You know what?

You’d think it would be simple to know that you’re being mistreated in relationships. Right?

Only it’s not.

And it can be a real kick in the teeth when it suddenly becomes obvious.

In fact it’s shocking.  Because let’s face it, you’ve been living as though it’s normal to be treated badly.

But emotional abuse or being mistreated can begin in small ways that you hardly notice. Until one day dear ones, you have a serious problem on your hands.

So here’s seven signs that show you where things are not okay in your world, even if you thought they were!

1. Belittling and mean comments

There’s a big difference between a little fun or joke between you and out and out humiliation.  If you’re constantly being put down, and made to feel less than, it’s not funny.  And if you’re told “It was a joke” ask for an explanation.  It might be awkward, but it will be honest.

Belittling comments cloaked as a joke are not only disrespectful, they’re hurtful and emotionally wounding. And the pain can eat away at your self worth.

(Discover more about self worth by clicking here)

2. Controlling behavior

I was involved with someone who was insanely jealous and it was scary.  He would freak out if someone looked at me in the street, because it was clearly my fault. 

Be cautious of anyone who wants to control your every movement or who insists they know where you are and what you’re doing 24/7.  This isn’t caring…this is control.

[Tweet “Don’t let anyone or anything control, or stop you from being your greatest self!”]

3. Manipulation

We can’t always see what’s best for us when we’re invested in a relationship and it’s the easiest thing in the world for a manipulator to convince you to give up something of yourself, so their self-centered interests can be served. 

It’s a hard cycle to break. Once they discover that you’ll make excuses for their behavior, and accept being mistreated and taken advantage of, they’ll repeat the violations until you put a complete stop to it.

4. Constant unreliability

If a relationship is constantly under attack through dishonesty, or an unwillingness to follow through on what has been agreed then it’s in serious trouble.  It leaves you mentally and emotionally drained.

Remember, people with integrity don’t just make promises. They keep them. Mutual reliability is an important quality for trust in any relationship.

5. Negative atmosphere

It’s virtually impossible for you to be experiencing anything positive from a relationship filled with negativity. It’s not healthy.

And being around someone who is constantly angry, unhappy or critical should be a huge red flag. This kind of hostility will always leave you feeling unsafe.

6. Guilt-trips

If you reach a point where it feels like you’re walking on eggshells, beware.  Emotionally abusive people try to exert their power by encouraging you to feel badly about everything you do. 

They’re incapable of taking responsibility for their feelings and actions towards you, so the next best thing is to make everything your fault.

Don’t fall for it.

(To learn how your care for yourself click here)

7.  Fear or intimidation

If you’ve learned to stop bringing up issues, stop being involved with others and stop asking for what you need, because the emotional cost is too great, this is not just being mistreated, this is emotional abuse at it’s worst.

Making yourself small, blaming yourself and wondering what you did to deserve this treatment from someone you love is all part of the toxic cycle.  You should never feel powerless in a relationship…that’s not love that’s imprisonment.

Last word

It might be one of the hardest decisions you’ve ever faced, but letting go of toxic people and relationships is a major step towards greater happiness.  Try to remember what you deserve.

And while losing people is never easy, the one thing that is worse than losing people is losing yourself.

Only you can decide if it’s time to save yourself and move on.

But remember: You are amazing. You are worth spending time with. And those who don’t honor you or who abuse the privilege of being with you, don’t get to have access to your fabulousness anymore. Full stop!

Encourage one another.

Love Elle




Elle Sommer is the author of 4 books and a workbook. Her latest publications are a series called The Power of Consciousness, and you will find all three books in this trilogy now available on Kindle. She shares quotes, inspiration and positive vibes on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And her greatest desire is to encourage and inspire others to create not just a good life, but a phenomenal life.


  1. In September of this year, after 25 years of living with and being married to someone who used to do 6/7 of these things on a regular basis…I literally drove away!! I look back just long enough to remember that I don’t want to ever go back to that! The sad part is that my teenaged son is doing the same thing. He remains with his father because I can’t handle his behaviour. I’m still trying to get myself sorted out. I have the support of family and I’ve found a place to live and a new job. I struggle with confidence and self esteem but I’m working on it. I try to communicate with my son, sometimes he texts back, more often he doesn’t. I just keep telling him I love him and encourage him to go to school. Thank you for this article. It is the reinforcement I need to keep my resolve.

