Emotional abuse can screw you up in some long-term ways. Whether it is a partner or a parent abusing you, the effects mess with your mind and your image of yourself. When people who are supposed to love us instead treat us like crap, it makes us question our own worth. It makes us question if there is something wrong with us. It makes us wonder if we are lovable at all.
When it is a parent who mistreats us, it will often follow us into our relationships. I grew up with an emotionally abusive parent. My first boyfriend was also emotionally abusive, just in different, less obvious ways than my mother was. He was not openly abusive. He didn’t hit me or put me down. But he did treat me like I did not matter. He would stand me up frequently. He would disappear for long periods of time. He would not take my needs or wants into consideration. I accepted that behavior because I thought it was what I deserved.
I was unable to identify what being loved in a healthy way was like because I had never experienced it. I was desperate to be loved, but the only thing I recognized as being loved was being treated badly. It made my first relationship a cluster fuck of a disaster. But I was only 16.
My later ones were better to some degree. While I never had what I’d say was a super healthy relationship because I had issues and I chose people who had issues, at least there was not abuse. I’ve already made the decision to refrain from future relationships, so it won’t be an issue again.
When someone you love and trust is abusive it causes you to be anxious all the time. You never know what will set them off. You never feel safe. You don’t express your opinions. You don’t argue. You don’t question. You know those things will only make them worse.
Once you are away from the abusive person, you still have those habits. Your brain is trained to respond anxiously. If something bad happens you expect to be blamed for it. In fact, you probably go ahead and blame yourself even if nobody else is blaming you.
You are always on edge looking for where the next attack will come from. Looking for when your next failure will arrive so that you can be ridiculed.
It does not matter that you have removed yourself from the abusive situation and are now around people who don’t treat you like that. Your brain will repeat the abuse to yourself because that is what you’ve learned.
You also have trust issues up the wazoo. If you were in a relationship with someone abusive, it will take a long time and many unfair (to the new person) tests before you can slowly begin to trust. If your parent was abusive, you may never fully trust anyone. That part of you may be damaged beyond repair.
If the person or people who were supposed to love you unconditionally and protect you did not do so during your formative years, your ability to trust is messed up. You may always second guess yourself and be unable to fully trust others no matter what they do.
How much this damages your life largely depends on how well you can hide it. If you are paranoid and end up rifling through your partner's phone or belonging looking for affairs, you are going to have a bad time. Nobody responds well to being shown they are not trusted.
If you can keep it more low key and are just extremely uncomfortable until your partner does what they promised to do, then it will have less effect on the relationship. Yes, you will suffer, but it need not damage the relationship itself.
Emotional abuse can also lead to depression. When someone you love and depend on constantly makes you feel worthless and inadequate, your self-image is destroyed. It is all too easy to slip into depression when you feel like you have nothing to offer the world.
Emotional abuse also leads to feelings of learned helplessness. You feel trapped in the situation (if you are a child, you are actually trapped) and nothing you do will improve it. The darkness of depression eats those feelings up and manifests its hold on you.
The emotional abuse that you suffered has left its mark on your life. You may have anxiety or depression or both. Being damaged does not mean you are weak. It takes more courage and strength to continue on in life after suffering abuse than most people will ever understand. You carry the burdens of your mental illnesses and your scars from abuse and you still keep going.
Knowing the source of your damage can help you to begin to work through it so that you can gain control over the effects it has on your life.