Are you an emotional punching bag? By this I mean, are you in a relationship with someone who directs their frustration and anger your way? We all get angry and frustrated and we are all individually responsible for how we deal with these negative emotions. A healthy relationship consists of partners supporting one another and listening to the other have a moan. When that negative energy is directed at you however – it becomes emotional abuse. No one deserves to be the target of someone else’s frustration. It only causes divisions and unhappiness in relationships.
Examples of emotional abuse
Your partner has a rough day at the office. They come home and instead of just telling you about their day, they also find the need to criticise you or put you down in some way. They do this to make themselves feel better but in the process, they destroy a little of your love for them. Emotional abusers aren’t good at regulating their emotions and this is why you become a convenient target.
Comments such as: “You know nothing about business and about what goes on at work.” or they use a diversion tactic and moan at you for something that is completely unrelated but that somehow ligitimizes them having a go at you. An example: Why have we run out of milk? What have you been doing all day? Can’t you get it right? If you get something wrong you may get a sarcastic response such as “great job!” Over time, this emotional abuse and making you their emotional punching bad either destroys the relationship or results in the victim becoming voiceless. Their confidence gets beaten down and they no longer fight back. It’s an insidious process that ruins people’s happiness and connections in a relationship. Emotional abusers are effectively destroying another person’s self-esteem and leaving them feeling miserable and/or depressed.
The above examples may not seem that important but over time it can be likened to a tap slowly dripping on a rock’s surface. It will eventually leave a dent in the rock just as these underhanded criticisms will leave a dent in your self-esteem and erode your confidence. Emotional manipulators and abusers are clever. They know how to manipulate a situation and know how to press your buttons, all the while feigning innocence. They know how to be subtle so that you cannot pinpoint the abuse or nasty remarks. So, on top of the emotional abuse and feeling like an emotional punching bag, you also feel as if you are losing your mind.
They may have a go at you for taking too long to wash their shirt or iron a specific pair of trousers. They will do it in a way that upsets you and when you try to talk about it, they will minimise the incident. They might tell you that you are “too sensitive”, the other favourite is “I was only joking”. No doubt about it – this is emotional abuse.
Healthy relationships compared to emotionally abusive relationships
A mentally healthy individual will be more direct and their statements won’t be loaded with innuendo and unspoken messages aimed to rile you. Mentally healthy individuals take responsibility for themselves and are mature enough to handle their negative emotions. They do not wish to see their partners or loved ones hurting too. How does that solve anything?
As I mentioned before, we all have negative emotions and there will be times when we all act immaturely – no one is perfect. What you need to be on the lookout for is a pattern of derogatory remarks, sarcasm and statements. These comments are designed to make you feel that you aren’t good enough or that you are somehow doing things wrong. Emotional abusers tend to be very judgemental and can easily leave you doubting yourself, your emotions and your judgement. If you feel unhappy and feel you are retreating into your shell and losing confidence – ask yourself why. It may not be your partner but it should be considered as a possibility. If you feel you are walking on eggshells with a moody partner, ask yourself what you can do about it. Do they take out their frustrations on you? Are you their emotional punching bag? There is nothing wrong with discussing what is on their mind but when their behaviour is passive-aggressive, you are straying into dysfunctional territory.
Communicate and be assertive with your partner
Let your partner know how their behaviour affects you and that you feel you are their emotional punching bag. Ask your partner to be less critical and to refrain from directing their negative emotions at you. You are happy to listen and be supportive but you are not prepared to be someone’s punching bag. Healthy individuals are able to tolerate, contain and manage negative emotions without bringing everyone else down with them.