By Sandy Thompson

Those with first-hand experience in caring about a person with an active addiction to substances know that the alcohol or drug use is not the only problem in that relationship. Many times these relationships are also abusive. One type of abuse that is difficult to identify, even by the victim, is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse causes victims to question their own instincts, feelings, and sanity, which then gives the abuser a lot of power. Emotional abuse may not leave any visible scars or lead to a visit with a medical doctor, but it’s tragic, hurtful, and its effects linger long after the abuse ends or the relationship falls apart completely. 

Different examples of emotional abuse are: 

Withholding Many times the abusive partner will refuse to listen when you are speaking with them, they may pretend to not understand what you are talking about, they may withhold affection, or saying “I love you.”

Stalling/Diverting The abusive partner changes the subject or questions the victim’s thoughts or actions. As an example, the victim might say: “We need to talk about our finances, specifically that big cash withdrawal you made from our checking account last week.” The abusive partner might respond by saying something like “Withdrawal? What withdrawal?  Oh yeah, wait a minute, I think that was for those repairs on the furnace,” or “Yeah, we do need to talk about our finances, you need to get a second job if we’re gonna make it.”

Trivializing The abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. An example of this may be the abusive partner saying, “You’re too sensitive,” or “Why are you so emotional?”

Indifference The abusive partner sees you hurt or crying and they say or do nothing to assist you (lack of compassion or empathy).

Being in a healthy relationship with another person is HARD WORK!  Introducing addiction and/or some type of abuse into that relationship is a recipe for disaster for everyone involved. It’s like a bad accident with few, if any, survivors. If you experience any of the following, you may be in an abusive relationship and may want to consider reaching out for help from family, friends, or a trained professional. 

  • Second guessing yourself, your decisions, and/or feelings
  • Feeling confused or “crazy”
  • Making excuses for your partner’s decisions or behaviors
  • Having trouble making simple decisions, like what to make for dinner
  • Missing the person you used to be (confident, fun to be around, relaxed)
  • Wondering if you are “good enough” for your partner
  • Longing for the way things used to be when the relationship was stronger and healthier

If you know someone who cares for another person who has an addiction, please check up on them. They are the forgotten victims of addiction; they may not be doing well and just need one person to stop and say, “Hey, are you OK?” You will not be sorry that you took a moment to just say, “I care and I’m here for you.”