It’s one thing to be captivated by love, but it’s quite another matter to be held as an emotional hostage.

Such a toxic relationship can be damaging physically, mentally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, you may overlook the subtle clues until you’re bound in the shackles of emotional abuse.

What does it mean to be held hostage by emotional abuse? Are there ways you can detect early warning signals and escape the toxicity? When you discover how to identify emotional abuse, how to avoid it, and how to break free, the experience can be empowering.

What is an Emotional Hostage?

Has your significant other taken you as an emotional hostage? This situation is also called emotional blackmail, but by either name, it’s abuse.

When someone uses guilt or fear to manipulate you into getting what they want, you are essentially their prisoner. Maybe they have temper tantrums or threaten to harm themselves or you if they don’t get their way. These toxic people won’t own up to their mistakes and shortcomings, and they shift all the blame to you.

Is your partner keeping you, prisoner, with guilt and other emotional blackmail? Are other people starting to notice how you are treated and are making comments? Here are five red flags that your partner is emotionally abusing you:

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1. The Relationship is One-sided

The whole idea of being a couple is that both people have mutual love and benefits. When you love each other, you both learn to compromise to keep the relationship strong and healthy. If you have an emotionally abusive mate, you usually end up with the short end of the deal.

A healthy relationship makes you feel like a better person. You feel energized and inspired when you’re together. However, an emotionally abusive relationship zaps your energy and makes you feel desperate, trapped, and alone.

If you are constantly side-stepped for their needs, your relationship is probably toxic, and it’s time to reconsider.

2. You Walk on Eggshells

We all have our bad days when we snap at the first person who crosses our path. It’s usually our lover. Loving partners realize they’ve misspoken and will apologize and make things right.

You know that they’ve just had a bad day and didn’t mean to take it out on you. Such behavior should be the exception and not the rule. Is your significant other usually level-minded and easy-going, or do their moods and behaviors change from one minute to the next?

It’s stressful when you never know which personality you are going to get. You should be comfortable to voice your thoughts and opinions to your partner without fear or intimidation. If you are afraid to say or do anything because of how they react, you are an emotional hostage.

The entire atmosphere in your relationship will remain negative if you must walk on eggshells to keep them satisfied.

3. They Gaslight You

According to an article published by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where a toxic partner makes others feel like they’re going insane. They will twist your words and lie about facts so that you will doubt yourself. Gaslighting is often a malicious ploy used by someone with a narcissistic personality.

For example, if your partner has a gambling problem, they may use gaslighting to shift the blame to you. They may try to convince you that you are misplacing money or making mistakes in your joint accounts. The lies and abuse may seem so convincing that you feel overwhelmed, guilty, and incompetent.

Gaslighting can also be used in a social situation. For example, let’s say you and your mate attend a party with family or friends. These toxic personalities know how to work a crowd and win their trust.

On the other hand, maybe they get you in front of everyone with a false sense of concern, making you feel like you’re losing your mind. If this is a common tactic your significant other uses, then you are an emotional hostage. You can only listen to gaslighting for so long before you start to doubt yourself and develop mental issues.

Someone who loves you will build you up and never tries to destroy your self-confidence.

4. They’re Constantly Saying They Will Change

If you are an emotional hostage, your toxic partner’s goal isn’t to drive you away. Instead, they use manipulation and emotional blackmail to keep you in their clutches. It’s almost like you are a possession rather than a person.

Of course, you have every right to be frustrated and want to end an unhealthy relationship. However, when an emotional manipulator is confronted and feels threatened that you’re leaving, they may change tactics. Suddenly, they are a bucket of tears, and they “confess” how wrong they’ve been.

They expertly pull at your heartstrings and tell you how much you mean to them. You’ll probably hear the tired lines of “I can’t live one day without you” or “I can’t breathe if you aren’t with me.” How did they ever live or breathe before they met you?

During the deluge of crocodile tears come the bargains and promises. They swear that if you stay, they will change their unhealthy ways. They state they will never abuse you again, and you can start your relationship anew.

This is called the cycle of abuse, and you have a right to call it quits. If you stay in a toxic relationship hoping that an abusive partner will change, you’re only hurting yourself. This person may have serious psychological issues that need to be addressed before they consider any relationship.

While you are waiting for them to “change,” you continue to battle emotional blackmail that’s affecting your well-being.

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5. The Abuse Expands to Other Forms

Many people tend to trivialize emotional abuse because it doesn’t leave visible marks. However, emotional and verbal abuse is just as severe and painful as physical and sexual abuse. Furthermore, all abuse is detrimental to your being.

If your abusive partner relies on one form of abuse, they’re not above using other ways if they feel threatened or desperate. Abuse is a dark maze that can take hairpin turns and dead ends with no warning. It may start as emotional blackmail, but soon they are abusing you physically and verbally.

An article published by National Center for Biotechnology Information states that at least 50 percent of Americans revealed that they experienced a lifetime of emotional abuse by their partner. Of these numbers, more survivors were female rather than male. The same was the case for other forms of abuse.

Maybe your partner’s abuse began subtly, or you consider it a one-time thing. Some abusers start with emotional abuse, and it snowballs into other forms. Their emotional abuse may intensify and morph into a life-threatening situation for you.

Breaking the Chains of Emotional Abuse

You can break the chains that bind you to emotional abuse, but it’s not an easy process. Additionally, you should know that it’s not going to happen overnight either. Here are some ways to break this toxic cycle.

1. Discuss the Issue with Your Partner

In the past, you may have tried to have a meaningful conversation with your mate. Maybe you’ve tried to get them to see that you feel trapped, and their behavior makes you feel hurt and worthless. This may be one of the times when they swear to change but be careful as they’re likely to go back to their old, abusive habits.

In the end, a toxic partner won’t listen to your concerns and will insist that you made them behave this way. Additionally, they may become enraged. Such behavior is a red flag that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.

If you can’t get anywhere with your toxic mate, the relationship may be beyond repair. It’s a brutal reality to accept, but your well-being depends on being honest with yourself. Unfortunately, this problem will not disappear on its own, so your next step is to bring in reinforcement.

2. Call in the Troops

Being someone’s emotional hostage is serious and must be addressed. It is a situation that often requires outside support. If you feel that your partner is emotionally abusing you, reach out to trusted family members and friends. Discuss the situation openly with them and gain other perspectives.

You aren’t looking for someone to “pick sides.” Those who care will actively listen without interruption or judgment. Maybe some of their insight can help you see ways that you’re being abused that you’ve not considered.

3. Talk to a Mental Health Provider

You should seek professional advice from a mental health provider who specializes in dysfunctional relationships. They will listen to your concerns and will help you clearly see the situation. Plus, you will work on an effective plan to mend or end the relationship.

When you struggle with an emotionally abusive partner, you may feel afraid, powerless, and guilty. Being smothered by this negative energy can destroy your confidence and send you into a downward spiral of depression. Therapy can help you regain your life and the power to walk away.

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Final Thoughts on Being an Emotional Hostage

A healthy relationship offers you the freedom to grow in love and joy together. If you are bound in the chains of emotional abuse, you have the power to be free. It’s time that you walk out of this prison of abuse into the light of hope and happiness.