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with Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

13 Double Standards Emotional Abusers and Controllers Exhibit in Relationships

Emotionally abusive people, by definition, hold double standards in intimate relationships. They justify and excuse their actions but hold their partners to standards that demean and control.

Here are 13 double standards that are characteristic of an emotionally abusive and controlling partner:

  1. Flirt with others and say it is harmless, but accuse you of being unfaithful
  2. Insist that you never disclose to others private things they have told you, but betray you by disclosing to others things you said in confidence when being vulnerable
  3. Keep finances separate or lie about spending but demand full disclosure of your finances
  4. Withhold affection or sex when upset but demand you be affectionate or sexual regardless of how you feel
  5. Blame you for their moods or abusive behavior but if you’re upset tell you it’s your problem, not theirs
  6. Stonewall and withdraw when upset but bully you into disclosing what you are thinking even if you are hurt, anxious or upset
  7. Humiliate you in front of others but fly into a rage if you say anything less than completely positive about them in public
  8. Refuse to tell you where they go or what they are doing but demand to know your schedule and whereabouts
  9. Become rageful or sulk if you don’t do what they want but ignore your feelings and requests
  10. Won’t tolerate any questioning or dissent but freely criticize you, second-guessing you or playing “devil’s advocate”
  11. Make decisions and commitments that affect you without telling you but demand you check with them before you make any decisions
  12. Overlook your needs and desires but insist that you pay attention to theirs
  13. Become outraged when feeling you aren’t there for them but repeatedly let you down and leave you feeling abandoned

These double standards can confuse and disempower you. An emotionally abusive relationship can leave you feeling one or more of the following:

  • Trapped
  • Walking on eggshells
  • Blindsided
  • On an emotional roller coaster
  • Used
  • Confused as to why someone who says he or she loves you treats you so badly
  • Anxious
  • Emotionally unsafe
  • Frustrated or angry
  • Isolated
  • Hopeless
  • Fatigued
  • Not good enough
  • Rejected

If you recognize some of these double standards in your relationship and feel some of these emotions, these are warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. You may need to honestly assess whether the relationship is right for you. Speak with trusted friends or a therapist.

If physical abuse or violence or threats of violence are present, protect yourself from harm. Violence or threats of violence are never okay in a relationship.

Copyright © Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

Photo credits:

Abusive silhouette by ZeeNBee
Bully collage by John Hain
Shaming collage by John Hain

13 Double Standards Emotional Abusers and Controllers Exhibit in Relationships

Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

Dan Neuharth, PhD, is a marriage and family therapist and best-selling author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has more than 25 years’ experience providing individual, couples and family therapy. Dr. Neuharth is the author of If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. He writes two blogs for PsychCentral: Love Matters and Narcissism Decoded. He is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. His website:

Please note: Dr. Neuharth's posts are for information and educational purposes only. These posts are not intended to be therapy or professional psychotherapeutic advice, and are not a replacement for psychotherapy. I cannot give psychotherapeutic advice about your individual situation outside of a therapist-client relationship. The posting of these blogs and the information therein does not constitute the formation of a therapist-client relationship. Please consult your physician or mental health provider for individual advice or support for your health and well-being. If you are in crisis, please call your local 24-hour crisis or mental health hotline or dial 911.

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APA Reference
Neuharth, D. (2019). 13 Double Standards Emotional Abusers and Controllers Exhibit in Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jul 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.