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Misconduct in any form is a terrible thing, but what separates emotional and verbal misconduct from physical misconduct is the fact that its wounds aren’t visible on the outside. In fact, in many cases, we accept emotional misconduct from others, because while something feels off, or wrong- it can be difficult to pinpoint at times.

Physical misconduct leaves visible scars, bruises, and wounds – but emotional and verbal misconduct leaves scars on your soul and psyche. Emotional misconduct is a means of control used by people to embarrass, shame, blame, criticize and mentally break you down.

And you don’t have to be romantically involved with someone to suffer from their misconduct. Unfortunately, emotional misconduct can be the hardest form to recognize, especially when it’s covert, but the effects of it remain just as harmful.

In many cases, they may manipulate you and break down your self-esteem, which can make it hard to know what is real and what isn’t. In turn, you may end up feeling trapped. It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break free from, but not impossible. And recognizing it is the first step towards freedom.

1. Humiliation

Your partner publically humiliates you and makes painful jokes at your expense. They may yell at you, or call you names, or even belittle you. In some cases, they may be extremely covert and use cruel pet names or act as though you are less intelligent than them.

2. They purposely antagonize you.

They work to find what bothers you the most, and then use it to harm you. They want to know what buttons to press that will set you off, so they can push you to react. When you react, they feign innocence.

3. They threaten you.

To keep you controlled, they make threats. “I will leave you and take everything,” or they may say, “If you leave, I will find you.”

4. They monitor.

They want to be in control of you, and to do so, they will constantly keep tabs on you. If you leave their side, they will call you every five minutes asking when you will be home. They may stalk you, or even show up unannounced where you are, even when you are spending time with family.

5. Financial control.

Oftentimes, especially in marriages or toxic parent-child relationships, the abuser will assume control over your finances and use them to control you. You may try to spend money on yourself, only to find out your card has been shut off. Or go to pay a bill, only to find your account has been emptied.

6. They oppose you at every turn.

Relationships are supposed to be supportive and positive. They argue against anything you say, even if they agree with you deep down. They will work to challenge every opinion, thought, and perspective they have.

7. They gaslight.

They will make you doubt your reality by denying what you know to be real. “I didn’t say that, you must have imagined it.”

8. They cycle between idealization and devaluation.

One minute, it may make you feel as though you are the best person in the world and the next, they will tear you down and make you feel like crap. After tearing you down, they may give the silent treatment and then put you back on a pedestal to reel you back in.

9. They assassinate your character.

Any time you oppose your abuser, they will likely tell everyone you are the bad guy, not the other way around. They may say you are crazy, or not of sound mind. And any time you do anything they don’t agree with, they will say you always do ______ or never do _______.

If you are in an emotionally abusive situation, trust in yourself. It’s likely that deep down, you realize what is happening isn’t right. If, for any reason, you feel as though they will be physically aggressive towards you, contact the proper authorities. You can also contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, which is 1-800-799-7233.

You do not deserve it in any form – no one does. Do not ever let anyone convince you that you do. Break the cycle and break free.