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Emotional Abuse: The Invisible Marriage Killer

By HERWriter
 
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Emotional Abuse: The Invisible Marriage Killer Photo: Photospin - Auremar

Physical and verbal abuse are forms of “visible” abuse. Scars and bruises, raised voices and demeaning and hurtful words are signals to others that something is not quite right in the relationship. It’s also easier for a wife to see and recognize that’s she’s being abused.

Emotional abuse, however, is much more insidious and not quite as visible. Certainly, a wife’s self-esteem and spirit are battered along with her body in the case of physical and verbal abuse, but a husband can kill his wife’s spirit without even raising a hand or voice against her. For this reason, many women don’t even know they’re being abused, or if they do it’s a long and difficult battle not only to work to repair the damage done themselves, but to get the abuser to recognize the harm that he’s done.

What are the signs of mental abuse?

“Emotional abuse is any nonphysical behavior or attitude that controls, intimidates, subjugates, demeans, punishes or isolates another person by using degradation, humiliation or fear” (www.focusonthefamily.com).

“Nonphysical behavior or attitude” can safely be interpreted to mean neglect, invalidating another’s thoughts and feelings, and refusing to acknowledge the needs of the other (whether intentionally or not). Over a period of time, this kind of emotional climate in a marriage can squeeze the life out of a marriage and out of a wife.

There is a difference between experiencing or inflicting emotional hurt and being emotionally abusive—it is important to make this distinction. Abuse is a cycle. It is not a once-in-a-while event that happens and hurts someone else. In many “ordinary” hurtful cases, apologies can be offered if truly sincere and heal the rift that the hurt has caused. Many hurts are unintentional, and if they were, there is (hopefully) remorse on the part of the person who inflicted that hurt, once the anger, frustration, etc., calms down and cooler heads prevail. With emotional abuse there is none of this.

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EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I have to tell you, this article touches me because it is so unbelievably accurate to my life. EVERY WORD is accurate. Every word used. I feel imprisoned and I am not sure what to do. On one hand I stay because my children need what I was never given: stability. I am the child of an abusive alcoholic and his enabler, I am biracial and was never liked by either side; too dark for the one, too light for the other. I was bullied by girls as a young woman because we were poor, I was never dressed well and was always the new girl...and was painfully shy. Long story short, but I am an only child, and my Dad was quite clear on binges (he was a mean drunk) that I was supposed to be male, since only men make men. So I ran as soon as I turned 18 to the Army and ended up marrying the first guy that was nice to me, and I have been married for almost 26 years. I was going to leave a long time ago when he read my journal but my Dad told me that I had made my bed and I needed to lie in it. So I have. If you met him you would love him, he is outgoing, very friendly to all he meets...he never meets a stranger. Everyone, and i mean everyone, loves him. Women in our church told me that I could leave, just let him stay. Imagine how that felt. See, the problem is, we see him behind closed doors. We see who he really is, the person he REALLY is. Not the show you all see, because that is what it is; a show. He is the guy that will have drinks with you and put draino in your shampoo to make your hair fall out, and chuckle about it. And all the time you would have him over for barbq and think what a wonderful guy this is, and you would probably think I am the PRICK because I am actually a real person that does no put on a facade. I will not go into detail in regard to our relationship, but your article is truth, and I am not sure what to do or where to go. Adding to this, I am a cancer survivor and suffer from aggressive RA and need medical insurance, so my decisions are not as easy as just getting up and leaving. And you add my children and the fact that I believe in God and take my vows seriously. But I am simply miserable, my life is walking on eggshells.... doing everything I can to change myself, doing everything I can to keep a peaceful environment for my children. What will make him happy, how to make him happy. I never, ever complain. Ever. I id on Sat and wow, did I pay for it, he chewed me out and as always, would have left had I not become tired of it. He knows I have abandonment issues from my own Dad and he preys upon them, he will tell me quick "I'll just leave"....anytime he may not get his way. I have been blamed for everything from his lack of happiness to his being an ahole to his genetics in the past, he even created an online persona so that "person" could REALLY tell me what he thought about me...and boy, did they ever. The cruelty in the words that came from the IMs and emails of that "person" I have never been able to get over or forget. They were spitting with pure venom, calling me a bad mother, human being, wife, everything but a child of God. Our house is peaceful....as long as I never complain or disagree. As long as he is in complete control and I am the humble, meek wife its all good. I just do not know me anymore, and I dread intimacy. At the same time, I look towards a life of never owning a home, never really moving forward. Its the same thing with me, I think I shut my mind to things. I did not realize that I was sexually abused by my uncle until I was in my 30s. Why would I, it was the only time I had ever felt loved, as sick as that sounds. But the honest truth is, the only "love" I remember is when my uncle did very bad things when I was 8 years old, so it was hard to see them as bad. But again....until then, we were evicted every few months, my dad beat my mom and did drugs, ran with other women, my mom resented me for keeping her in the relationship, noone really loved me because they hated my dad so much and i was too mexican for the whites and too white for the mexicans....so for someone to tell me that i was beautiful and a good girl, i just ate it up to be honest. And now I am more lonely than I have ever been, completely isolated., and I have to find my way with my babies. I just don't know how.

