My exN was never overtly emotionally abusive when he talked to me until the very end (though he was a master at the ST), but I think his subtle jabs were one of the most painful things about the relationship. They slowly tore down my self-esteem. These jabs usually came under the guise of compliments or of reassurances about his loyalty, commitment, good intentions, etc. It was such a confusing experience. I would feel hurt, but I couldn't (at the time) recognize why.
I would bring this to his attention and his excuse would always be that he "just wasn't thinking" or I was being too sensitive. I used to buy those excuses, sad to say. Looking back, I also realize that these jabs usually happened when I was the most vulnerable.
Even now, it's sickening to think that someone who claims to love you would actively think about ways to tear you down. Still, it is liberating to know I didn't do anything to deserve this; it really has allowed me to focus on myself.