Things emotional abusers say

This post has been in the works for more than a year, but it’s only been now that I’ve been able to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard?) and really get into it.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but from my experience, it seems to be the most common things a lot of them say. If you have heard this from someone in your life, it might be time to rethink whether it’s a good relationship for you or not.

“Have you considered getting a manicure/pedicure/<insert any appearance altering direction here>? You’d look so much more attractive.”

Ummm… no one, and I repeat, no one should be allowed to tell you how to look and what to do with your body and appearance. Whether they want you to cover up or they want you to look like a trophy, neither is acceptable. You do you.

This is different from when you’re chatting with friends who share clothes that might suit you or suggest where you can go for a great salon experience.

The abuser will be saying these phrases from a place of change and control. Think along the lines of, ‘Why aren’t you wearing makeup, you need to look your best’ or ‘Please wear nice clothes, we are meeting my friends and you have to look the part’ or ‘Why are you wearing this, this makes me look bad.’

“I don’t think I actually said/did that. Are you sure?” OR the more direct and blatantly false “I didn’t say/do that.

Emotional abusers suffer from (almost certainly feigned) memory loss. This is a form of gaslighting. You will be made to question your sanity and your memories. If, almost every time when confronted, they say they remember nothing… you might question yourself, but don’t. Unfortunately, some might tend to over-record or note down proof of what has happened to remind yourself that you’re not wrong… but sometimes, this is the only way.

“Why do you have to be so sensitive? I didn’t mean it like that.”

Every time you say you don’t like something they said or did, and explain how it made you feel, you’re likely to get this line. It’s almost as if they feel like the “I didn’t mean it” is a Get Out of Jail Free Card for their bad behaviour. It’s not. They might pass it off as a joke, but if a joke makes you feel like less of a person or demeaned in some manner, it’s not just a joke.

“If you did what I asked, then I wouldn’t get mad.” AND “I only reacted this way because of what you said/did.”

Everyone is responsible for their own emotions; sure, we can get irritated by things or actions, but then it’s up to us how we regulate those emotions or show them. Even if someone does something to hurt or anger us, we can have a calm, cool discussion and not retaliate with anger or cruel words, and then blame the other person for our behaviour.

“It’s you and me against the world. Everyone else is out to get us.”

While some people may think this sounds romantic, or that it shows how much your partner is ‘truly’ on your side… it’s just a form of control and isolating you from friends and family, and people who truly care about you. By making you think that they are the only person who REALLY has your interests at heart, you are less likely to talk to other people about your problems.

“You need to stop complaining about your life. Don’t tell me about your problems, it makes me depressed.”

There’s this weird paradox where they want you to not trust other people but also restrict you in what you can or cannot tell them. It’s almost this weird need to push and pull at you until you’re uncertain of where to turn at all.

“I can’t bear to look at you right now. Please sleep in another room/leave until I’m ready to look at you.”

Punishment features heavily with people who are emotionally and verbally abusive. One of the things they can do is push you away, and then “reward” you by taking you back. They pretend you had hurt them so much they had to stay apart and then when they return, they’re doing *you* a favour. AS IF.

“I can’t believe I have to come home to your sorry ass.”

I really don’t know what to say about this, except that it’s not okay for anyone to demean you and make you feel like you’re not valued or important. This is just a way for them to make you feel like you have screwed up or that you have let them down in some way.

“Why are you crying? You don’t deserve to cry.”

First they make you feel so awful, you break down. Not necessarily because you’re sad (although you might be!) but because you’re frustrated, you know something is wrong and you don’t know what… and they turn around and tell you that your feelings aren’t valid. Don’t listen to them.


There are many more signs of emotional abuse, including completely losing their temper at you for small things, insisting you’ve forgotten how things actually happened, denying they ever said anything awful to you (like the things above) and insist that even if they did, it’s because they love you… If your gut tells you something is off, it really is. Talk to someone. Please.

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