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5 signs you are in an emotionally abusive relationship

Jenny McCarthy speaks out

Recently, the fun-loving, no-holds-barred, and always herself TV personality and actress, Jenny McCarthy, made a stunning admission about a former relationship she had before marrying her now-husband, Donnie Wahlberg. She was in a four-year "very dark" verbally and emotionally abusive relationship that she claims, "Could have easily killed me."

When we think of someone, usually a female, who is or has been in such a horrifying situation, a woman like McCarthy doesn't come to mind. As reported, even she says that, "I really consider myself to be pretty strong-willed and confident, even back then." But manipulation, especially by someone you love and you truly believes loves you can take over, and even the most self-confident person can fall into an abusive trap that usually only gets worse as time goes by.

Every person and every relationship is unique and complicated in its own right. We all tolerate different behaviors from our partners and do so to varied degrees. But if you are questioning your relationship and wonder if it is or is on the path to becoming mentally abusive, the 5 signs below may help you reevaluate your partnership and make changes as needed or find the help and strength to walk away, as McCarthy did after finding self-love.

1. Criticism

Is nothing you do good enough and everything you say is contradicted or belittled? Are you picked apart, put down, insulted, and criticized at every turn? An abuser will tear you down rather that lift your spirits.

As per Huffington Post, "He (or she) really doesn't want you feeling good about yourself. If you do, you might realize you could do better elsewhere. So, instead of loving praise, you'll get reactions that take you down a notch or two."

Constructive criticism is the only type a good partner should offer. Anything hurtful, consistent, and downright mean is uncalled for and should not be tolerated.

2. Humiliation

It's healthy to have a fun-loving relationship, but only when the joking around is light-hearted and mutual. But when fun and games is replaced with humiliation and embarrassment, this can be a sign of emotional abuse.

According to David Wolfe, if "your partner tells mean, inappropriate, and demeaning jokes, with you as the punch line," then you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Additionally, if your partner embarrasses you on purpose in front of others, it's an indication that they are seeking to harm you emotionally.

3. Ignored

When your partner pays little to no attention to you, it can be as hurtful and abusive as someone actively tearing you down.

As per no 2 abuse, "It is abuse to ignore someone's needs emotionally and make them feel worthless and depressed and will cause long term damage so much so that in many cases it can lead to the victim's physical health being harmed."

The "silent treatment" is mentally abusive and a manner in which a person denies their partner of emotional attention. Suddenly Abandoned suggests, "The silent treatment (feigned apathy; cold-shoulder; silence; distance, and ignoring you) is the worst form of emotional abuse. It is a punishment used by abusers to make you feel unimportant, not valued, not cared about and completely absent from the abuser's thoughts."

4. Threats

As per MindBodyGreen, "A favorite tool of antagonists is the threat: threatening to leave you, to hurt themselves (or you) physically, or to engage in harmful or illegal activity."

These threats can be subtle, as David Wolfe points out, "Your partner gives you disapproving looks that make you afraid or nervous to be alone with him or her."

No matter the level of the threat, if it makes you uncomfortable or afraid, seek help. Far too many mentally abused people ignore these threats until they become all too real.

5. Control

Control can take many forms, from how often a partner may see their friends and family, how much money they can spend, what they can and cannot eat, what they are permitted to watch on TV, what job (if any) they can have, and so on.

According to Your Tango, "Psychological abuse occurs when a person in the relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person's sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and not acceptable."

Control can also take over how a person feels about themselves because the abuser has manipulated and scared them into giving in to their "leadership." As McCarthy said, "I no longer had my own thoughts. They were replaced with his thoughts about me."

As per Your Tango, "All abuse takes a severe toll on self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless." No one deserves to be treated this way. For more signs of emotional abuse, see David Wolfe's full list of what to look out for.

For help, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to reach The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Their highly-trained advocates are there for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.