Abusive relationship - domestic violence (?) - emotional and verbal abuse VS physical and sexual abuse

So, I have a background of childhood trauma, which resulted in PTSD.

A few years ago, I got into a relationship, which turned abusive.

Up until that point, I'd always been able to avoid abusive relationships... My childhood trauma made me hypervigilant re abusive situations, and so I'd leave at the first sign, always managing to stay safe in relationships.

Until this particular relationship.

It started really wonderfully - a long "honeymoon phase" that was beyond lovely... But I've since read that that's really common in relationships that later turn abusive.

The abuse wasn't physical or sexual - it was (just) emotional and verbal abuse - blame, insults, threats, blackmail, mind games, controlling behaviour, irrational jealousy, silent treatment, tantrums, etc.

Because there was no physical or sexual violence involved, I can't stop my brain from saying "it wasn't that bad" and "it wasn't a big deal" and "it doesn't really count as abuse".

And because the relationship was so wonderful prior to it getting abusive, it makes it even harder to grasp that the abuse was real.

I broke up with him 5 years ago now, and have been trying to process the abuse and the horrific breakup, that whole time.

Nothing has ever messed with my head that badly... Not even the childhood trauma.

Has anyone else gone through "just" emotional and verbal abuse in a relationship?

How do you validate for yourself, that it really is real abuse?
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Has anyone else gone through "just" emotional and verbal abuse in a relationship?

How do you validate for yourself, that it really is real abuse?
Yep.
5 year relationship from ages 19-24.
Things that happened to me:
I would be accused of looking at someone who walked passed when I never even noticed that someone walked passed, so I started to walk looking at the ground to avoid being accused of something I didn't do and Ex not believing me.
I would get told off for going out on my own, as obviously I would be cheating (didn't help that i did cheat a couple of times in the beginning, so this really blurred boundaries), so I stopped going out with my friends.
I stopped having separate friends then.

Turned into us:
Sharing clothes
Having bank accounts joined
Studying the same course, and then working in the same place
Never being apart (we spent a total of 5 nights apart the whole 5 years. She couldn't cope us being apart and I couldn't cope with her not coping, so I just did whatever to try and make her happy, which never worked).
We turned into one person.
We even had a nickname by people who knew us that was a blend of our names.
All this was subtle and down out of 'love'. Her moulding me to look like her, dress like her, be her.

It was toxic and suffocating.

And I never realised it was wrong because I had cheated to start with and the fuelled my guilt and willingness to believe it was my fault and this was normal.

It was when we spilt up (ironically by her cheating on me), and whilst I was heart broken I also felt a massive weight lift off me. I felt free. I bought a bicycle and just rode it and felt reborn.
It was then I realised a lot of things were really controlling and abusive in the relationship.
I feel bad saying that still (18 years later), because she remains in my life as a close friend. But she was then the same with her next partner, and is the same with her current partner. It's painful to see.

I suppose if someone told you your own story as if it was theirs, what would you say to them? And if you can afford them compassion, then why not yourself?
Coercive control, verbal abuse: you know they are toxic and damaging. It's trying to find that mindhsift to accept what happened.
 
Thank you 🙂

I find this topic confusing, as it applies to me, which I find frustrating, because it's much easier to see clearly when it applies to someone else.

I think what I can assert is: if someone is trying to harm someone else, then what methods they use (physical/ sexual/ emotional/ verbal abuse) is all a means to the same ends.

So while there seems to be such a distinction between the physical/ non-physical types, really it's just the person choosing which tools to use, to harm someone else.

And what underlies all of it is the person's sense of entitlement to be allowed to harm someone else.

My brain does try and say that it was "just words" and "just behaviour" and that I "should be strong enough" to cope with words and behaviour.

Also, he wore me down with abusive behaviour over a period of 12 - 18 months, and by the end of that, I started yelling back.

