The emotional abuser’s playbook

I went out to dinner with my friends the other day and we talked and talked until relationships came up abuse in relationships to be specific.

I noticed that while most of them were very strongly opposed to staying in an abusive relationship, they were referring to the most obvious kind; physical abuse.

So I asked: “What about emotional abuse?” And there was no answer. Because in reality, most people don’t really know what emotional abuse is and don’t consider themselves abused until they have a black eye or a slit throat or a broken limb.

Until then, everything seems fine.

But the fact is, the reason why most people stay through physical abuse is because they are emotionally abused first. They don’t notice it because it’s silent and subtle until it’s consuming.

So I have read extensively and I have listened to people and I have drawn from past experiences to shed some light on the emotional abuser’s playbook.

It starts with charm. They really know how to draw you in. You can’t believe that someone so and smart and caring and good-looking, someone who could be with anybody has elected to be with you.

They listen attentively. They (act like they) love you devotedly. They make you fall fast and hard with their acts of kindness, chivalry, heroism. They take you to the moon.

Once you’re over the moon, they begin to gently push your boundaries. They crack a ‘harmless joke’. If you’re uncomfortable and you speak out, they invalidate your feelings by telling you, “Come on, loosen up. Don’t be so uptight.

Have a sense of humor. Don’t be a drama queen.” And so you start to let them get away with things because they like easygoing people and so you must change yourself and be easygoing.

Then they start to hurt you and manipulate you in small increments. Every time it gets heavier and if you get upset, they will gaslight you by being angry with you or telling you that you are “ruining a good relationship by starting fights.”

They will be angry with you for being angry with them about something hurtful that they did. They will give you silent treatment because they know just how much you value their presence and consequently make you fear losing them.

They put it in your head that anything that goes wrong is your fault until you start to believe it and feel guilty for being hurt.

They make you question your judgment and rationality so the next time they do something hurtful or selfish you are afraid to say anything because you think you are wrong for some reason.

If the emotional abuse happens to you and you’re the smart confident type who usually does not accept that kind of treatment, you will feel ashamed to talk about it with anyone.

And if you had told your friends about this unbelievably wonderful and perfect person that you’ve finally found, you find it difficult to talk about your pain.

You must have done something wrong for the perfect human to change and become so evil, you tell yourself.

So how do you rescue yourself from emotional abuse? It seems to me that self-love is the answer. Love and choose yourself first and foremost and in overwhelming amounts.