Emotional unkindness is the foundation that holds up the entire house called “abuse”. All of us have moments when we are unkind to someone either on purpose or by accident, but that does not make us abusive. Emotional unkindness is, like all abuses, ongoing and repetitive but unlike the other types of manipulation, emotional unkindness is part of all abuse.
So why do I cover it separately? Because I think it is really important to understand that the types of abuse and manipulation often overlap and also that emotional unkindness is, by itself, abusive and it will always lead to a loss of trust. As abuse wears away at your esteem with words and actions, you will begin to lose the trust you once had for your partner. You stop seeing that they will not care for you, stand by you and support you with unconditional love. Their relationship for you is self serving, nothing more.
Emotional unkindness, like most abuses, starts insidiously. It happens when a person chooses to do something unkind or saying something unkind. It can also include not saying or doing something that would be expected as a kindness. Emotional unkindness is the failure to provide emotional support, when its needed or expected. It disregards the victims emotional needs.
Clare Murphy explains it perfectly in her research paper.
“It includes ignoring you when you start a conversation, showing you none or very little attention and no empathy. It entails rejection, silent treatment and withdrawing. Emotional unkindness entails an absence of concern or care at times when you would most expect it – such as when you’re sick, in hospital, recovering from giving birth to a baby, or when you’re worn out and need a break.
Emotional unkindness also includes refusing to share responsibility for your children’s care and development, threatening to abandon you if he doesn’t get his way, making it emotionally difficult if you want to leave the house or leave the relationship, complaining whenever you ask for any kind of support, or making promises but not keeping them, saying ‘yes’ to doing something then ‘forgetting’, or it entails helping but with conditions attached.” ~ CLARE MURPHY PHD
Emotional unkindness is the reason why abuse hurts so much. It is so far from the kind of experience you would expect from a loving relationship, that it can be very difficult to make sense of it when it happens. You can’t believe it and have to, instead make sense of it by offering excuses like “He was just joking” or “He didn’t really mean it. He’s stressed.” But the hits will just keep coming. Remember, abuse is an ongoing cycle. Emotional unkindness is someone giving you a punch to the gut with a smile on their face and then expecting you to accept it or even like it.
The end result of on going abuse and unkindness is, mistrust. How can you continue to trust someone when they keep throwing you under the bus? Your reactions become to question their intent, doubt their sincerity and mistrust their motives. This is a huge red flag and I encourage you to acknowledge it. Follow your instinct. You deserve better then to be treated that way. When we read the word of God we can see that His intent for us in our relationships is kindness. It is a virtue that is very important to the heart of God.
The bible tells us time and again how we should be treating one another. It is the most glaringly obvious message throughout the entire scripture. God calls us to love. His love in us enables us to love sacrificially and honestly.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Ephesians 4:31-32 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Even the Bible presumes that most people are going to be kind to their family and friends. It is shocking and disorienting when someone who loves you is unkind to you. Everyone can change through the power of the Holy Spirit. Even an abuser can change but only if they recognize and admit their abuse. They must admit it, own it and not make one single part of it the victims fault. Then and only then, can they ask for forgiveness. In 1 Tim 5:8 we are told that “Anyone who does not provide for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So, according to the bible the abuser must also take active steps to change his behavior as well as his attitudes. This can clearly only be done through the power of Christ. If you do not see the fruit of change in the person who has been emotionally unkind to you, then you can rest assured that your relationship will continue to be abusive.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”