    • Oh my gosh Cathy…I totally understand. I’m so happy for you that you were able to find the courage to leave. Believe me…I know how brave you are. May something wonderful be on its way to you as we speak. And if I can be of encouragement to you in any way…I’m here. 🙂

      PS I recently produced a very inexpensive program Cathy that I think you’ll love and it would be so helpful to you in moving forward. I’m not big on pushing products, but in this case because I know what you’re going through I know this could make a huge difference. This is the link if you’d like to take a look

      • Rudy Maldonado

        thank you so much for your words ? and God bless you ?

  2. LaVallette

    Hello Elle

    I read this blog yesterday and today I’m still reeling from the truth of it all. Each point you raised applies to me in graphic detail. In my mind, I knew the situation I was in yet even after we divorced in 2015. I gave way to her bringing her boyfriend to live with us, until I agreed to a divorce and moved elsewhere. I did not want any part of the house, or furnishing. I just took my personal belongings and left.

    Please allow me to mention a few facts. I’m a professional University trained male, just turned 67, registered disabled and had/still is enchanted, charmed, hypnotised, controlled, led by this person from the time I met her.

    I have to admit to being allowed to be controlled, as you so clearly described in each of your points. Even after divorcing, I allowed her to come back into my life, and to this day when she clicks her fingers, I jump. Whenever she wants something, she knows I’m there. I know I’m her puppet.

    The sad thing is, that somehow, she makes me feel sorry for her. She turns on the tears in an instant and all I want to do is feel sorry for her. She has no friends. Seriously no friends. I’m the only one she ‘talks’ to and I allow her to talk, bully, abuse, swear at anyway she wants, and all I do is just let her. And always, I am the one who goes running back to her, almost apologising for upsetting her, when I haven’t.

    I’m always afraid to talk to speak my mind. The violence in her eyes, as you say makes me feel I’m walking on ‘egg shells’. I dare not upset her. She frightens me.

    I think that inside of me, I believe that one day she will wake up into a beautiful person and wait for that day, although I know that it will never be. It will never happen.

    I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll stop there. When I read your posting, I was genuinely stunned. You had captured every aspect of my existence with her to the letter. How I would love to break away from her and I believe/know that it is up to me to do so. I’ve been in a stupefied state since I read your awesome posting.

    Nobody should live under those conditions and I know it’s up to me to put a stop to it. But it is tough to find support when you’re a man and ‘living’ with an abusive woman.

    So thank you Elle and thank you for your Angelic posting.

    • Hi LaValette…my heart goes out to you. They say that leaving is the easiest thing, but it’s so not true is it dear one?

      It is true that women too can be the violators of heart and spirit and I think just about everyone who’s being mistreated has the hope that the abuser will one day become the loving, beautiful person they would love to see. Sadly, you and I know this is mostly a fairy tale or a dream that’s unlikely to be fulfilled.

      Remember dear heart…you matter…you are valuable…you deserve true, real and nurturing love. This experience has nothing to do with love, it’s all about power and control and every day you stay, every time you return you’re handing your power into the hands of someone who can only abuse it.

      I commend your courage in speaking out…and my hope for you is a better future with great love in it. 🙂 Elle

      PS I’m not in the habit of pushing my programs, but as I mentioned to Cathy… I produced a very inexpensive one recently so that it would be affordable to more people and I truly think this would help. I wish I’d had the chance to check out something like this all those years ago. Here is a link

      • LaVallette

        Thank you Elle. Thank you for the beautiful true reply. One comment you made in your reply has really struck a chord in me. You said, “every time you return you’re handing your power back into the hands of the abuser”.

        How true. And as I read that I sighed and thought back to every occasion, she stopped talking to me, or shouted at me, or verbally abused me. I was the one who always tried to put things right. I always felt, that the incident was my fault, caused by me. And even now, even though we are divorced, and living apart, I am tempted to text, email, call and say sorry for making her become angry towards me.

        Your comment about handing power over stopped me in my tracks. I was always the one to apologise first, to bring about peace, to forgive her behaviour. Never do I genuinely recall her apologising for her behaviour.

        I have no intention of apologising for something I didn’t cause any more. I have no intention of handing over that power. No! If I want things to change then I have to change. And change they will. No matter how many times I begin to weaken I must remember your words.

