Mary and Jeff have been together for 16 years. They love each other and speak of each other fondly most of the time. However, whenever Mary is feeling resentful of Jeff, she degrades him with intimate information in front of their friends. She does this playfully but Jeff notices it is always coupled with a lack of physical affection from Mary.

Jeff  has a desire to have sex more than Mary. When he feels he is not getting enough sexual attention, he becomes sullen and silent. Mary is usually confused by this behavior but notices that it tends to be back to normal after she has sex with him, whether she really wants to or not.

Jeff and Mary are displaying signs of emotional abuse in their relationship. While many of these things seem normal in a long term relationship. They can have damaging effects on the health of a relationship and on an individual’s self esteem.

Emotional abuse is the most pervasive form of abuse plaguing intimate partners today. It is pervasive because of its subtle and silent nature. Most people don’t even know they are experiencing it or perpetrating it. Examples of emotional abuse include but are not limited to, withholding affection, silent treatment, placing blame, not accepting responsibility, and emotionally isolating the other person. This can look different in every situation but often it has the same effects.


A new twitter hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou is quick with examples.


Emotional abuse is just as centered around power and control as other types of abuse. It is about wearing down someone’s self-worth through labels, manipulation, and fear inducing tactics. Victims are often groomed by charm and affection, only to be left feeling crazy when those things disappear.

If this sounds familiar in your relationship, you are not alone. The prevalence of emotional abuse in the united states is high according to recent studies. This is not surprising considering that most people grow up with some form of this in their families. Often times rigid gender roles play a part in the development of an emotionally abusive relationship.

Jeff and Mary enter into counseling to work on their desire discrepancy in the bedroom primarily and when the therapist points out their emotionally abusive dynamics, they are both very surprised. With some counseling, Jeff and Mary learn to communicate their feelings, ask for what they need from each other and address their behaviors with empathy.

Healthy relationship dynamics can be re-established with awareness and both people being committed to changing their behavior. If you are interested in learning more about your relationship dynamics, or have concerns about your current partnership having emotionally abusive elements, consult a couple’s counselor and seek out help.


***Disclaimer: Jeff and Mary are fictional characters*****

***Disclaimer: This blog post is solely the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for mental health services nor does it constitute a professional relationship. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please dial 911

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