What Can We Learn From Emotional Abuse In A Relationship?

Let’s take the expression ‘emotional abuse’ under inspection. What does it exactly mean? It is definitely a process that undergoes in the shadows and one can not necessarily identify it when in the midst of it. If we take its official definition we can stumble across the comment:

Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Emotional or psychological abuse certainly is a personal experience and differs for all individuals experiencing it. Some fragments, parts, words and actions are however mutual in all the shared impressions. Here are some key elements that are crucial to watch out for in a toxic relationship.


Imagine the scenario: a person looks deeply in your eyes and tells you a tender story. A certain, inexplicable deep connection sets its roots in our souls and our future reactions, thoughts, and actions will depend on this deep foundation that was built in these moments. We experience purity, love, and something otherworldly. A connection deepens in a profound, spiritual level. After the bond had been established and a long while has passed something utterly surprising floats to the surface: lies.

An action that frightens us deeply and profoundly shakes us. The realization that we lived a long time next to a person who placed us in a cradle and rocked us with falsehoods hits us hard. In that particular moment, one comes to the conclusion that something isn’t and wasn’t right. A specific earmark of these untruths are left at our disposal without any significant or clear explanation. We are simply deserted with the darkening feeling that was present from the beginning of our relationship: something isn’t right, and we can’t explain what it is. We begin to develop and strengthen our already existing uncertainty. We understand that our jealousy wasn’t for naught as attention had been redirected from us ‘the center of their lives’ to other insignificant members of our sex. We can no longer establish trust towards our partner, for he/she has played the cards with lies and mild affairs.

Those lies that will appear long after the relationship has ended can hurt even more. We begin to understand as we crawl back to our cave wounded – we gave ourselves to a person who we do not even know and surely, never will.


This part is the one that hits the hardest and is the most difficult to fight against. When the manipulation of words, actions, and thoughts are turned against us we feel as lost as a needle in the hay.

When the act of manipulation turns towards our family and friends we wholeheartedly feel like a lost cause, overran and conquered by someone who knows exactly how and what to say to people around us. Our partner begins to explain to us that we are in a certain way and even corrects our feelings. When we pour our hearts out to him/her, the reaction is not empathy or understanding, but an overwrite of our own feelings. We are being told that this is not how we truly feel. Our spoken words and actions are turned upside down and their purpose and meaning are greatly sabotaged.

Our abuser starts to involve him/herself in our family’s and friend’s circle, while we are being left out of his/hers. Our partner knows exactly how to appeal to even the toughest of personalities in our surrounding loved circle as we stumble upon the sight of our abuser continuing deep conversations with our sister to whom we haven’t spoken for 15 years. Family or friends, all of them are convinced that this person is a good person and does us good. Which perhaps is the truth in some form or way, but we do know that in fact our abuser says and shows those words and faces to people what they exactly want to see and hear.

Fright fills our lungs and we no longer breathe out air, but pure fear. Desperation takes over. We feel alone and strangled.

Developing Panic & Anxiety

When oppressed feelings erupt to the surface and something dark and hidden sees the light we can prepare for an overwhelming manifestation of emotions. In vulnerable situations, such as crying, sorrow, or self-harm we are left alone.

Our so-called partner is in the same physical space as we are, but the reaction to our suffering in plain indifference from their side.

After our first episode of panic attack accompanied by seizures and severe breathing difficulties we understand the fact, that we are no longer safe, in fact, we never really were. Panic attacks and anxiety arises and we develop symptoms that are utterly new to us. The night, flooded by horrid nightmares, our chest tight and painful at all times. We are on the verge of having a seizure when it comes to arguments.  And arguments are at this point are daily, and we find ourselves trying to sleep on the cold floor instead on the bed next to our partner. A phenomenon appears again during these stretched situations: indifference.

Since we no longer feel supported, understood, accepted, appreciated and taken care of, our newly risen mental illnesses are surely well embedded.

These moments, days, months and in highly difficult cases — years, a person, seemingly stable can be so distorted and driven to the edge of madness that it can result in unspeakable actions.

In extremely difficult cases of emotional abuse which a person cannot continue nor terminate he/she can try to exist the situation by attempting suicide.  This can occur when the abused party has been completely detached from his/her personality and have lost concepts of things.

An abused person will highly: lose track with family & friends, lose track with his/herself, will try to appeal to the abuser in any way, will sacrifice his/her own well being, will lose the concept of things such as safety, caring, love, appreciation, understanding, reliability, and self-awareness. An abused person will most likely lose self-confidence and will sink into self-blame.

After all, all the incoming emotional abuse arrives from a person that we dearly love and are hopelessly vulnerable and exposed to emotionally.  When we have arrived to the point when we no longer can predict what our partner will say how he/she will act and what will happen next we have lost track and support permanently. After all, we do not look at our partner as an enemy from whom we have to seek defense, but someone who supposedly stands by our side. And as we are being told that they cannot live without us, at the same time our hearts and guts are pierced with bleeding blades by them.

Questioning Actions And Words

After a period of endless explanations, excuses and stories that we force ourselves to accept, we stumble upon a new realization: we can see our partner expressing to us majorly meaningful emotions, stories, and personal interpretations — then in a very short period of time he/she changes his/her mind. This stage normally develops at the end of the relationship where we no longer can rely on spoken words, nor on actions. We are being thrown from one extreme to the other. In one hour we are being told that very distinctive phrases such as ‘I can’t live without you.’ accompanied with a dose of begging for our forgiveness. During this phase, our already shattered soul starts to soften up and we feel immediate empathy and sorrow towards our partner.

Only, for this feeling of ours to be sabotaged a few hours later with a ‘Hold on, I haven’t done anything wrong, I can explain it, and you have to work on yourself too!’ When we are confronted with shifting from emotional statement A to B, then back and forth again, we realize that we are not dealing with Mr. Bilbo Baggins who goes back and forth again, but we are coping with a person who’s severely damaged.


Sára Szarka
Sára Szarka
Devoted to creating content daily using writing as a tool of self-expression, Sara had been fond of writing from a very young age. Embedded in twisted, psychological, and philosophical subjects, promoting the abstract allows her to find deep teachings in metaphorical creations. Currently living in Poland, she thrives on expanding her possibilities. Sara is a great fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and anything that comes with abstractness. Her daily routine consists of practicing mindfulness and daydreaming of a workplace where she can unleash the chains of creativity.

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  1. After living through it once and then again with a narcissist.. it took me time to read ..when I was ready.

    Powerful and strong Sara.

    After Abuse.. to learn this…
    The love …when it comes to abuse you see after that the abuser is not capable of love , but you as the abused were.  Then the astonishing fact you discover that the love you needed was to love yourself first.  This is a profound experience.

    It is the worst abuse and the mental ramifications can lead to death by the illness suicide.
    Abuse is attempted murder…ignorance is not justified.

    Thanks for writing this to share and increase awareness too.

  2. Thank you Sara for this great piece. To get to the immediate response to the title, What Do We Learn from…… We learn either how to survive, to fight, to understand things that we never took the time to think through, we learn the personality of the types of person who is abusive and how to avoid them going forward, and the list goes on. Excuses come early in an abusive relationship and that is a red flag for me. Like you, I use my writing as a way to express what I am thinking and feeling about things that have caused pain in my life, hoping that I can help others survive.