        Thank you, dear Elle. Thank you for being there. And thank God for your existence and your wonderful words.

        • Hi LaVallette…for all of us who’ve experienced in some shape or form what you have, we all know how difficult it is to break away and stay away. But, dear one, once you determine you are deserving of so much more, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the so much more arrives. I wish you every blessing on your journey. Love Elle 🙂

  3. This is such an important message. Thank you for writing about it, Elle. I feel fortunate that I’ve never been in a relationship like this. I’m not like this myself, but I can have an edge and I’m always watching for that, trying to soften more and more.

    • Hi Sandra…it’s a blessing to never have been involved in abuse, be it emotional or physical. The scars from mental cruelty might not be as obvious as the wounds from physical violence…but they are as deep and long-lasting. And as you can see from a couple of the comments here it can be hard to do what intellectually you know is the right thing but emotionally it feels as though you’re stuck in quicksand. “-)

  4. For those who hate confrontations, it can be easy to ignore or pretend not to know. We give excuses if the abuser is someone whom we have a relationship with. When this happens, we are drained of our inner power. A situation like this cannot last long. Best is to seek assistance or find help. We can’t do this alone. A situation of abuse can be seriously damaging.

    • So very true Evelyn…eventually our spirit is worn out and we are spent. And it can be good to have the support of an expert. 🙂

  5. I was in a marriage for 18 years with a person exhibiting all of the traits described. When you are in such a relationship, this kind of treatment just becomes the norm. All the while, my self-esteem and happiness sank lower and lower.

    After being out for over 10 years and doing a lot of healing and work on myself, I can see how I contributed to the pattern by allowing it. We really do teach people how to treat us.

    We have to treat ourselves kindly and with respect first and expect the same from others.

    • That’s a great point Debbie. When something seems normal, even though others around us see it differently, it makes it much harder to make healthy, necessary changes. Congratulations on all the work you’ve done. You’ve come so far and deserve so much credit and I hope greater joy and happiness are your reward. 🙂

  6. Joseph Appaloosa

    Elle, you’ve done it again with another powerful article.
    It helped me understand that manipulation is really just a form of abuse.
    Your article gave me perspective on a past long-term relationship and more importantly it allowed me to feel even greater gratitude to be solidly in the Love-Union that I am currently in. Thank you !
    Write on, Elle !

    • Hello Joseph…lovely to see you again and I’m very happy that the article shone some light for you on past experiences. How wonderful that you have let go, moved on, and are now clearly experiencing the relationship you deserve. 🙂

  7. This makes me sad and at the same time I feel so blessed, i grew up in a loving home and have always attracted loving relationships. Your post comes at a time when i fear that there could be a rise in this unacceptable behaviour. So sad xx

    • It is a sad state of affairs Suzie…but…it’s also awesome that not everyone has or will ever experience being mistreated. Especially in this day and age when we know so much more about our inner power. 🙂

  8. Hi Elle, I love your post. YES, do not let anybody mistreat you, sometimes we are unaware that it is already happening probably because we love too much or blinded by love. Always know your worth. Thanks so much for sharing another motivating post. Really Great.

    • Thanks Sherill, glad you enjoyed it. And you’re so right about being so blind that we cannot see. Plus sometimes it creeps up on us and we don’t pay enough attention until one day we wake up and take a long hard look at what’s happening. That is a painful realization for anyone. 🙂

  9. I feel like it was a bad dream…But I was in such a relationship many many years back. Fortunately I had support and courage to walk out of it. But I know its very hard. Thank you for this encouraging post Elle. I just know it will offer clarity and support to so many.
    xoxo, Z~

    • Hi Zeenat…I’m so glad you were able to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. I do believe the perspective we gain makes us so much stronger for our future. 🙂

  10. Such a powerful message with so much positive encouragement to look after ourselves in relationships Elle. it’s that insidious creep of behavior that can make the unacceptable seem normal, plausible, explainable.

