Emotional abuse frequently goes undetected.
It leaves no visible scars, often begins gradually, and can be done so subtly that a victim may start to doubt their sanity instead of realizing that their partner is abusing them.
Understanding how emotional abuse works, and how abusers undermine their victims, gives you the power to spot abuse in the early stages and escape a toxic partner with minimal damage.
Here are five things emotionally unavailable people often say to their significant others.
If your partner utters these phrases on a regular basis, you need to consider the possibility that you are in an unavailable relationship:
1. “I don’t like it when you go out alone.”
unavailable people like to control their partners.
One of the most common tactics they use is isolation and continual monitoring.
In a healthy relationship, both people value time together and time apart.
Emotionally unavailable people are often pathologically jealous, and demand to know where their partner is and what they are doing.
They may try to stop you going out, or bombard you with so many calls and texts that you find it easier to stay home instead.
2. “I’m only trying to help, don’t get so defensive.”
If your partner criticizes you while claiming that they are acting in your best interests, this is a major red flag pointing towards bad behavior.
By acting like they care about you, they are suggesting that it’s your attitude that must be unhelpful, not theirs.
They might criticize your job, clothes, views, family, friends, or social skills.
In time, you will come to believe that their perspective is correct, and that you are lacking as a person.
As a result, you will work harder to gain their approval, and become psychologically dependent on them for validation.
3. “I’m not sure you should talk to your friend so much.”
A common tactic of an emotionally unavailable partner is to cut their victim off from their social networks.
This is because friends and family members might alert the victim to the fact that their relationship is not healthy, and offer to help them leave.
This makes it harder for an abuser to control their partner.
You should be suspicious of anyone who tries to drive a wedge between you and your friends and relatives.
Someone who loves you will want to see your relationships flourish, and will encourage you to spend time with those you love.
4. “I couldn’t live without you.”
This statement might sound romantic, but it’s actually a sign of a deeply unhealthy relationship dynamic.
Veiled threats of self-harm or suicide are a form of control.
An abuser knows that their victim doesn’t want to be held responsible for causing harm to someone else, and they will be reluctant to leave someone who makes this kind of threat.
Bear in mind that the majority of abusers don’t actually hurt themselves when their partners leave.
In fact, leaving an unhealthy relationship is more dangerous for the victim, because their abusers often ramp up their behavior in a bid to retain control of the situation.
5. “If you’re innocent, you wouldn’t mind me looking through your phone.”
Everyone has a right to privacy.
Unless you have a history of cheating and decide to let your partner view your messages and emails to put their mind at rest, there is no reason why they should be looking through your phone or computer.
Someone who insists that you tell them your passwords is on a mission to control you.
This is a major red flag and a sign that you need to think about leaving the relationship.
Staying with a partner who doesn’t trust you isn’t healthy.
In time, their behaviors might become so controlling that you don’t even feel capable of messaging your friends or relatives.
What to do if you are in an emotionally unhealthy relationship
Many victims feel their abuser’s actions are somehow their fault.
This is simply untrue; responsibility always lies with the perpetrator.
Unfortunately, abusive people seldom change their ways, so focusing on your own wellbeing is the best strategy.
Reach out to someone you trust.
This might be a close friend, relative, or mentor.
Choose someone who will believe you; abusers often isolate victims from their support networks, so pick someone you know will listen.
If you need help to escape the relationship, or want to talk to someone who doesn’t know you or your partner personally, make contact with an organization that supports victims of domestic abuse.
You can also ask your healthcare provider to recommend a good therapist.