40 Telltale Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship


Being confronted with an emotionally abusive relationship can be quite draining. Not only does a person that manipulates and exploits you weaken your self-esteem but they can dramatically decrease your psychological well-being. For this reason, emotional abuse is not only an extremely pervasive but also terribly painful and destructive form of psychological abuse. However, spotting emotional abuse can be quite difficult at times. In many instances, psychological abuse is very subtle and difficult to notice. At the same time, it can have a major impact on your life and your overall well-being. It is, therefore, quite important to be able to identify emotional abuse in all its forms. In the following, you can find an extensive list of warning signs of emotional abuse in a relationship.

Perhaps you suspect that you are confronted with an emotionally abusive relationship. You may have a feeling that your partner or a friend/relative of yours is somehow abusing or manipulating you emotionally. Still, you are wondering whether or not the destructive behavior of this person can be considered as emotional abuse or not.

The biggest issue when being confronted with emotional abuse is that you may not always notice the manipulative behavior of the other person. Similarly, some people become so accustomed to the bad behavior of a beloved person that it is incredibly difficult for them to see the situation for what it is. In a sense, many of the unfortunate victims of emotional abuse are so immersed in the abusive relationship that they are no longer able to identify the manipulative behavior of the other person.

In short, many victims of emotional abuse do not perceive the mistreatment as something abusive. To them, the abusive behavior is quite normal as they’ve become used to it.

“Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.”
C. Kennedy

When it comes to emotional abuse, it is tremendously important to point out that many aspects that are typical of almost all relationships (such as arguing) cannot be considered emotional abuse. You are not necessarily living in an emotionally abusive relationship if you do fight with your partner or your friend every once in a while in order to sort out differences. In fact, discussing problems is a vital aspect of functioning relationships. (But it’s all the better if you can do that without fighting verbally).

Emotional abuse

When enough is really enough.

Similarly, when a friend of yours or your partner is occasionally stressed out, absent-minded or in a bad mood, they may not be abusing you emotionally. These may be unpleasant aspects of a relationship but they cannot be considered emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is something much more painful and psychologically draining. It is psychological warfare that is going on day after day. When you are the victim of emotional abuse, you may find it incredibly difficult to even get up in the morning. Even thinking about what awaits you during the day may give you shivers. You may feel nauseous and anxious every single time when confronted with all the burdens, responsibilities, and excessive expectations your partner is placing upon you. Every day of your life is like living hell, simply because your partner continuously manipulates you without even caring for your well-being.

What exactly is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is not just a one-time only destructive behavior. Instead, it is a regular pattern of disruptive, manipulative, threatening or offensive behaviors. Emotional abuse involves regular bullying, constant criticizing, intimidation, name-calling, withdrawal of affection and excessive control. But it can also be considered emotional abuse when another person is knowingly exploiting your insecurities and/or childhood wounds.

40 Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship

In the following, you can find the most important warning signs of emotional abuse in a relationship. These signs help you to identify whether you are confronted with an emotionally abusive person or not.

1. They continuously show you that you are unwanted

One major indicator of emotional abuse is when the other person is continuously letting you know that you are unwanted. This form of rejection manifests especially when parents show their children either unconsciously or intentionally that they are unwanted. However, this kind of psychological abuse is not only limited to a parent-child relationship. In fact, your partner or a friend of yours may also mistreat you by showing you that you are unwanted.

2. They repeatedly criticize you harshly

Feedback is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. However, if your partner continuously criticizes you in an overly harsh manner, they may be abusing you psychologically. This is especially true when they criticize things about you that you are not responsible for or cannot change.

3. They insult you and call you names

Let’s face it, nobody on this planet has the right to call you names or to insult you. It may be one thing if a stranger insults you when you’ve made a mistake. But it’s an entirely different thing when a beloved person repeatedly calls you names or insults you. Name-calling is not only disrespectful but can make you feel inferior and bad about yourself, especially when repeated all the time.