    • So true Laura…and that’s the right word…insidious. Toxic behavior certainly can sneak under our defenses any time. And it becomes so much part of the fabric of our life that we pay little attention. That is until our spirit begins to hurt with all the nastiness we’ve endured. 🙂

  11. HI Elle, I grew up in an atmosphere in which all 7 traits you listed were used to control everyone in the household. I lived there until I was 31 because I became a single parent of a young daughter at age 18. I thought it was normal and that the behaviors exhibited were my fault. I was told I was weak, to “snap out of it” concerning my shyness and generally stripped of any self esteem I had. My daughter grew up and I got married when she was 16. The man I married was, quiet, sweet and fun. It felt wrong to enjoy myself. Maybe it was a premonition because soon the fun was gone. He continued to live like he did when he was a bachelor (no cheating). He took no interest in my accomplishments, in our household or in our marriage. I was so hurt and felt ignored and manipulated in a totally different way. I was expected to drop everything to meet his needs. If I tried to communicate, I was met with silence or a look that made me feel like I was being selfish or mean. As the years passed, I began to use some of the techniques you described in your article. To my shock and horror I had become the perpetrator, I can only guess as a means to fight back. When I realized what was happening, I left my house and was on my own for the first time in my life. He refuses divorce and simultaneously refuses to work on the relationship. The parent, whose tyranny I once lived under, is now in a nursing home. I live with constant anxiety and fear. I struggle to stay at work and struggle to be a good mom and Nana to my daughter and grandson. I guess my point is for people to be aware of the cyclical nature of abuse. Even when your heart is kind and you strive for peace, it may emerge from deep within when it was the example set in a child’s formative years.

    • Oh Jade I am so sorry. That is a very hard path you have walked dear one and I wish for you kinder and more loving paths ahead. You make a great point about our environment having a deep and profound impact on our psyches, even if we are unaware that it’s happening. Thank goodness you still had the strength and inner power to move into a safer place where you can have a chance to heal and grow. If I can support you in any way, do let me know and if it’s possible I will. Many blessings to you. Love Elle

  12. I feel that many people who continue to stay in abusive relationships is because they hope that some day, that mean person will turn back into the one they fell in love with–that’s the image their hope is made of. Also, as you rightly said, when deeply involved, one does not recognize the signs visible to the whole world, except the two in the relationship. Emotional blackmail is a very real thing, and scary. To add to it, the “victim” feels bad about letting anyone know, even their close friends, that things are not going well.

    You know, Elle, in India, in arranged marriages when the girl is being abused, and she tells her parents about it, they simply ask her to “adjust” and that “things will get better” Of course they never do. Not that marriages that are not arranged are perfect, but at least both people go into it with their eyes open.

    Wonderful post. ❤️

    • What you say is so true Vidya…and I speak from experience…the desire is that we want the person we believed the other to be. But too often they never even existed; it was just a scam. That’s an interesting point you make about arranged marriages. I never thought of it before. It’s too bad that the support and love that’s needed to deal with this kind of mistreatment is all to often in short supply. 🙂

  13. And what things cause this kind of behavior? I can’t help but feel empathy when my family acts this way towards me. Is it because they are used to bring emotionally abused? I know I myself am guilty of a couple things here and I don’t want to turn out like them, though it shows when i am in a close relationship… Out of the two that ive had in 15 years and each lasted less than 1 year.

  14. Dear Elle, thank you for excellent article on how one can recognize that he/she is in an abusive relationship.

    My abusive relationship was with my parents and my siblings, with all the characteristics you describe so well. I can vouch for their accuracy. I make this comment to bring two points to your and your readers attention. Recently i described one episode of my father’s cruelty (I assure you cruelty is an understatement) One of my cousins happened to read my story. He responded very angrily and told me a story, completely the opposite of the story I had told. His story was about an act of my father’s great kindness towards him. He objected to me telling an instance of how my father had put me down. How dare I malign such a good man as my father. The two points I want to emphasize: 1. Most abuse is carried out by paren. 2. The abuse can be towards one child. For the remainder of people the parent is kind even being renowned for their kindness. In this situation the child has no way of gaining support and ends up an outcast in his own family.

    • Hi there, I’m sorry to hear about your difficult relationship with your family. For so many of us who experience any kind of abuse at the hands of those who supposedly love and care for us, silence seems to be the only course to take. Sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge, even to ourselves that this is happening. And worse many believe it’s their fault. And the events in your life seem to bear out the idea that speaking out can bring recriminations. With that said…bravo to you for standing up for yourself in what must have been such an incredibly hard situation. May your life continue in peace and may you stay strong in living a life that is best for you. 🙂

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