Many people think that just because an abuse is not physical, it’s not a problem! Sometimes that makes it more problematic, because the victim won’t know that (s)he ought to leave or do something about the abuse. Abuse in any form is negative and destructive to human development and naturally we move away from abusive relationships but what do we do when we don’t even know? The crux of the matter is to know when psychological abuse is happening, what to do, then to know if you are currently abusing a partner or significant other?

Abuses are varied and most of the time when the abuse is not physical or sexual, most people take no note of the abuse, but abuses can be multifaceted sometimes, it may have many sides including physical, emotional, psychological, sexual etc. when abuses in relationships are emotional or psychological many people will stay in the relationship and try to bargain their way through thinking that if I change something about – myself- my life the problem will be rectified. The burden of emotional and psychological abuse is deepened by cultural and religious beliefs, in many situations victims are made to think they’ve not done enough that is why they are feeling negative about their abusers.  

It can be difficult to separate emotional abuse from psychological abuse but a simple explanation will be that emotional abuse is an abuse that impairs emotional wellness by stunting growth and blossoming of the victim i.e. feeling partner’s resentment, hostility while psychological abuse is a type of emotional abuse that is specific to acting in ways that scares and control the partner.

Dele seem to be a very good man, the in-laws appreciates the way he takes care of their daughter, he openly carries the child’s bag, holds the door for his wife, consistently drops feeding allowance at home, sometimes they wonder what else could their daughter be asking for. This stems from the fact that after just three years Feyi wants to opt out of the marriage and she was saying even if it requires that she drops her daughter for her sanity, she will because she just needs to leave.

This is the guise of psychological abuse despite no marks it runs deeps and utterly destroys its victims, while the survivor might even find it very difficult to explain what they are going through. Feyi said Dele had never raised his hands to hit her and his family said “we know the kind of son we trained” even Feyi’s family were confused by saying could all these be spiritual?

Indeed, Dele often makes some unrealistic expectations (wife must be on her knees until he finishes eating), she cannot sleep until he returns and many times stay late before coming home at 1am or later, refuses to say what will eat and must be prepared when he gets back home, he demands she breaks all her relationships with any male friends while he kept his female friends. Uses the stories of her past to haunt/taunt her i.e past sexual relationships to say she’s already promiscuous or unfaithful – using to make her do sexual acts she wouldn’t have agreed to.  He consistently tells her how she won’t be able to survive if she had not married him and how “almost” useless she is if she cannot bring in an income, criticizes her for her below ‘his’ standards in academics, if she ever has a different opinion dismisses as if she never talked. Recently, she felt he was unnecessarily coming home late and he says she’s nagging and unreasonable and when she opined they could talk about it waved it off and said can you just grow up!

Unfortunately, this type of abuse also occurs from women to men. 

Some common signs of psychological abuse include:

  1. Feeling worthless and out of place anytime interacting with partner or significant other.
  2. When you have to lose yourself to fit into their image (constantly invalidating you) by words or actions.
  3. There is constant chaos in the relationship with emotional blackmail (especially making you to feel guilty to do what is against your will)
  4. Feeling less confident around partner or significant other 

When emotional or psychological abuse is ongoing victims lose themselves without a thread of physical abuse. Although these wounds are not visible to others even a times people are envying the supposed lovely relationship. While in fact the person is dying inside, worthless, self-doubting and probably self-loathing. To help yourself in any abusive relationship do the following

  1. Make yourself (your life) a priority.
  2. Establish and understand emotional boundaries
  3. Understand nothing is wrong with you – everything is wrong with the abuser
  4. Understand everybody will have to fix themselves – you can’t fix the abuser
  5. Build your social network back.

Sometimes, psychological abuse is so deep that to walk away or pick up your life after the abuse seem impossible and trying to solve problems it has brought out backfire and increase the abuse. That’s when you probably need a therapist to work on yourself, help with an exit plan or help to deal with the relationship. If you require individual, couple or marriage therapy, contact DiamondMoor Psychological Consult and Services is available 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084.