How to Spot Emotional Abuse

The immediate problems with 50 Shades of Gray are obvious. As a Catholic Psychologist, I wholeheartedly agree with everything being said regarding pornography and BDSM and unhealthy relationships. There are also some interesting points I’ve read regarding why women are so drawn to the books and movie relating to their unsatisfying sex lives. There’s a lot there to comment on and draw out, especially to explore the true meaning of sexuality and how to find fulfillment in a marriage’s conjugal life. There is an insidious lie specific to 50 Shades, however, that I’d like to speak about from a psychological perspective. This post is geared more towards the supporters of the books and movie. I haven’t read the books or plan to see the movie, but I have read a very frightening defense of the trilogy. Some have pointed to the change of heart in the main character by the end of the trilogy as a justification for the violence and abuse that occurred from the start. If you’ve ever known someone in an abusive relationship, this idea will sound all-too-familiar. “If I just love him enough, he’ll change.” It happens just as much with women as it does with men. “If I just let it go this time, she’ll figure it out and won’t do it again.” If this trilogy proposes that such thinking is logical, there is nothing more destructive to understanding healthy boundaries in relationships than reading or watching it. This movie is slipping a lie into the cultural understanding of abuse, hiding it behind the controversy of its pornography. We are so caught up with the surface level conversation that people who don’t care about the porn are drinking in the lie. Getting out of an abusive relationship is so difficult precisely because there is some truth to that lie. For most relationships, loving someone despite their weaknesses is actually a good thing! It shouldn’t be surprising if this point is confusing for Catholics, as St. John Paul II taught us very clearly to choose and love the whole person, “complete with his virtues and vices, in a sense independently of the virtues and despite the vices” (Love and Responsibility, p. 116). How is a person to know when to love “despite the vices” and when to set boundaries or get out of the relationship all together? This movie destroys the subtlety that needs to be taught and understood to discern correctly when a relationship is abusive or not. First of all, what happens in this trilogy does not happen in real life. Whatever deep psychological scars affect the main character, acting them out violently and treating someone with manipulation only enables and reinforces the wounds. The only way to actually heal is to have someone set boundaries against that kind of manipulation so that the perpetrator realizes he or she needs to fix something if a fulfilling relationship can ever be possible. Second of all, the manipulations are sometimes more difficult to understand than the physical abuse. Manipulation is a part of the emotional abuse, and is just as real as physical abuse.

Here are some signs of an emotionally abusive relationship:

  1. Extreme Moodiness: Some moodiness is normal, being an emotional rollercoaster is not.
  2. Verbal Abuse: Humiliating you, putting you down, being hypercritical, extreme sarcasm with you as the victim, mean jokes, excessive anger.
  3. Isolation: Isolating you from friends or family, unreasonable jealousy, or constantly calling or texting when you are doing your own thing. Blaming you if you don’t “check in” enough or share enough about your private life.
  4. No Privacy: Requiring that you share all of your private information like cell phone, Facebook account, email passwords, etc.
  5. Walking on Eggshells: You feel nervous around him or her. You become an expert at empathy and learn how to see the world from his or her point of view to avoid further conflicts (without empathy in return).
  6. You feel trapped: You feel like you can’t get out of the relationship, or sometimes imagine that you just don’t want to when in reality you can’t.
  7. All of these things are happening and you feel like you are the problem. You feel like if you could just change, everything would be ok.

There are more, but these are the most common. If you find yourself in a relationship where these characteristics are the norm, it’s time for a reality check. This is not love. This is not a healthy relationship, and happiness is only possibly for you if you learn to set appropriate boundaries (which may include ending the relationship). Ultimately John Paul II teaches us that making ourselves a gift to another will make us the best version of ourselves possible. If you are trying to give yourself in a relationship, but you are more anxious, depressed, or feeling that your life is worse off instead of better, you are not in a healthy relationship. Something needs to change, and while it might be you, if any of the above characteristics are in your relationship, its probably not.

4 Comments
  • Maria Christina
    Posted at 18:48h, 01 March Reply

    The website of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is http://www.ncadv.org/. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline available 24 hours a day 365 days a year at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

    Thank you for sharing the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

    Men tend to look at life from their heads. Women tend to look at life from their hearts. Since women desperately want to love and be loved it can be hard to face the truth that they are being abused.

    I believe that boys who are spanked on their buttocks are statistically more likely to be interested in BDSM when they are men. I do not think that spanking children is a wise practice.

  • Maria Christina
    Posted at 20:03h, 17 March Reply

    I agree with your statement that “St. John Paul II taught us very clearly to choose and love the whole person, ‘complete with his virtues and vices, in a sense independently of the virtues and despite the vices’ (Love and Responsibility, p. 116).”
    This makes me think of agape love which is God’s love for each person. Agape love is unconditional, unselfish love. Love wants reciprocity. We use our free will to accept or reject the gift of God’s agape love.
    An abuser does not love the partner in a romantic relationship. We cannot make the other person change. We can only make ourselves change. We are responsible for our choices. As humans we want to enjoy happiness, avoid suffering and make ourselves well off. The longing of our heart is to love and be loved. Our psychological need is for self-esteem.
    St. Thomas Aquinas is honored as one of thirty five doctors of the Catholic church. He defined love as wanting the highest and best good for the other as other. Love is the refusal to add to another person’s misery.
    The best way to be happy is to strive to bring happiness to other people. God is the source of love and light. We can reflect God’s love and light to other people.
    The problem with evil is that it does not respect the dignity of others. Evil wants power over others.
    “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.”
    —Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)

  • Maria Christina
    Posted at 15:24h, 21 May Reply

    http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu164.htm

    #24 Murder of the spouse and child(ren). “The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. [Gen 4:10]”

    “Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.” [C.C.C. # 2268]

    #43 Violence and/or torture against spouse. To many, the violence and torture of one’s spouse is known as “Domestic Violence. Such includes any kind of behavior that a person uses, or threatens to use, to control an intimate partner. The two key elements are threat and control. Domestic violence can take various forms.

    On this subject, the Catholic Church teaches, “As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form” (physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, economic or verbal) “is sinful; often, it is a crime as well.” [United States Catholic Bishops, ‘When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.’]

    In “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women,” the Catholic bishops emphasize that “no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage.”

    No man, no matter his faith, has a right to abuse his wife, be it honour killing, by stoning, by torture and murder in any form. For God shall avenge the blood of the innocent that cries out to Heaven.

  • abdul matin
    Posted at 17:57h, 12 July Reply

    I agree with your discussion, though it’s happened most of the teen age life but also all over ages people.
    Emotion is the main fact of mans relationship and there development i think so.
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