Updated: Aug 14
I was in a very long marriage with an emotional abuser. While the real extreme and overt abuse only gradually became apparent as his level of control grew, there were some very early warning signs. My marriage was not happy, it was full of confusion and frustration, yet one thing I knew clearly was I wanted out. That did not make sense, on surface everything seemed so picture perfect. He seemed to be the ideal husband. By all appearances I should have had a happy and fulfiling life. I believed that somehow I was the problem and was trapped between wanting the illusion and being miserable. Pretty much immediately after we started having children, once he knew he had me trapped I was no longer a willing participant. So why did I stay. I am still figuring that out. I am flabbergasted to look back and realize the level of psychological turmoil I was in at the time. I did make attempts. I think the first time I tried to leave was after we had been married about two years. I tried leaving several more times over the years, even going as far a getting a lawyer to start proceedings about 10 years before I actually left. I would have dreams of escaping. Somehow, in my mind, leaving was impossible. I kept wishing for someone to come save me, I did not see that I was capable of saving myself. This was in large part due to my conditioning, both in my marriage and in my childhood. Many of the statements below I not only heard from my abuser, but my parents. https://www.carolynnes-world.com/post/groomed-to-be-in-an-abusive-relationship
One thing I have realized in retrospect is my abuser never had an interest in truly having a true loving relationship as he had claimed. He did put on a good show, most of my friends and family thought he was the supreme catch. And he consistently told me how dedicated he was to me. But really his interest was maintaining control, and he would pull what ever levers he needed to pull to keep me where he wanted me. He used whatever tool suited the date, whether that be charm, rage, or physical intimidations. As he no doubt does with his new victim. Once you get pulled into that vortex it seems there is no way out. If you are currently in this type of relationship, it's important to realize that they need you more than you need them. You are in fact, the prize. That is why they need to go to such great lengths to maintain control and destabilize you. They are nothing more than parasites, feeding off your energy and validation. Without it, they are nothing but an empty shell. Once they have lost control, they have to move on quickly to a new source, because they cannot function alone. They will find a new vulnerable host so they can feed. You can expect as they get older, their victims get younger, because they need to find someone that they can dominate and who will be submissive. They will use all the same tactics, and the new relationship will basically be a repeat of yours, except, there is a good chance the abuser will have learned from some of thier mistakes. So the new victim will likely have it far worse than you did, in time.
One of my frustrations now is realizing how much easier it was to leave than I had feared. I truly believed I could not make it on my own, that I needed him. I could not see that I was fully capable of managing on my own, and that in fact I would be much better off without him limiting my progress. I was definitely deeply trauma bonded. I wasn't there because I wanted to be, but because I truly felt I had no choice. Little did I know there are specific ways that an emotional abuser will break you down in order to keep you trapped. If I had known these things when I was in the relationship, it would have saved me years of agony of trying to genuinely relate to a man, whose only interest was to maintain control.
When I initially read this list I was floored, I had heard every single one of these statements. Pretty much verbatim. Emotional abusers are skilled manipulators who use various tactics, including specific phrases and statements, to keep their victims trapped in toxic relationships. These statements are designed to undermine the your self-esteem, create confusion, guilt, and dependency, and maintain control over the relationship. Here are some examples of things an abuser might say to keep you stuck in a relationship: You can also hear my abuser use many of these on me in the recording I have uploaded to this blog https://www.carolynnes-world.com/post/what-does-verbal-abuse-sound-like-listen-here :
"No one else will ever love you like I do." This statement aims to make you feel that you're lucky to have the abuser's love and that you won't find happiness or love elsewhere. I remember this one all too well. He constantly told me that his was the best love I would ever get. No man could love me the way he did. He was pure true love. If any man ever portrays himself like this to you, RUN. A real man doesn't have to tell you how amazing his love is, he will show you.
"I am the only man you can trust" This was one I heard often as well, I was not allowed to consult other men about any thing. One of my biggest crimes would be to call a mechanic or a handyman. He told me he was the only man that had my best interests at heart, all other men would just be out to take advantage of me. I have learned, this is absolutely not true. The most dangerous man I ever encountered was the one I married. He was projecting his own behaviour onto other men.
"You're too sensitive." By dismissing your feelings and emotions, the abuser invalidates your experiences and makes you doubt your own reactions to their behavior. " it was only a joke etc." You will never be allowed to be upset, they will redirect your feelings, and make it your problem. What ever they did is not the problem, you are.
