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How to Tell if You Are an Emotional Abuser
Abuse remains a serious problem, and it can happen in families, romantic relationships, friendships, and any other type of relationship. Upon hearing that your behavior was hurtful or abnormal, you may be confused and wondering whether you were out of line. Here are some signs that your behavior is causing damage.
Consider controlling/manipulative behaviors.Do you feel like you can't trust the person, so you need to monitor or limit what they are doing? (Or you may say "I trust you but I don't trust other people.") Are you constantly thinking about all the bad things this person could be doing, and how you need to stop it?
- Isolating them from their friends or loved ones
- Setting rigid rules about who they can spend time with and what they are allowed to do
- Guilting them by saying how much you have sacrificed for them, how much they make your life harder, etc.
- Threatening to leave them if they don't obey you
- Threatening suicide if they don't obey you
Examine whether you allow the person to have privacy.In a healthy relationship, each person is able to set boundaries and have as much privacy as they need. Unless one person is a very needy young child, both people are able to have time apart from each other without guilt or excessive monitoring. Signs of abuse include...
- Removing doors from rooms
- Snooping in their phone or laptop to see if they are doing something you don't like
- Ignoring personal boundaries with regards to changing clothes or nudity
- Constantly checking up on someone when they have gone out, wanting to know where they are and what they are doing, requiring them to call or text often
Look at belittling behaviors.Do you ever try to "take them down a peg" and put them back in their place? Do you call them names, embarrass them, or criticize them when they make mistakes? Does it bother you if they show confidence?
- Embarrassing them in front of others
- Calling them worthless, selfish, lazy, clingy, stupid, or other negative words
- Criticizing their body, personality, or habits that don't hurt anyone
- Berating them if they make a mistake
- Setting them up to fail
Notice gaslighting behavior."Gaslighting" means making a person doubt their perception of reality, so that they longer trust their own judgment.
- Calling them too sensitive, whiny, weak, etc.
- Telling them they are crazy, obsessive, paranoid, etc.
- Dismissing their concerns and saying that something isn't a big deal, even though it upsets them
- Telling them they are confused when they say something you don't like
- Telling them that something they remember never happened (e.g. "I never yelled at you" or "you never told me that")
Consider violent, threatening, or intimidating behaviors.Do you feel the need to "punish" this person by becoming frightening or threatening? Do you attempt to "put them back in their place"?
- Intentionally breaking their things when angry, then letting them clean it up
- Having them watch you be violent towards objects, animals, or other people
- Threatening to harm them, yourself, or others if they disobey
- Laying hands on them with intent to hurt them (pushing, hitting, spanking, kicking, tripping, choking, punching, etc.)
Recognize that inconsistent or unintentional abuse is still abuse.Even if you didn't mean to hurt them, even if you think it's not a big deal, even if they act like it's not a big deal, that doesn't mean that the person won't be affected by your behavior.
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