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Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse


One or both partners make judgments about the perspective of the other without trying to understand it.

This stems from intolerance of differences. 

Leads to dismissive, devaluing behavior.

One or both partners prefers to blame rather than focus on how to make things right.

Blame gives a dose of adrenaline, which temporarily increases energy and confidence.

Once blaming becomes a habit, the brain will do it automatically, whenever it wants adrenaline.

Due the tolerance effect of adrenaline, it takes more and more of it to get the same level of energy and confidence.

Blame will certainly get worse. It leads to devaluing and demeaning behavior. 

One tells the other how to think and feel, in an attempt “to be helpful.”

This shows a lack of respect for the other’s individuality.

It will worsen to the extent that the integrity of one is sacrificed to the ego of the other.

One or both partners show remorse for hurtful remarks or behavior, but not compassion.

Remorse comes after hurtful behavior and focuses on how bad he/she feels.

Compassion prevents hurtful behavior by focusing on how the injured party feels and what it will take to repair.

Compassion is self-enhancing. Remorse is self-devaluing.

The devalued self is more likely to abuse than the valued self.

One or both partners withdraw affection and connection in the face of disagreement.

The implication is that a partner isn’t worth loving unless they agree. 

“You’re too sensitive!”

Implies that there’s something wrong with you for being hurt by hurtful remarks or behavior.

One or both partners don’t say but imply that the other is not competent, smart, or resourceful enough.

This attitude will eventually justify controlling and dominating behavior.

One partner regards the other as inferior in some way.

 This will be expressed in increasingly overt and hurtful ways.


Sarcasm expresses hostility in a socially sanctioned way.

If one partner defends it by attacking the sense of humor of the other, abuse will almost certainly become more overt and more virulent.

One or both partners are walking on eggshells to avoid a disappointed look in your partner.


Why Anger-Management
Doesn’t Work


It relies on conscious thinking.

Most emotions are habits. Habits are much faster than conscious thinking. 

Before you know you’re angry, you want to put someone down.

Before you know you’re sad, you want to drink or overeat.

You won’t recall your diet or health resolutions.

You’ll forget promises to your spouse.

Mr. Hyde won’t remember what Dr. Jekyll learned in anger-management class. 


Reduce Anger with
“Emotion Push-ups”


A brief exercise, 12 times a day for six weeks will prevent most anger and destructive behavior.

You’ll be more flexible. 

You won’t overeat or drink too much.

You’ll have more interest and enjoyment. 


By the time we’re adults, most emotions are conditioned. We feel more or less the same way when certain things happen in certain physical and mental states.

“Conditioned” means:

After repeated association of A with B…

When A happens, B happens automatically.

“A” can be cues in the environment (something happens or somebody does something):

The bell rings, the dog gets excited.

Your phone vibrating you reach for it.

The sound of laughter makes you feel happy, guilty, ashamed, or sad.

“A” can be physiological states:

Tired, hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, too much caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or alcohol.

“A” can be a mental state:

Certain thoughts or memories. 

Emotions and Behavior

Emotions move us. (The Latin root of the word, “emotion,”  means “to move.”) They prepare us to do things by sending signals to the muscles and organs of the body.

When you have an emotion, you’re moved to do something.

The emotions that motivate bad behavior are those that make us feel uncomfortable or devalued:

Guilt, shame, anxiety, sadness, sorrow.

To avoid feeling uncomfortable or devalued, many people devalue others with anger, resentment, envy, or jealousy. 

Or they’ll overeat, overwork, or drink too much.

Their emotional range become narrow, rigid, and weak.

They’re resentful or nervous or depressed.

Very little interest and enjoyment.

It feels like other people “push your buttons.”


See Dr. Stosny’s Blog on Psychology Today.