Something snapped in me and I yelled and yelled and yelled and yelled and all the hurt and confusion I'd been swallowing down just spilled out of me in a big tsunami of resentment and vitriol.

In the aftermath, it left me with the impression that we had "both behaved badly" and "said unkind things".

I have to focus on the timeline tho... He wore me down with this stuff relentlessly and it took a long, long time for me to finally snap. And I looked for countless compromises and solutions, before I got to my breaking point.

Also, I have to focus more on how manipulative the honeymoon phase was and that it was Phase 1, followed by Phase 2, the abuse.

Also, I wonder whether people who use emotional and verbal violence know that it's such a confusing experience, because they can always claim that it was "just words" and that if someone is upset by them, then they're just "being too sensitive". Verbal and emotional abuse is such a good tool for playing mind games with someone.

Sigh... It's such a confusing topic.

With abuse and violence (of whatever kind) my brain assumes that "people who dislike or hate you" are the ones that use violence against you.

Having someone that loves you and that you love becoming abusive and trying to break you... makes so little sense to me. Tho I realise that's just my brain being "dumb". It's a childish concept that love = something good and that only people who hate you are mean.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Having someone that loves you and that you love becoming abusive and trying to break you... makes so little sense to me. Tho I realise that's just my brain being "dumb". It's a childish concept that love = something good and that only people who hate you are mean.
It's not childish: it's survival. But there are other ways of seeing things that take in the complexity and messiness of human behaviour.

Sometimes people don't realise their behaviour is harmful. Their intention isn't too harm but to keep you where they need you: attached to them in a submissive manner.
My ex really really really 100% still believes her behaviour is fine. That it is perfectly ok and reasonable to text her partner every 30 minutes of her partner goes out without her. And that her partner needs to tell her what time she is coming home. And if she is late, then it means partner has lied and is cheating. She can not see it is abusive despite me pointing it out, and others. And then she will do really loving things like buy clothes (to mould her partner into what she wants); pay for hair dressers etc etc etc. All seemingly loving and romantic, but controlling and manipulative. And how can you argue against someone buying you and outfit? Makes you look ungrateful, right?

There will be those confusing things of you yelling (for me it was me cheating). But it doesn't negate their behaviour.

The whole thing about coercive control is that it is so clever, so subtle, slow, small things, and only when you are immersed in it, or out the other side, can you really see it.

Don't beat yourself up for yelling.
You're human. The situation was crap. It tested you to the limits, and you had limits.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
So while there seems to be such a distinction between the physical/ non-physical types, really it's just the person choosing which tools to use, to harm someone else.

And what underlies all of it is the person's sense of entitlement to be allowed to harm someone else.

My brain does try and say that it was "just words" and "just behaviour" and that I "should be strong enough" to cope with words and behaviour.
Okay, so.. abusive relationships IMO are all just manipulation, whether that's manipulated by words or violence or whatever. And that part almost doesn't matter, like yes you'd deal with emotional abuse differently from physical abuse when you're processing it or whatever, but the intent is the same, and the effect is different but neither are IMO more or less than the other.
Having someone that loves you and that you love becoming abusive and trying to break you... makes so little sense to me. Tho I realise that's just my brain being "dumb". It's a childish concept that love = something good and that only people who hate you are mean.
So I think there's about a million different possibilities to this, like abuse can be intentional or unintentional and various steps in between, people can love or hate and a million steps in the middle, like life and people aren't as black and white (IMO) There's too many possibilities for anyone here to put down a solid "this is what happened" narrative to, cos people are weird yo. But hey, none of that matters. What actually matters to anyone that cares about you is the effect on you.

And I'd give you a million f*cking lines of your own words telling me about how words matter and it's still abuse and blahblah etc. But I can't (cos I hid that diary) but I can promise that you *know* words matter, and even if the actual words don't, the general treatment of someone matters.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
It's not childish: it's survival. But there are other ways of seeing things that take in the complexity and messiness of human behaviour.

