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What can I do about emotional abuse in a relationship?

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One of the first things that you can do about emotional abuse is to recognise it for what it is: abuse. Sometimes people say you are a ‘’snowflake’’ for saying that something is emotionally abusive but emotional abuse can be as damaging as any other form of abuse, though often hidden. In this blog we look at emotional abuse in family relationships and what you can do about it.

Family law and domestic abuse solicitors

London based specialist family law and domestic violence solicitors are here to help you if you are in an abusive relationship and need legal advice.

If you need family law advice or an injunction order call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. We can secure urgent court injunctions and offer an initial discussion by video conference, Skype, FaceTime or telephone appointment.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can sometimes get a ‘’bad press’’ with people assuming that people who experience emotional abuse are just thin skinned or who don’t know how to take a joke. However, would you find it funny if you were in a relationship with someone who told you and your children that you were stupid and mental at least once a day? If a work colleague or your boss said that to you then the likelihood is that you would sort it out. It should be no different if emotional abuse is happening at home.

The reality, for many husbands, wives, civil partners and partners is that emotional abuse can become part of their relationship. Emotional abuse isn’t one off name calling but a serious pattern of abuse, the goal of which is to control the victim by toying with and manipulating their emotions.

Sometimes family law solicitors are told that ‘’their client has been emotionally abusive towards their husband or wife’’ when the reality is that the couple have simply had the type of argument that couples have when they are in a relationship or when they are dealing with the emotions of splitting up.

It is therefore important that divorce and family law solicitors can pick up on the nuances of emotional abuse as it isn’t like physical abuse where you can see the black eye or the broken finger. Equally it isn’t emotional abuse just because you are hurt by what your partner has said to you or the way in which it was said.

Emotional abusers can be very subtle and that is why it is best to get help from a family solicitor who can recognise the signs of what and what isn’t emotional abuse. Shouting during an argument may be intimidating but it becomes emotional abuse if the behaviour is designed to control. Often an emotional abuser uses more clever or indirect means to emotionally abuse their partner, such as:

  • Refusing to speak, sometimes for days on end
  • Constant criticism – nothing is ever right because you are too stupid to get anything right, from your choice of clothes to the way you speak or your recollection of past events
  • Telling the children and friends and family that you are not ‘’quite right’’ making you feel isolated
  • Informing you that events didn’t happen and that it is all in your head
  • Restricting your freedoms so you don’t feel able to phone friends or meet up with family as you fear the reaction of your partner. It may just be a ‘’sulk’’ if you call or contact a friend but your partner’s behaviour means it is easier to be controlled rather than face days of sullenness or not speaking
  • Controlling the money and family finances because you are ‘’not good’’ with money and can't be trusted.

Many people who are in abusive relationships don’t recognise the relationship for what it is. That isn’t surprising because emotional abuse in a relationship can develop over a long period of time and behaviour that was once thought of as caring can, over months or years, become increasingly extreme and controlling. It is also usual for someone who is an emotional abuser to temper their abuse with the occasional flowers and gifts thus making the person who is being controlled believe that their partner’s behaviour is just their way of showing how much they love them.

Some people are surprised and occasionally incredulous to hear that professional highly intelligent individuals can get trapped in highly emotionally abusive relationships but emotional abuse isn’t restricted to gender or occupation or  socioeconomic background.

What can I do about an emotionally abusive relationship?

If you are not sure if your relationship is emotionally abusive or not it is best to speak to someone who you can trust. That might be an old friend, your doctor, a therapist or counsellor. A family law solicitor can also help with legal advice and understanding.

A family law solicitor can talk to you about your options including:

The list may seem daunting but a specialist family law solicitor won't push you into making any decisions that you aren’t comfortable with and will help you find the solutions that are best for you and your family.

Family law and domestic abuse solicitors  

The specialist family lawyers at OTS Solicitors are friendly and approachable. We are here to answer your questions on how to deal with emotional abuse within a relationship.  Whether you need legal advice about separation, divorce, maintenance, an injunction, court orders to protect children or any aspect of family law call the team of expert family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. We will set up a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment for you with an experienced family law solicitor.

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