Physical abuse always comes with emotional abuse, but unfortunately the reverse isn’t always true.
At my first job as a therapist, I worked with a domestic violence organisation. During my time there, more than one of my clients said that they actually prefer the physical violence to the emotional violence, because at least physical bruises heal.
Of course, it is more difficult to realise if your relationship is emotionally abusive than if it is physically abusive. Physical attacks are impossible to ignore, but verbal and emotional ones are harder to identify as emotional scars are silent and hidden.
I can relate to this because I was also in an emotionally abusive relationship and it never occurred to me that that’s what it was until years later. I didn’t have a good enough sense of what behaviour I should tolerate and what boundaries I should set, and so I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was being abused.
My boyfriend and I were smart, attractive and well-educated. But no matter what my life looked like on the outside, on the inside I desperately wanted to be loved. This led me to enduring being ignored and being treated like I didn’t matter. What I wanted and felt didn’t matter.
I wasn't good enough to be invited to his brother's wedding even though we had been together for two years, but when it came to sex, suddenly I was good enough. There was no reason for him to change his behaviour because he got everything he wanted, when he wanted it.