"You just dont know how to be happy " Everything is fine its just you, you are invalidated and your feelings ignored. This is also a form of gaslighting, you know something is wrong but they are telling you everything else is great, you just don't know how to enjoy it. Often this will be attritrubed to your inate miserable nature.
"You're crazy" or "You're imagining things." Gaslighting tactics are used to manipulate your perception of reality and make you doubt your own sanity. Add to this, you are overreacting. This particular one can be really insane once you look back and realize some of the insanity your were forced to deal with. My ex thought it was perfectly reasonable he should be able to freely hang out with another woman and forbid me to be go where ever they might be. This was because I was "imagining" them secretly texting and meeting up for months might be inappropriate. OMG. unreal. But at the time, I was so deeply gaslight it took other people telling me that it was fucking nuts for me to be able to trust my feelings on it.
"You're the one who's always causing problems." The narcissist shifts blame onto you, making you believe that their negative behavior is a result of your actions. A variation is "No one else is going to put up with the shit that follows you around" This instills a fear that you will be alone, and you are lucky that they put up with you combined with any problems that are occur are your fault.
"If you really loved me, you would..." This manipulative statement puts pressure on you to comply with the abuser's demands or desires, making you feel responsible for their happiness. This is one my abuser did not happen to use. I think because I didnt love him and he knew it.
"I'm only doing this for your own good." The narcissist portrays themselves as a protector or caretaker, justifying their controlling behavior as if it's in your best interest. If you go listen to the recording of what does emotional abuse sound like, you will hear him say a variation of this to me. "I am going to take control of it" "I am going to teach you how to behave" The underlying message is you are so so ahorrent you need me to show you the right way be. You are not ok, you are not fit to be in public. You need me to show you.
"You're lucky to have me." By implying that you're fortunate to be in the relationship, the narcissist creates a sense of gratitude and indebtedness. There was a constant reinforcement that without him I would not survive. In his mind, he was so much smarter and more capable than I was. This is the reason abusers like partners who are much younger than they are, the younger and more vulnerable the better. It makes them easier to impress, and easier to control.
"You're too needy" or "You're too clingy." This belittles your need for emotional support and can make you doubt your legitimate emotional needs.
"Nobody else would want you." The narcissist undermines your self-esteem and self-worth, making you believe that you're undesirable to others.
"I'll change, I promise." The narcissist might give you false hope of change to keep you from leaving the relationship. However, change rarely happens, and this statement is often used to manipulate you into staying. My abuser never said this, but after an abusive episode he would quickly revert to the extremely loving caring person he pretended to be in the beginning. Even after we were divorced and he was in another relationship he was still working this angle, pretending he actually cared.
"You're just trying to ruin everything." By framing your concerns as attempts to sabotage the relationship, the narcissist deflects responsibility for their hurtful actions.
"You're too weak to handle life without me." This statement is intended to make you feel dependent on the narcissist and incapable of thriving on your own.
"You'll be nothing without me." Similar to the previous statement, this tactic aims to create a sense of dependence and fear of losing the abuser's support. This is one I heard from my parents. "You would be nothing without me kid." It caused a deep fear and belief in me that I could not survive on my own. This made me an easy target for a predator like my ex husband.
"You're being overdramatic." By minimizing your emotions and reactions, the narcissist dismisses your valid concerns and feelings. A variation on this is to accuse you of being a drama magnet.
"I know you better than you know yourself." This assertion reinforces the abuser's belief in their superiority and control over you, undermining your autonomy. I have a post on this one https://www.carolynnes-world.com/post/i-know-you-coercive-control-abusers-will-pretend-to-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself
"Its only because of you I do this, you draw it out of me" This statement places the blame for their abuse on you. If you only would behave properly they wouldn't have to rage, call you names or engage in any of the other abusive tactics they employ. It's all your fault. A variation on this one is "If you would change this wouldn't happen" The abuser portrays themselves as an innocent victim, driven to rage and abuse by you. The fact is it doesn't matter what you have done, there is no rational justification for abuse. Being abused IS NEVER YOUR FAULT.
And in the initial phases of their new relationships after they have left, they will tell the new victim that somehow they are different. Just like they told you, you were different in the beginning. This is the bait that will lures you into the trap. When your ego is tricked into proving you are better than the women before you. You are the one that can love him right. ( I think I have to write a post of its on on that whole aspect)
Breaking free from a relationship with a narcissist can be difficult due to the emotional manipulation and psychological impact. If you're in such a situation, consider seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals to help you navigate the process of leaving and healing. An important step is to recognize statements like those above for what they are, strategies to control your sense of reality and confuse you into submission. If you are hearing these types of messages, its not you, its abuse.