Emotional abuse is not a character trait; it is a behavior that can be prevented and stopped. Abuse is any behavior used to control and subdue another person through fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion or manipulation. Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse, such as harassment, criticism and name-calling, to more subtle abuse, such as disapproval or the withholding of affection. Emotional abuse tears down the victim's self-confidence, leading her to stay in an abusive relationship because she believes no one else would want her.
Educate yourself about abusive relationships, recommends the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center. Educating yourself helps because you learn that others like you have been in similar situations. You can also learn how to cope, and why your partner may feel he has to engage in emotional abuse.
Make her aware of her behavior. Tell her that what she said or did made you feel hurt, depressed, worthless, etc. Make it clear that it is not acceptable.
Take care of yourself. Continue to engage in activities you enjoy, despite criticism. Spend time with people who show you respect, recommends the website Love--The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Remain calm when your spouse tries to engage you, recommends DrIrene.com. Your partner wants a reaction. Don't allow him to provoke you.
Suggest the two of you enter counseling together. A professional may be able to help your partner learn new ways to express his emotions, and help you begin to heal and regain your self-esteem.
If you're partner does not want to change, you cannot force her, and you may have to leave the relationship. If you are worried for your safety, go to a shelter. Shelters accept victims of emotional abuse.