Emotional Wellbeing


Mandy Kloppers

Why am I emotionally abusive?

Are you someone who wonders whether you are emotionally abusive to your partner? Do you engage in a repetitive pattern of behaviour that drains your partner emotionally? You may want to stop acting this way but don’t know where to start. Understanding why you do it improves self awareness and can kick start a more positive relationship with your partner.

An Unhappy childhood

Our experiences as a baby and a toddler affect the way our brains develop. A baby that grows up feeling safe and nurtured will develop different neural pathways in the brain compared with a baby who is neglected. Abuse and/or neglect creates dysfunctional neural pathways and teaches an infant that they can’t trust the world around them. This is how personality disorders develop.

If you had an unhappy childhood, you are more likely to experience emotional outburts and find it difficult to manage your emotions.

Poor or ineffective communication skills

If you find it difficult to communicate and can’t articulate yourself well, this frutration can develop into emotional abuse. The frustration at lacking communication skills can lead to projecting yur negative emotions onto your partner.

Lacking in emotional intelligence

People who lack empathy and emotional intelligence may be tactless without realising that they are hurting others. They can often deliver cutting remarks and sarcasm without appreciating the emotional damage they are inflicting on others.

Non-assertive = passive-aggressive behaviour

If you find it difficult to ask for what you want and end up being passive about what you need, this suppression may manifest in passive-aggressive behaviour. This is an indirect way to get a message across but it can be emotionally abusive.

An example of passive aggressive behaviour: Telling your partner that you are fine when in fact you are angry with them. Outwardly you pretend to play along but in the background you may procrastinate to frustrate the other person.

“I was only joking”: When someone says this, they mean to hurt you but try to make it admissable by trying to cover it with humour.

 “Why are you getting so upset?”

The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his or her indirect hostility, blow up in anger. In fact, the person takes pleasure out of setting others up to lose their cool and then questioning their “overreactions.”

How to stop being emotionally abusive

Understand where your underlying tension is coming from. What is going on for you internally? Do you feel powerless or helpless in some way?

Learn to stop and think before speaking. If what you are about to say is going to cause harm, don’t do it. Many abusers engage in self sabotaging behaviour and this reinforces the cycle of abuse.

Seek therapy – a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist can help you to uncover dysfunctional patterns and help you to understand why you lash out in this way.

Try to have empathy for the other person and imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned and you were on the receiving end of criticism. Perhaps you were treated this way when you were a child. Do you really want to continue that cycle of abuse? It won’t make you feel very good about yourself.

It is possible to find peace and stop hurting others in an attempt to bolster yourself. You will respect yourself more!

Mandy X

Photo by Callie Morgan on Unsplash