Skip to main content

9 Steps to Ending Emotional Abuse

by Oluseye Igbafe

 Emotional abuse can be quite difficult to recognize by abused persons; and even by family and friends. This is because it doesn’t leave any physical scar and is often done behind closed doors. It is difficult to recognize because the abuse often starts as a normal relationship conflict.

Worse still, emotional abuse can sometimes reinforce the negative perceptions and emotions that victims already have of themselves, thereby, making it seem as though the abuse or criticism is not only true but deserved. This is more true for those with  pre-existing self-esteem issues.

The first step to stopping emotional abuse is recognizing it; recognizing abuse is a huge part of stopping itself. When you are able to tell yourself, "s/he's wrong" or "this isn't right", you are half the way to saying, "stop this behavior".

To spot abuse please read my article to see the warning signs here

                           9 Steps to Stopping the Abuse 

Once you have spotted emotional abuse, it is time to face up to it and stop it. In most cases, abusive people do not change. If you are therefore not married to the abuser, it is best you break off the relationship and walk away. If, however, you are married and have children and do decide to remain in the relationship, then below are possible things to do to stop the abuse.

1.    Have a Strong Support System: Have strong and meaningful relationships outside your partner. Have good friends and keep in touch with your family; talk to your family/friends/counselors regularly. Refuse to be isolated from your friends as their support will give you emotional balance.

2.    Build Your Self-Esteem: Don’t internalize every criticism; believe in yourself. No one is perfect and you probably are not more flawed than the others, so reject every attempt to bring you down. Recognize that you have a right to be who you are. Celebrate yourself and focus on the positives.

3.    Set boundaries on emotional outbursts: You need to inform your abuser that you will not tolerate emotional abuse: you have to be adamant about this. Let your partner know that you are open to hearing his concerns about your actions and how they affect him, but will no longer engage in conversations that attack who you are as a person.

4.    Don’t appear upset: Your abuser thrives on his ability to hurt you, try to remain calm and unaffected. If possible remain upbeat. Smile as though you did not hear the abusive words. Crying and sadness would feed his desire to hurt you.

5.    Refrain from engaging in tit-for-tat: This is easier said than done but it is better to keep calm and refuse to descend into exchange of words as this may escalate into violence. Also, you want to set the standard for right and respectful communication. Do not be tempted into trying to beat them at their own game: Two wrongs don’t make a right!

6.    Talk About It When Everyone is Calm: Realize that this is a problem and would not go away on its own. You need to let your abuser know what s/he is doing wrong; do this after everybody has calmed down. If you believe this will trigger another attack, then don't do it alone. Make sure you have a trusted friend, a mediator, or a counselor in the room with you.

i. State how you feel when s/he insults you, yells, calls you names, tries to control you, etc. E.g. "I feel sad, hurt, and angry when you insult me.")

ii. Set your boundaries:  Let s/he know that you will not allow them treat you this way anymore. (e.g. "I love you but I am not going to let you treat me like that anymore.")

iii. State how you would like them to treat you instead. For example, "I want you to talk to me about problems without calling me names, comparing me to people you don't like, or making fun of me."

iv. State what you will do if they don't treat you with respect and continue to be abusive. For instance, "If you insult me and speak to me disrespectfully, I will not reply or I will leave the room.

v. State what you will do if the behavior continues repeatedly and be willing to follow through. (e.g. "If you continue to insult me we will need to either go into counseling or end the relationship/marriage as I do not wish to live in such abuse.")

7.    Get Counseling for Yourself: Counseling is important as it provides you with the support you need to make strong decisions. Make sure you see a counselor who is unbiased and has some form of professional training.

8.    Get Counseling for Each Other: If you wish to continue the relationship, it's a good idea to go to counseling together to learn better ways of communicating. If you cannot go into counseling together, then each of you should at least go into counseling individually. Even if your abuser refuses to go into counseling, still go into counseling by yourself, for yourself.

9. Take Responsibility For Your Life: Realize that it is your life and the only life you will live; take responsibility for your life. Never believe you don’t deserve better. If your abuser makes no commitment to change, then it might be best to leave or seek help.

Finally, If you try to end the abuse and it doesn't change, then you must make the decision that is best for you and for your children (if any). Growing up in an abusive environment can also impact your children negatively.

Recognize that you deserve better, no matter what your abuser is telling you. Don't linger in an abusive relationship. 

                Don't become a victim.


  1. The key word is don't become a victim.

  2. Seye, God bless you for this write up. It is alarming what is happening in marriages. Our culture ( and I dare say religion) tells us that we have to make our marriage work no matter what. Women continue to endure these abusive relationships and marraiges because no one wants to be seen as a failure. It is my prayer that many will understand that "you deserve better" and like you said "don't become a victim"


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Parents Gone Wild: Bleaching Children's Skin

by Oluseye Igbafe

I heard about this for the first time a year ago at the birthday party of a friend's child. One of our mutual friends walked up to me and after pleasantries, said to me:

“Sis, your daughter is very pretty oh.” “Thanks”, I replied.
"What cream do you use for her?” She asked
"Cream?! I use Johnson Baby lotion."
"Only?! What do you use to bring out her colour?” she persisted.
“I don’t really understand you,” I answered her, “What colour am I bringing out?”
"No oh, you should use something that will bring out her colour. Don’t you know she will be prettier (sic) if she has fair skin?”
I cringed inwardly. All the while, I had struggled to believe she couldn’t possibly be saying what I thought she was saying. “You mean I should start bleaching her skin? At what age and why would I do such a crazy thing?! It’s not necessary my dear,” I answered her firmly. "It is oh my big sister. Especially for a girl but not bleaching; haba, not even toning! It…

Teaching Your Children About Consent!

by Oluseye Igbafe

I watched as my children played teacher and student but noticed the younger one didn’t seem to be having much fun. “Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked her. “Not really”, she replied, glancing at her sister. “I don’t want to be a naughty student, I want to be a good one”. “But that’s not the play, she is supposed to be punished for not doing her homework", the older sister insisted. "But it’s a play", I said, "that means both of you are playing together and must enjoy it equally. Once one of you is not enjoying it, then it’s no longer a play, you are now using her as a toy in your play", I explained to the older sister. “Okay”, she grumpily replied and at that moment, it hit me!
This isn’t just about play, it’s about consent, a perfect opportunity to talk about consent. So I went further to explain that to them... “Playing is having fun; and when you and someone are playing, you must be sure you are having fun and the kind of fun you like. You should…

Sexualization of Children

As I waited in the departure lounge of a local airport, I noticed there were many children about but it was understandable since it was summer holiday. One other thing I noticed was the way most of the children were dressed. Most of them, especially the girls, were dressed in bum shorts, halter necks, cut off jeans, etc. The clothes in themselves weren't the issue per se; it was the overall look of the children that had me bothered. That was definitely not the first time I noticed it. 
A few months before, I had taken my kids to a birthday party and found myself in what could easily have been a night club for kids. Scanty clothing such as tight or very short clothes, bum shorts, long weaves, etc, seemed to be the dress code. I noticed my daughter glancing around her, probably wondering, "What in God's world are these other children wearing?" Or something like that. 

Not long after, the kids were called out to dance to the hit songs of the season - these songs in my opi…