationship.
With this strategy, the abuser will purposefully make it difficult for them to satisfy them by altering their wants and wishes on a regular basis.
Someone participating in emotional manipulation is able to keep their target invested in making them pleased because they are afraid of losing the connection if they don't," says Lurie.
You may be told by your partner, for example, that you must devote one evening each week to the relationship. Once you've accomplished this, they'll adjust their expectations and tell you that they require more time with you, according to Lurie.
7. Disguise yourself using smokescreens
When you express a worry about something in your relationship, you may be subjected to smokescreening. According to Veasley, you may try to stand up for yourself and express a problem, and then your spouse may try to shift the attention away from yourself.
If you tell your spouse, "When you shout at me, I feel disrespectful," and they react, "Really?," then you've created a conflict. In Veasley's words, "you're the one that is always talking about other people on social media and being really nasty." In this example, they transfer the responsibility onto you by bringing up an irrelevant subject in order to guide the conversation in a different way than it was originally.
The fact that the responsibility has been passed to you demonstrates your partner's lack of accountability, which allows them to get away with whatever they've done.
8. Disrespecting established limits
When you say "no," a manipulator may completely disregard your wishes, completely disregarding your limits.
Consider the following scenario: you express frustration with your spouse when they make negative comments about your appearance yet they continue to do so. Alternatively, if you express your displeasure with them yelling at you and they continue to do so.
If they are confronted with boundaries, they either encroach on them, push them, or fully violate them. "This is a glaring demonstration that their main care is getting their way and achieving what they want," Veasley explains.
9. The act of mirroring or matching
Many of us like to date someone who shares our interests and hobbies or at least has some of them in common. However, according to Lurie, manipulation occurs when your partner's conduct appears forced or insincere for the aim of mirroring your own behavior.
Observe how frequently your spouse lets you talk first or asks probing questions, and then responds with something quite similar, according to Lurie's advice.
"They might be deliberately mirroring or matching you in order to persuade you that you have a unique and special link that is only strengthened by the number of things you have in common," adds Lurie.
This might make it more difficult to leave your spouse since they make you feel noticed and understood in a manner that you haven't felt in the previous relationship. Moreover, Lurie claims that it makes it impossible to notice the manipulation that is taking place behind the scenes.