4. They don’t care about your needs

The very foundation of a relationship is reciprocity. If you’re living in a relationship where your partner does not at all care about you and your needs, you may not only be confronted with an egotist but also an emotionally abusive person. This is especially the case when your partner manipulates you in any way they can in order to fulfill their own desires and wishes.

5. They tease you about your mental capabilities

Most people know that it is not really helpful to be told that one is totally stupid (or even retarded) when committing a mistake. All that such a behavior does is to further reduce your self-esteem.

6. They ridicule you for your physical appearance

Another striking indicator of emotional abuse in a relationship is the continuous ridicule of your physical appearance. This is especially true when another person teases you for things about your appearance that you simply cannot change. Always remind yourself that a mentally healthy friend or partner will always be able to accept your weaknesses and imperfections. In fact, your true friends and your true soulmate will love you not despite these imperfections but because of them.

7. They refuse love if you don’t behave how they want you to

The refusal of love and attention is a classic indicator of emotional abuse in a relationship. We’ve all been there, we’ve all gone through this kind of emotional abuse. However, it is quite a subtle form of manipulation, which is why it can go unnoticed for years.

In short, an abusive person will withdraw their love and attention if you do not behave as they please. It is quite a manipulative form of emotional abuse because it’s often times easier to simply do what the other person wants just to avoid the rejection. Consequently, abusive people will use it against you again and again until you finally realize how important it is to become independent of their approval, love, and attention.

8. They humiliate you in front of others

Being humiliated or made fun of by a beloved person is not really a pleasant thing, especially when it happens all the time. However, if it purposefully happens in front of other people, it’s even more hurtful.

9. They abandon you emotionally and/or physically

Emotional abuse in the form of abandonment does not necessarily have something to do with proximity. In fact, an abusive person can also abandon you emotionally. An abusive person may exploit you by withdrawing everything that fulfills your emotional needs in order to manipulate you.

10. They entirely disregard your viewpoint and judgment

In the above, we’ve already covered that a person that completely ignores your needs is very likely abusing you psychologically. The same holds true when another person disregards your opinions, judgments, ideas, or suggestions. In fact, abusive people may purposefully reject everything you have to say (no matter what you say) simply to make you feel inferior.

11. They are “just teasing” you

Psychological abuse can also come packaged in the form of playful teasing. Still, in almost all cases, it’s anything but funny for the victim. People whose abuse is hidden beyond such a layer of cheerfulness may not even realize how severe the psychological pain is that they are causing. In the end, they are (either purposefully or unconsciously) making you feel bad about yourself and that’s all that matters.

12. They blame you for their own mistakes

There are numerous people that constantly blame others for their own mistakes. This in itself cannot be considered emotional abuse. However, when your partner or a friend of yours continuously blames you for their own faults, you may quite possibly be confronted with an emotionally abusive person.

13. They are full of excuses

Another typical sign of emotional abuse in a relationship is when the other person is full of excuses. And the one thing they never ever do is to accept responsibility for their own actions, which leads us to the next point.

14. They never accept responsibility

People that abuse you emotionally are full of excuses. Consequently, they seldom accept responsibility for their mistakes. Instead, they blame others for the consequences of their own actions.

15. They complain you are “too sensitive”

In the distorted viewpoint of an abuser, it’s almost always the other person’s fault that they are feeling mistreated. Consequently, people that abuse you emotionally will tell you that you are simply too sensitive while they continue treating you in a harsh manner. In their reality, not they are the problem, you are.

16. They trivialize every aspect of your life

Another telltale sign of emotional abuse in a relationship is when the other person continuously trivializes your accomplishments and challenges in life. By doing so, the abuser makes you feel inferior so that they can shine in a brighter light.

17. They don’t accept boundaries

Emotional abusers can in many cases also be identified by their inability or unwillingness to accept your boundaries. In a way, these people feel as if they have the right to cross your boundaries whenever they please. This is not only disrespectful but can be another indicator that the other person does not at all emphasize with you.

