It’s not always the case that anything is innocent just because it looks to be. Particularly when it comes to relationships, this is true. Emotional abuse frequently begins gently. It’s crucial to be aware of the strategies used in emotional abuse, which almost always appear innocent at first.
Because it is psychologically harmful, it can do much more harm than any other type of abuse. It’s difficult to unhear or unlearn things, whereas physical wounds can eventually heal. You become conditioned to believe that you are unworthy or inferior, which makes it more likely that you will stay and continue to cause yourself additional emotional and psychological harm.
More often than not, emotional abuse is calculated. So, while it’s easy to brush off your partner’s hurtful comment as a joke, they usually know what they’re doing. They will use certain tactics to make sure they have the power and control, even if you’re not fully aware of it. So here are some abusive tactics people use in relationships that almost always seem innocent at first, according to experts.
Isolation: Isolation is an important one to watch out for because it doesn’t seem harmful at first. When you first start seeing someone, you want to spend a lot of time with them. But an emotional abuser will try to take up as much of your time as they can. If you want to make plans with friends, an abuser will try to guilt-trip you to spend time with them instead. They may even try to convince you that the only person who truly cares about you is them. The goal here is to make you dependent on them. Once an individual is isolated, they’ll feel trapped and helpless.
Silent treatment: Another seemingly innocent tactic someone might use is ignoring their partner in order to control the situation. The silent treatment is a form of punishment that many emotional abusers like to use. It’s a way for them to take your power away. Now the only way to gain their acceptance or forgiveness is to do what they say. When you love your partner and you want to bring your relationship back to a good place, you’ll likely do what they want.
Making Jokes That Are Actually Insults: If you ever find yourself getting self-conscious or feeling the need to change yourself because of your partner’s comments, this is a red flag. Making hurtful comments about you, your appearance, or your past in a “joking” way is not OK. You may even think your partner really is just joking. But some use these types of jokes and comments as a way to control others.
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is dangerous because it starts off pretty slowly. For instance, you might say, “I’m feeling hot,” and your partner may respond with, “No you’re not, it’s cold in here.” A comment like that may seem harmless enough and wouldn’t really raise any red flags. But this is an example of a person who’s invalidating your emotions. If you bring your emotions to the table in a respectful way and your partner calls you crazy or makes you feel that way, it’s emotional abuse. Often, this is considered gaslighting and it’s a tactic used by narcissists. If done regularly over time, it can make you feel insecure, belittled, and worthless.
Guilt Tripping: Emotional abusers are often very manipulative. They may intentionally bring up something negative from their partner’s past to justify their bad behavior. They never really forgive and forget. They’ll use your mistakes against you during fights and they’ll guilt trip you in order to get you to do what they want. It’s a way for them to gain dominance over you.
These tactics may seem innocent enough, especially at first. So, it’s important to pay attention to how your partner’s actions are making you feel. If anything makes you uncomfortable, talk to them. If they don’t make an effort to change or downplay their behavior, you may want to consider leaving because the abuse will continue.