If Your Partner Picks These 4 Fights With You, They Might Be Emotionally Abusive

I really hate fighting with my partner. We don't fight that often anymore, but we did a fair amount of arguing early on in our relationship while we got to know each other's boundaries and expectations. Fighting for that reason is a normal and healthy part of a relationship — except when it isn't. I'm talking about when arguing with your SO stops being about coming to a resolution or compromise, and becomes about control, or intentionally wounding the other person. Those aren't discussions — those are emotionally abusive fights.

When you're upset and in your feelings following an argument, it may be harder to know the difference between a healthy, normal fight and one that is actually emotionally abusive. Susan Winter — an NYC relationship expert and bestselling author — explains what can make this even more difficult is that emotionally abusive fights can oftentimes be harder to identify, because they don't always look how they do in the movies. In honor of October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and to help identify whether or not the fights your partner is picking are emotionally abusive, I asked Winter what to look out for. She described how they can be subtle, insidious, and potentially escalate over time. So, the sooner you can recognize the behaviors, the better off you are.

Where You Go And What You Do

Do you find yourself arguing with your partner every time you make plans without them? If so, Winter warns that this pattern is an emotionally abusive one. She says that if your SO picks fights about “where you’re going, with whom, how long you’ll be gone, etc.,” then what they are doing is, in effect, “trying to control your life by monitoring where you go and with whom.” She explains they are limiting your freedom and exerting control over you, either by overtly stopping you from spending time apart, or by more subtly by making you forfeit some autonomy simply making fighting about it so much effort you give in just to keep the peace. Either way, this controlling behavior is unacceptable and abusive.

Fights You've Had In The Past

If it seems like you're caught in a time loop and the same fights keep coming out of the past, then Winter says this may mean that your partner is trying to keep you “out of kilter and create tension.” The reason an abusive partner does this is because, according to Winter, “When [they] create an ongoing state of tension, you will be seeking any means to create safety and security.” Their hope is that you’ll “simply do as they say to avoid further conflict. This is abuse.”

Their Version Of Reality Versus Yours

As Winter told Elite Daily, gaslighting is real. It's a form of emotional and mental manipulation that "makes you doubt yourself, your intuition, and your reality." And the reason a partner might employ this form of manipulation is because "it's the perfect foundation for anyone who wants control over your thoughts, and actions." One way to do that, as Winter explains, is by being “insistent that their viewpoint is the only valid viewpoint.” They will do this to the point where you believe “your interpretation and your feelings don’t count. Their truth is the truth.”

Why Everything Is Actually Always Your Fault

This last one really hits home for me, and that's when your partner always insists that the fight, no matter what caused it or who started it, is ultimately your fault. Either you did something wrong, or, if they dared to do something wrong, it's because you did something that made them behave badly. Yes, this is a form of gaslighting, too. “This is a tactic to maintain dominance and control in the relationship,” says Winter. And if there's any question in your mind about whether or not this is acceptable behavior, Winter puts it succinctly: “Needing supreme control over you is a clear sign of abuse.”

What To Do If Your Partner Is Being Emotionally Abusive

If in reading this, your recognize some troubling patterns in your relationship, Winter says “your only job is to ask yourself why you stay with them.” She adds, “Individuals who need to control you through fear and intimidation rarely give up that control. You can’t reform an abuser. Only the abuser can do that with serious dedication to self-change and professional guidance.” In other words, it’s time to leave the relationship, safely.

The only thing that matters is your safety and well-being, so reach out to friends and family who have your back for support. Stay strong, and remember that no matter how you may feel in this moment, you are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit

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