18. They falsely accuse you

Emotionally abusive people will also use every chance they have to accuse you of things that are simply not true. Even more so, some abusers might even invent problems, simply because they want to make someone feel bad.

19. They do not emphasize with you

Unfortunately, people that are emotionally abusive are often characterized by a total lack of empathy for their victims. Either they are unable to understand what severe psychological pain they are causing, or they simply don’t care. This lack of care is also highlighted by their general disinterest in your life and the problems/challenges you’re confronted with.

20. They are highly intolerant

Intolerance is a warning sign that definitely has to be included in this list. In general, a person that abuses you psychologically will make use of every opportunity to treat you badly. In many instances, they will use the slightest mistakes you make in order to make you feel inferior. Even worse, they have no patience with you and do not acknowledge the fact that everyone makes mistakes occasionally.

21. They are emotionally detached

Another sign that something could be wrong is when your partner is emotionally unavailable all the time. Even though emotional distance can often be a very common phenomenon in relationships, emotional detachment that goes on for months or even years is not.

22. They try to control every aspect of your life

Victims of emotional abuse often find themselves imprisoned by the excessive control of another person. In such a case, the exertion of control is the tool that manipulative people use in order to abuse you psychologically.

23. They always see themselves as the victim

As was already mentioned in the above, an emotionally abusive person may seldom accept responsibility for their own actions. Consequently, they continuously blame others, which allows them to victimize themselves. If you confront them with their abusive behavior, they will always find a reason why it is totally your own fault that they are mistreating you.

24. They don’t care about how you feel

Another aspect of emotional abuse is that the abuser does not at all care about your feelings. There can be many causes for this but in the end, your psychological and emotional well-being is not their top priority.

25. They repeatedly blackmail you

Intimate secrets are better not shared with abusive people. That’s because once these people know something private about you, they will continuously use it in order to blackmail you.

26. They are passive-aggressive and refuse communication

When occurring in combination with many of the other indicators of emotional abuse, a refusal of communication can be another warning sign of psychological abuse.

27. They constantly communicate disapproval

Nothing could be more painful than being confronted with people that disapprove of everything you do. No matter what you do, no matter if you go left or right, these people will never be happy about it. Such a situation can be quite painful. This is especially true when the disapproval comes from people that should be there to support you.

28. They perceive you as their personal servant

Another warning sign of emotional abuse is when the other person treats you like a servant or an extension of themselves. In this scenario, the abuser sees you as a means to their own ends, while caring very little for you as an individual.

29. They are unreasonably jealous

Extreme jealousy can – in some instances – be another indicator of emotional abuse. This is especially true when there is no reason at all to be jealous.

30. They use guilt to manipulate you

In the eyes of an emotionally abusive person, guilt is a fantastic way to manipulate you.

31. They may try to isolate you from your family and friends

Many people that are emotionally abusive will try to isolate their victims from the influence of their family and friends.

32. They don’t keep things private

Some abusers may even go so far as to share private details about your life with others just to hurt you.

33. They use money as a means of control

In order to make you more dependent upon them, emotional abusers may use money to control you. This could mean that they restrict your access to your own money or that they abuse your dependency upon their financial support.

34. They do not support you

Emotionally abusive people may not share your dreams and have no ambitions to support you on your journey to realize them.

35. They treat you with indifference

No matter if you are confronted with problems or challenges, abusive people seldom provide help or lend a shoulder to cry on in these situations.

36. They exploit you

Many emotional abusers are not at all interested in you. What they are interested in is something that you have. Consequently, they will manipulate and exploit you as best as they can just to get whatever you have to offer.

37. They force you to do things you don’t want to do

In a loving and healthy relationship, both partners will be willing to do things they don’t necessarily like to do for the sake of their partner. In contrast to this, an emotionally abusive person will force you in any way they can to repeatedly do things that you absolutely do not want to do.

