When Does Arguing Become Emotional Abuse?

When Does Arguing Become Emotional Abuse?

Sometimes it even results in vile name-calling and heated shouting. While this isn’t an ideal way to treat your partner, is it abuse?

Emotional and psychological abuse can be equally as traumatising as physical abuse.

You’re mid-argument with your partner.

It could be over anything, the division of household chores, maxing out the credit cards, a preoccupation with the time spent on the phone, hogging the remote or they’ve just come home in a filthy mood. Voices raise, anger flares and you’re as mad as hell.

Sometimes it even results in vile name-calling and heated shouting. While this isn’t an ideal way to treat your partner, is it abuse?

What Counts as emotional abuse

What counts as emotional abuse? Arguing or manipulating? Sometimes it’s both. | Image Source: iStock

Emotional abuse explained

Experts say while most couples argue and sometimes lose their shit, emotional or psychological abuse is when one partner wants to have control, power and dominance over every aspect of their partner’s life. Emotional abuse can cover a wide range of behaviours or actions aimed at intimidating, isolating or manipulating a person.

Rather than a flare up, it’s a targeted approach to diminish the other partner’s self-worth to make them feel ashamed and constantly belittled. Then before you know it, the person on the end of the abuse starts to believe that they are deserving of being called an “A stupid bitch,” or a “Selfish bastard”.

What the stats show

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Social Trends 2014 report, overall, women were more likely to have experienced emotional abuse by a partner than men, with one in four (25 per cent) women and one in seven (14 per cent) men having suffered emotional abuse by a partner since the age of 15. Astoundingly, that is 2.1 million women and 1.2 million men.

Both women and men who had been emotionally abused by their current partner commonly reported that their partner had controlled or tried to control where they went or who they saw (34 per cent) and (41 per cent), respectively, or monitored their whereabouts (25 per cent) and (28 per cent). A similar proportion of women and men also reported that their current partner had stopped or tried to stop them from contacting family, friends or their community (17 per cent) and (23 per cent).

And in the case of Singapore, according to a 2018 report published by the Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mood, anxiety or alcohol-use disorder in their lifetime, while 1 in 16 people have experienced major depressive disorder at some point in their lifetime. These numbers are alarmingly high and what is even more alarming is that majority of these people did not seek any professional help.

What Counts as emotional abuse

You might not even realise on what counts as emotional abuse. | Image Source: iStock

It’s hard to pinpoint

“I’ve seen many people who didn’t realise they were being abused until they began therapy,” said psychologist Juli Fragain a piece she wrote for Tonic Vice.

“Oftentimes, they unknowingly minimise or justify their partner’s actions, by telling themselves things, like: ‘He’s just stressed out from work; once we get away for a vacation, things will get better,’ or ‘He has trouble coping with anger,’ ‘I know he didn’t mean the cruel things he said to me’. When caustic words like ‘I wouldn’t get angry if you weren’t so sensitive,’ or ‘You brought the conflict on yourself. I’m not apologising,’ become the norm, not a rare exception, it may be time to re-examine the well-being of your relationship.”

If you relate, it’s time you started looking at the effects that this kind of behaviour is having on you. According to Lifeline Australia, emotional and psychological abuse can be equally as traumatising as physical abuse.

When Does Arguing Become Emotional Abuse?

Enough is enough. | Image source: iStock

Here’s where you can get help

It can feel as though you are alone in this fight and not knowing what counts as emotional abuse to seek for help. But if you are willing to, there are people who are ready to offer a listening ear and helping hand.

Reach out to them through counselling helplines such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). This helpline is available for all types of mental health-related help. Reach out to them at 1800-283 7019.

You can also reach out to professionals from AWARE, a gender-equality advocacy group that offers free as well as affordable counselling to women. They offer free counselling to women at 1800-774 5935.

Do not hesitate to call these helplines, and especially if you are experiencing suicidal tendencies. Speak to The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) through their 24-hours open suicide prevention helpline by calling 1800-221 4444. 

This article has been allowed for republication from KidSpot on theAsianparent.


Free and Affordable Mental Healthcare in Singapore

6 Ways to Manage Your Mental Health During Isolation

There Are 3 Main Reasons Why Your Wife Seems To Be Angry All The Time

When Does Arguing Become Emotional Abuse?

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by


app info
get app banner