Are you quietly miserable and exhausted in your relationship/marriage? It could be covert abuse.

Do you never feel that you are ‘good enough’ or that you can never measure up to the expectations of your partner? Maybe you are never really thin, clever or funny enough?

Is the silent mantra you have running around in your head ‘it’s not supposed to be like this’? It could be covert abuse.

Does your partner/boyfriend outwardly seem very pleasant, giving, perhaps funny and charming…..but somehow you feel tired, confused and empty, ‘not enough’ and lost inside?

You may be in a relationship with covert abuse.

Is there little real intimacy or honesty in your relationship? Maybe the sex is intense, sporadic and addictive, but somehow there isn’t any genuine emotional connection.

Or maybe there is little or no sex at all because you are never ‘attractive enough’ to ‘deserve’ that kind of attention, and if you do have sex it’s all about his needs and you are left unsatisfied and forlorn.

Perhaps connection seems to happen in moments here and there. But when you really need emotional support or closeness…..there’s nothing…an abyss between you covered up by unsatisfying or confusing conversations where you are labelled as overly needy or insecure. Or there are sudden absences (real or emotional), the silent treatment or worse, jokes at your expense.

Covert abuse is often a difficult, very confusing and tiring experience to understand when you are on the inside, let alone explain to friends or loved ones.

It is often delivered in such a quiet, subtle way over time that you find it hard to put your finger on what is happening. You just know that you are miserable and never feel like you are enough.

If you are in a relationship with a covertly abusive and manipulative partner it is likely you will have experienced some or all of the following:

  • Criticism – overly harsh criticism about all aspects of your life, choices, job, friends, body etc, hostile demeaning comments and remarks often hidden inside ‘jokes’ or delivered with casual ease.

“What the matter with you? I was just making a joke!”

  • Gaslighting – re-writing the truth of events, and labelling you as ‘crazy’

“Why are you acting so crazy – you making things up – I didn’t do that!”

  • Intermittent Reinforcement – playing emotional hot and cold. Inconsistent kindness, warmth or help, suddenly withdrawing attention, being very cold, distant and callous and sporadically returning with warmth and affection again. This cruel and painful process conditions you to accept less and less each time.
  • Stonewalling – using silence and never taking responsibility for their unacceptable behaviour
  • Controlling all aspects of your life, so that you become isolated from family and friends. This can happen as an acid drip feed over time, until you suddenly realise one day you are very alone.
  • Triangulation with other partners, friends, family members and even animals. So that you always feel that they are more important than you.

Stepping away from an abusive relationship often happens in stages.

The first stages are to identify what is happening and to start to separate your actual reality from the ‘fantasy world’ (where you are crazy, needy, not good enough etc) that the abuser is trying to create around you.

If you are in a relationship that can resonate with, and identify the tactics laid out in this piece, you are probably exhausted, manipulated and confused. Are these things happening to you?

You deserve help, compassion and support, and above all, know that you are worthy and stronger than you ever realised.

Kate is a trauma and embodiment specialist. She is a TRE & EFT Supervising Mentor and is on the Executive Board of EFT International (formerly AAMET) and is a Comprehensive Energy Psychology Practitioner, DipPsych, Master Hypnotist, Master Practitioner of NLP and Time Line Therapy (accredited by the ABNLP) and has been an intuitive body & energy worker for 30 years. While she works with any problem state she specialises in the sensitive areas of Post Traumatic Stress, emotional abuse, chronic pain and anxiety.