How to Deal with Emotional Abuse

The first step in dealing with an emotionally abusive relationship is to recognise that there is abuse in your relationship. If you can identify any form of emotional abuse in the relationship, it is important to be honest about it. By being honest about what is happening, you can learn what to do to move forward, to take back control of your life and to start healing.


1. Make yourself a priority

It is vital that you put your mental and physical health first. Stop worrying about pleasing the abuser. Take care of your own needs. Do something that will help you stay positive and affirm who you are. Additionally, be sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy meals. Self-care is very important to your mental and physical health.

2. Set your boundaries

Clearly express to the abusive person that you will no longer allow them to yell at you, call you names, insult you, be rude to you, etc. Tell them what will happen if they continue to engage in this behaviour. For example, let them know that if they called you names or insulted you, the conversation will end and you will leave. Follow through on your boundaries. It is very important not to set boundaries if you have no intention of following through.

3. Stop blaming yourself

If you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for any period of time, you may believe that there is something wrong with you. But you are not the problem. Abusing someone is a choice that was made by the abuser. So do not feel responsible for something you have no control over. It is not your fault!

4. Realise that you cannot change them

Whether you behave in a different way or you do something different, you will never be able to change an emotionally abusive person. Despite your best efforts they will not change. An abusive person makes the choice to behave in an abusive manner.

Remind yourself that you cannot control their actions or be held responsible for their choices. The only thing you are in control of is your own response.

5. Avoid engaging them

The simplest answer would be to not engage with an abusive individual. In other words, if the abusive person begins to threaten you, insult you, or demand things from you, do not try to make explanations, put them at ease, or apologise. If you can, walk away from the situation. Engaging with an abuser only sets you up for more abuse. No matter how hard you try, you cannot make things right in their eyes.

6. Build your support network

While it may be hard to speak up, sharing what you are going through can be helpful. Consider talking to a friend, family member, or a counsellor about how you feel. Spending time with people who love and support you as much as you can, will also help you feel less lonely and isolated. You can also count on them to speak truth into your life and to put everything in perspective.

7. Work on an exit plan

If your abuser (whether it is a spouse, friend, or family member) has no intention of changing their behaviour, it will become impossible to remain in the abusive relationship. Eventually, all this trauma will have a negative effect on your mental and physical health. Although the circumstances of each case are unique, for your own safety and mental wellbeing, you may have to take steps to end the relationship. It is best to talk with a trusted friend, relative, or counsellor about your thoughts and ideas. It is important to note that in addition to having serious long-term mental health effects, emotional abuse can also be a precursor to physical abuse and violence.

Another thing to remember is that abuse often escalates when the person being abused leaves the relationship. It is therefore imperative that you have a safety plan in place, should the abuse worsen.

Remember healing from emotional abuse takes time. Taking care of yourself, talking to your friends and family, and going for trauma counselling are helpful steps to take in starting the healing process.


It is also important to note that attempts to curb or reduce emotional abuse can sometimes backfire and actually make the abuse worse. There are some methods of dealing with abuse that aren’t effective, such as:

1. Engaging the abuser in an argument.
Arguing with an abuser can escalate the problem and result in violence. A person who abuses will find ways to accuse, shame, and criticize you at every opportunity. Another possibility is that they might turn the tables on you and play the victim.

2. Making excuses or trying to understand the abuser.
You might be tempted to try to explain the other person’s behaviour or to create excuses to justify their actions. It can be difficult to leave the relationship if you sympathise with or minimize the abuser’s actions.

3. Trying to appease the abuser.
It might seem like an acceptable way to de-escalate the situation, but appeasing the other person will backfire in the end, allowing further abuse. Do not try to change yourself or your behaviour to suit the abuser’s whims. Instead, establish clear boundaries and avoid engaging with them as much as possible.

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