About 500 years ago (it feels that way anyway) I was involved with a man who thought that emotional abuse didn't matter because it left no marks. I was young and shockingly naive and put up with it for two years. Two years can do a lot of damage. The problem with it happening to me at that stage of my life was that I wasn't equipped to deal with it in a healthy way. I think I kept the alcohol companies in business for about a year after that break up.
Then I allowed myself to become hard. I became a bitch and took great pride in that. I chewed men up and spat them out. I allowed the wounds caused by someone else to bleed all over innocent guys. Luckily that cycle also came to an end. The point of this is that one person's abuse caused a ripple effect that allowed other people who had no part in it to get hurt.
Needless to say, emotional abuse is a focus for me, possibly even more so than physical abuse. You see, physical abuse allows you the opportunity to seek help and be taken seriously. It's goddamn awful but there is help available. Emotional abuse is a silent killer. It takes away your joy, your confidence, your belief in a better world. It's insidious. Abusers deny their actions, accuse you of being oversensitive, misunderstanding them or even making things up. It's easy to deny words. We can't walk around recording all our conversations.
Emotional abuse takes so many forms. We think of it in terms of name calling and overt nastiness but what about the snide remarks and the little put downs? What about the back handed compliments? What about the person who tells you that they can't live without you and threatens suicide if you try to leave?
Emotional abusers operate from a deep well of self hatred. They have a need to make other people feel as though they are worth less because they feel that they, themselves, are worth less. It doesn't make it acceptable though.
Eventually, if you don't recognise the behaviour and take action, your own self belief is eroded to such a degree that you can't function without your abuser.
What we need to recognise is this; if someone is emotionally abusive they have unhealed wounds of their own. What we need to recognise next is that it is NOT our job to heal those. You cannot allow yourself to be broken in order to heal someone else. If they're not prepared to do the work then it is not your problem and it's time for you to get the hell out of Dodge.
If it feels like abuse, it probably is abuse. If the behaviour doesn't change when you raise it with love and an opening to communicate, then don't stick around. It's not selfish to protect yourself and it's not admirable to allow it to continue. You have the right to walk away and trust me, you will be just fine without them.