When two people come together in love, it’s a beautiful thing.
There’s a tempest of emotion, that new relationship energy causes sudden and uncontrollable bouts of joy, and you feel like some great adventurer exploring the depths of another — incredibly beautiful — human’s mind.
However, there’s also emotional and psychological baggage that carries over from past relationships as well. This baggage can and usually does affect your relationship and provides some of the most defining challenges you’ll have to overcome together.
If you believe your partner shows signs of emotional abuse from an ex, it’s important to know for sure and to start a dialogue about it right away. Assure them that it wasn’t normal or acceptable behavior — if they had any internal doubts — and commit yourself to teaching them what true kindness and compassion are in a relationship.
We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
So what signs can help you identify if your partner was emotionally abused by an ex? There are a few:
1. Physical intimacy is often awkward
Those who have experienced emotional abuse typically have defense systems they’ve developed over time to help them deal with the psychological pain.
These defense systems can manifest in a few different ways and in different places, one of the most common being physical intimacy. When intimate with an emotional abuse survivor, they’ll be difficult to get through to and, when you do finally get through, they’ll tend to remain cold and unreceptive often, making intimacy awkward and offputting.
2. They shut down frequently
One of the clearest signs of past emotional abuse is if and when your partner suddenly shuts down suddenly and becomes unreceptive, sometimes for no discernable reason.
Sometimes, the mind becomes conditioned to shut itself off from others as a defense mechanism. After all, it was interacting with others that caused the pain in the past, so the unconscious mind — rather intuitively, if not naively — attacks the source of the problem.
However, this then bleeds into your relationship with them and it can be incredibly frustrating, if for no reason other than the fact that you did nothing wrong.
3. They’re closely guarded
Similar to frequently shutting down with you, if your partner hesitates to express themselves fully — especially their feelings and emotions — and seems unwilling to open up entirely that’s another sign they may have been emotionally abused by an ex.
While your partner may occasionally shut down but still express their feelings and thoughts to you, they might also guard themselves entirely and be unwilling to open up.
Perhaps it was in opening up to their ex that the pain was caused, so they’ve learned to consciously keep a wall up around others even in an intimate setting.
4. They apologize constantly
Many of us have problems with our self-worth before we ever experience abuse. This can magnify the pain caused and confirm in us the feeling that we’re worthless.
Sometimes, as a result of these conditioned thoughts, those who experience emotional abuse develop the habit of apologizing profusely due to thinking that they’re always the one at fault. Once again, like always, they’ve screwed something up.
This is one of the more heartbreaking signs of abuse to see as the person has been so thoroughly broken down that they now feel as though everything wrong that happens around them is their fault and that they’re worth nothing to anyone in their life.
No matter the sign, know that emotional abuse is real and it can cause a great deal of pain and damage in a person. Therefore, as difficult as it can be at times, it’s your job to be patient, understanding, and compassionate with the one you love so that they come to learn they have a sanctuary- someone to lean on and who understands what they’re going through.