People who have been mentally abused often find it goes all the way back to when they were a child and struggle in adult relationships as they sometimes experience the same emotions and are a victim of abuse in their adult life.
In a perfect world children should grow up in environments which help them feel worthwhile and valuable. They learn their feelings and needs are important and that they feel comfortable expressing their feelings and emotions without judgment.
Children growing up in good environments are likely to form healthy relationships when they are older. If a child is put down at a young age or made feel unworthy they are likely to develop mental health issues and feel that their needs are not important or perhaps should not be taken seriously by others.
Many people in abusive relationships can often find it hard to acknowledge what is happening as there are no marks on their body or any sign of their loved one being violent towards them, but emotional abuse in some cases can be just as bad as physical abuse. Emotional abuse can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism, such as intimidation and manipulation.
Emotional abuse can happen over a long period of time, sometimes the victim may have no one to turn to as the abuser may have cut him or her off from their family. Whether it is done physically or by intimidation the results are very similar. Eventually, the person being abused loses all sense of self-worth and personal value. Emotional abuse is very damaging to a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and longer lasting than physical ones.
People who are emotionally abused often struggle with feelings of powerlessness and fear. Abusers are known to struggle with these same feelings, which is why they do it to others.
I met with a counsellor, Tony Moore, Tony works for relationships Ireland. He specialises in helping people who are in abusive relationships, offering them advice and listening to their problems.
I asked him what some of the main issues are as to why people can become abusive to their other half, he said: “A lot of the time its men who are the abuser and they can often be jealous of their partner’s behaviour around other men. Facebook is another thing that pops up in sessions, there are so many trust issues surrounding this. It can be as simple as their partner standing next to another man in a photo”. So is social media contributing to our insecurities? Have you ever felt Facebook is a problem when it comes to your relationship?
I often wondered do these young or even older people ever get out of these relationships. Tony said: “Sadly not, people are not very good at realising what they are being put through on a daily bases”. In many cases it can be hard to find a way out especially if there are children involved as mothers can be stay at home mums and can’t afford to move out and support her kids on their own. I asked Tony did he ever come across a case like this, he replied: “Yes all the time. I see a woman who is married to a well-known man who appears on telly. He comes across very nice and well groomed and appears loving towards his wife but behind closed doors it’s a very different relationship. They have three children and she is mentally abused daily, sometimes in front of their children”.
We often think abusers can be helped by going to a counsellor with the person they abuse to help talk through why their behaving this way, but getting them to acknowledge their bad behaviour and agree to go and see a professional is not always easy. Tony said: “Most of the time when people come to me it’s so hard to fix as they have left it so late. He then added: “This couple came together, she had a few sessions on her own before he came and when he did she became a different person, he dominated the whole session and lasted four sessions before storming out”. This does not come as a surprise as many abusers don’t want to be corrected on how they behave towards their partner and have to be told their behaviour is out of order and not acceptable.
Tony said: “He told me he acted this way because she was so stupid and look at what he has to put up with, he put her down for the entire time he was with me and she never once answered back even though she was in a safe environment”.
But just because she was in a safe environment with Tony present eventually she would be alone with him and that probably crossed her mind.
What should I do next?..
Well everyone can make bad decisions when it comes to who we date. If we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, or treat others in negative ways, it is possible that we also treat ourselves similarly. There can be easy and simple ways to detect ‘odd’ behaviour and it is important we recognise simple little things as it may save us from a life of unhappy and unhealthy relationships. Learning to love and care for ourselves increases self-esteem and makes it more likely that we will have healthy relationships. Speaking to family or a professional is the first step in the right direction.
If you or someone close to you is suffering from any form of abuse, Samaritans offer great support that is private and confidential.
What in your opinion is the main cause of relationship break downs today in young or older people?