38. They keep you on a short leash

Many emotional abusers are driven by control, which is why they will try to keep as close an eye on you as possible.

39. They instill doubt in yourself

Instead of supporting you and helping you to become more self-confident, an emotionally abusive person will give their best to keep you insecure.

40. They never apologize

No matter what an abusive person does, they seldom apologize. But when they do apologize, you can quickly tell that they do not at all feel regret about their actions.

How to break free from emotional abuse?

Acknowledging the fact that you are confronted with an emotionally abusive person is one thing. But the ability to break free from this person’s tight grasp is something entirely different. Here are some of the most important steps:

  1. Have the courage to say no
  2. Slowly work yourself towards a higher level of independence
  3. Quit making excuses
  4. Stop justifying the other person’s unacceptable behavior
  5. Don’t wait for someone else to save you
  6. Don’t waste your time hoping that the other person will change all of a sudden
  7. Seek the help of specialists in this field
  8. Stop allowing them to trample upon you – once and for all
  9. Have the courage to cut ties with this person

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about the warning signs of emotional abuse in a relationship. Are you yourself a victim of being emotionally abused in your relationship? How did you manage to move forward in your life?

Stay victorious!


About Author

Steve is the founder of Planet of Success, the #1 choice when it comes to motivation, self-growth and empowerment. This world does not need followers. What it needs is people who stand in their own sovereignty. Join us in the quest to live life to the fullest!


  1. Amanda Thompson on

    Wow! This is spot on and includes so many different forms of emotional abuse that are often subtle, as you noted. I am going on three years out of an emotionally abusive relationship that evolved into physical abuse in the end. I am in therapy and healing, although it has been a gradual process.

    These relationships are often very confusing because the abuse tends to begin gradually and worsen over time causing our tolerance to the bad behavior to increase and our expectations for nice behavior to lessen.

    As bad as my situation was, I am learning a lot about myself in therapy and working on healing my emotional wounds, and the weaknesses that played a role in my relationship choices. By nature I am a helper and felt so much empathy for my ex because he came from a very abusive home and developed severe mental health problems.

    Somehow I believed that if this was the reason for his behavior it was more tolerable than him acting intentionally malicious. Abuse in any form is never acceptable, despite the reason. It’s easier to leave a relationship earlier when the red flags are noticed than later when there are children, pets, property, more emotional attachments, as well as decreased self worth.

  2. Great article. Emotional abuse is common I think for the reason that give, you become accustomed to it (often in early childhood) and aren’t able to identify the behavior as inappropriate and abusive. You can think it’s something wrong about you, not the other person, which is what the abuser wants you to think, so they can have power and control over you. Such behavior is really a sign of an unhealthy ego and a form of mental illness.

  3. Statistics and books say that 1 in 24 people are Psycho/SOciopathic. i.e.
    Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    THey are very ‘slick’ in how they get the other folks entrenched in their life force sucking abuse.

    there is now more information available about Gaslighting and ACES–Adverse Childhood Experiences, which tend to groom us for becoming involved with what i call ‘chi suckers’ These abusive folks are PARASITES. and they will do their ‘dance’ to make sure we question our very existence. and give them all our energy.

    THere are also ENABLERS of these abusers. so be aware of this too.

    character assassination is big with them, too. if they destroy your reputation, then who will believe you when you reach out for help in your community?

    i speak from decades of involvement.

    educate yourself about Psycho/Sociopaths and NPD Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    These folks are also the majority of ‘lawmakers’ politicians and folks running the world and businesses.

    they are acting out our collective shadow
    on earth . so it is important that we each acknowledge, embrace and heal our own shadows.

    • Beautiful article, detailed and well explained. I would just add one small advice for all of those that can recognise not 40, not even 2, but only a slight clue of one of the characteristics listed above:”Leave the bastard this moment and don’t answer the phone!”

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