Sometimes people don't realise their behaviour is harmful. Their intention isn't too harm but to keep you where they need you: attached to them in a submissive manner.
My ex really really really 100% still believes her behaviour is fine. That it is perfectly ok and reasonable to text her partner every 30 minutes of her partner goes out without her. And that her partner needs to tell her what time she is coming home. And if she is late, then it means partner has lied and is cheating. She can not see it is abusive despite me pointing it out, and others. And then she will do really loving things like buy clothes (to mould her partner into what she wants); pay for hair dressers etc etc etc. All seemingly loving and romantic, but controlling and manipulative. And how can you argue against someone buying you and outfit? Makes you look ungrateful, right?

There will be those confusing things of you yelling (for me it was me cheating). But it doesn't negate their behaviour.

The whole thing about coercive control is that it is so clever, so subtle, slow, small things, and only when you are immersed in it, or out the other side, can you really see it.

Don't beat yourself up for yelling.
You're human. The situation was crap. It tested you to the limits, and you had limits.
I think people that do that are actually really insecure themselves.
 
She can not see it is abusive despite me pointing it out, and others. And then she will do really loving things like buy clothes (to mould her partner into what she wants); pay for hair dressers etc etc etc. All seemingly loving and romantic, but controlling and manipulative. And how can you argue against someone buying you and outfit? Makes you look ungrateful, right?
Thanks for pointing this out.

I was showered with gifts in the honeymoon phase. It feels so weird saying "The person that showered me with gifts became really abusive and broke my brain."

And yeah, I'm pretty sure that to this day, he's 100% convinced that what he did was right. Me leaving him (because of the abuse) is probably "proof" that I was going to abandon him, which was why he was trying to control me. He always had a "justification" for his behaviour and why he was punishing me.

Ach, it's all so weird.

I broke up with him, the first time that things got abusive.

Then he did a big guilt trip and emotionally blackmailed me into getting back together.

When things continued to be abusive and got worse, I broke up with him again.

So, I got out pretty early.

It was the (very) long breakup phase after that, that did so much damage.

And the suddeness of it going from honeymoon phase to abuse and toxicity overnight. It was like a switch had been flicked. It was so confusing.

Also, he had spent a lot of effort to isolate me, during the honeymoon phase. Not in a mean way, but by spending every minute of our free time together... He wanted things to be "just about us". It seemed romantic at the time.

So by the time he turned abusive over night, he'd made sure that he was central to my life, which made the impact so much bigger.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Totally get that and can relate. He sounds quite similar to my ex. This massive conviction and belief that they are doing this out of love. The controlling behaviour is all wrapped up in smiles and kisses and presents and presence. Any raising of objection that you might do is met with utter confusion, gaslighting: you're the problem, they are loving, why would you object to their generosity of their time, love, committment to you? Which is then even more confusing.

Total mind mess.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
I think emotional/verbal abuse is way worse than physical abuse. By nature that type of abuse is meant to be covert. Covert abuse is destabilizing mentally to the victim because there is no validation of it occurring, so on top of the way the abuse destablizes, our own minds add to the confusion as we try to figure out if it is us just overreacting or misunderstanding or if it is real. The abuser, of course, does what any coward does and turns it all on the victim. Triple the fun right? We actually end up making matters worse for ourselves I think, trying to figure out the reality of the situation due to the warped presentation of the abuser towards the victim.

I remember having a bruise the size of Texas on my arm from the 1 night he got physical with me - hmmm that is me minimzing again, as a note to self. Anyway, there was almost of feeling of relief for the bruise. People could see it. They could ask me what happened and see that what I was saying had physical properties (the bruise). The psychological abuse? 'But Shimmerz, why would he DO that?' 'He is such a nice guy'. 'I can't see him doing that to anyone'. Which of course, destablized me even more. Which I think is the nature of that type of abuse.
 
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