In her new memoir, Jennifer Lopez shares that her love life has been rockier than any of us might have been imagined: The 45-year-old singer says she's been in abusive relationships.
"I've never gotten a black eye or a busted lip, but I've felt abused in one way or another: mentally, emotionally, verbally,â Lopez writes in True Love ($19, amazon.com). People reports that Lopez doesn't name the abuser(s), though she's been married three times, most famously to singer Marc Anthony, with whom she has two children. Her most recent relationship with dancer and choreographer Casper Smart ended in June.
J.Loâs admission brings up an important point: Just becauseÂ emotional bullying doesn't cause injury doesn't mean it isn't harmful.
âPsychological or emotional abuse can be every bit as devastating as physical abuse in a relationship,â says Gail Saltz, MD, Health's Contributing Psychology Editor. "It is the use of power to hurt the other and to control the other, and early signs are often the same as early signs of any abuse."
Here, Dr. Saltz shares the warning signs that your partner is emotionally abusive:
They have jealousy issues
"Examples are the partner who removes you or creates distance in your friendships and other family relationships by expressing jealousy and dislike of time you spend with them, pulling you further into a place of only you and them,â she says. They want to know who you're with and they get angry if you don't "report in" or aren't available to them.
They're meanâ¦and then suddenly nice
âThey say undermining or critical things to you, commenting on clothes, appearance and what you do," she says. "After being hurtful or mean itâs often followed with apologies and professions of love, like 'I canât live without you,' 'I'll never do or say that again,' or 'I didnât mean that.'"
Everything leads to an argument
"In an attempt to control you, it may be impossible to disagree without it quickly turning into a fight. The point is to intimidate you into not disagreeing, but going along. You should be able to disagree and have a conversation."
You're afraid to talk to them
"Having the expectation that anything will set them off is not only a clue that abuse is going on, it vastly limits your intimacy such that you arenât having much of a real relationship anyway."
...Yet they're your first priority
"The abusive partner needs to be the center of your universe at all times; when you comply you slowly start to dissolve until you are just their appendage. It's harder to get out once you have lost yourself. No one who loves you in a healthy relationship should want you to always put them before yourself."
What to do about it
Dr. Saltz says being able to spot the problematic behavior is crucial since the abuser will try to convince you that all of this is your fault. Then, she suggests that you continue your other relationships and "point out when your partner has been critical or undermining. Be clear you respect yourself and that you expect the same respect from them."
If the abuse continues, ask your partner to go to therapy. If your partner refuses, or can't or won't change the pattern in therapy, it's time to leave.
"Painful as break ups are, they are less damaging than staying in an emotionally abusive relationship," she says.