7 Behaviours that look like love, but are actually emotional abuse

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Even though these behaviours may seem loving and romantic on the surface, they're actually toxic and highly abusive.

Emotional abuse is hard to detect, so much so that we often only realise it’s happening when we’re already entrenched in misery. That’s because abusers are usually very good at disguising their manipulative behaviour as gestures of love and affection. Here are some examples of behaviour that look like love but can actually be abuse, compiled from Bustle and FamilyShare.

1. “It’s because I love you”

If your partner is controlling and irrationally jealous, but justifies his bad behaviour by saying “it’s only because I love you so much,” don’t buy into it. Your partner should trust and respect you, not try to control your behaviour.

emotional abuse

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2. Demanding all of your time

Sure, it’s normal to want to spend a lot of time with your partner, but if your partner starts demanding that you stop spending time with your friends and family, watch out. Isolating you from your friends and family is a manipulative strategy abusers use to ensure that you become totally dependent on them, with brings us to the next point…

3. “Taking care” of you

Yes, we all want someone to watch our backs and take care of us, but when your partner won’t allow you to be independent (i.e. work, save money, get an education), that’s a sign of abuse. This allows them to control you by cutting off your access to resources that

On the next page: more subtle signs of emotional abuse.

4. Threatening self-harm

If your partner threatens suicide in order for you to stay or do things their way, get out of that relationship because they’re obviously trying to manipulate you. Report their behaviour to a professional but don’t feel like you need to stay in the relationship.

5. “If you love me, you’ll…”

This is a typical phrase manipulators use to get their own way. You shouldn’t have to prove your love by doing something you clearly don’t want to do.

emotional abuse

Photo: Shutterstock

6. Using gifts to get their own way

Don’t get me wrong, gifts are a great way to show your affection. But when your partner is using gifts as a way to make up for terrible behaviour (like physical abuse), or control your behaviour (like buying you clothes to control what you wear), or making you feel dependent or indebted to them by paying your bills and buying you expensive things, then that’s manipulation. Gifts should just be gifts, no strings attached.

7. “I want what’s best for us/our family”

This is another classic line that abusers say to control a situation. Note that this isn’t necessarily what’s best for your relationship—it might just be best for him. First, evaluate if what your partner is asking you to do is good for you. If what he’s demanding is potentially destructive for you in the long run, like stop spending time with your family or disciplining your children a certain way, you should speak up and call them out on their behaviour.

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