December 5, 2016 - 12:16pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon

 

Contact your doctor or a shelter or family services to know your options.  If you have been married 26 years, your children are older or adults already. You've lived this life long enough. Please contact someone.

Best,

Susan

December 5, 2016 - 1:46pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon

 

Contact your doctor or a shelter or family services to know your options.  If you have been married 26 years, your children are older or adults already. You've lived this life long enough. Please contact someone.

Best,

Susan

December 5, 2016 - 1:44pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I sympathize emphatically with all these sad women. I can say as an abused husband all these situations apply to me as well. Glad to have more insight into my pathetic situation, I need to clear the guilt. We are not going to continue as victims but feel better for escaping now.

November 11, 2016 - 6:05pm

Hey, I'm new on here but would like to share my story with people whom I feel could help to give me strength, courage, and insight. I'm 23 years old and have two children, I've been married to my husband for 3 years and with him for 6. One year ago I decided to speak with him about a divorce, here's why... We argued every day, we wouldn't ever do anything together as a family, he started to neglect our children and lash out on my son who's 4, nothing I did was up to his standards, he'd show myself and children little to no attention. My husband would take care keys from me, leave myself and the kids stranded at home, I had no access to money unless he gave it to me, he started getting your a point where I couldn't attend family functions anymore. He'd constantly go through my phone, lash out on me about friends on my social media, threaten to kill people if I didn't take them off. He had 3 bank accounts behind my back, and all of the vehicles I had limited access to. He git to a point where I could no longer speak with my friends, my family was restricted, and I felt as if I was imprisoned in my own home. My days consisted only of getting up at 6:00A.m cooking him breakfast, making his lunch, doing all of the laundry (washing, ironing his uniforms) yard work, house work, dinner by 5:30 pm and single handedly caring for our kids. When I got up the courage to tell him I wanted out, it got physical. We couldn't even get half way through our paperwork before he started threatening me, and telling me I better not put this asset on there or request certain things. He's a Corrections Officer and had threatened me that if I went to police with my pictures of my bruises he'd get me into trouble because he "had that authority." For the last year I've been fighting tooth and nail to escape him, he has made it extremely difficult for me to find a job, but I'm about to start work soon... I just don't know what more to do. I feel as if I'm honestly trapped. :'(

July 6, 2016 - 9:40pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Tink454)

When you feel safe enough to do this (in a safe place, sure he cannot track the call - find a public place that will let you make the call), consider calling the National Domestic Abuse hotline. 1-800-799-7233. I believe they can help you create an escape plan. They can probably help you find a shelter, but I think it's likely that there will be a waiting list. Don't let him know what you're doing. Leave behind his back. And when you leave, don't let him know where you are. It might take a long time to get out. Don't blame yourself for that. Getting out is very difficult, esp. when you have young children. I'm sorry that you are going through this.

July 9, 2016 - 4:39pm
(reply to Tink454)

I was married to a CIA officer who told me he wasn't allowed to go to therapy and that I would put our family in danger if we divorced. After five years of verbal and emotional abuse that tormented me, we had a rough day that ended with pushing me - I was so scared and begged him to let us separate. That's when he told me I wasn't going anywhere, he wasn't going anywhere and the kids weren't going anywhere and that we would never have this conversation again. I left five days later. I had to take my power back, reclaim my life and stop trying to work out something reasonable with someone who is unreasonable. You will not be able to fix him or the marriage, that is going to be his journey but you WILL be able to save the children from growing up in an abusive household and you will be able to teach them how to be healthy and manage their own emotions. I would get out as soon as you can, the rest of these threats will fall and you will be able to take steps to move forward. He is isolating you so that he has more control. He is manipulating you so he has more control. He is arguing with you so he has more control. You aren't trapped but you are being controlled so now is the time to stand up, figure out how to manage a separation, keep you and your kids safe and be done with this. You are young and have an entire life ahead of you - even if moving means going to your parents house or living with a friend, you will be in a safe and healthy environment where you can start to heal. Be gentle with yourself but be strong, you can do this! Keep us updated - hugs to you sweetie, you aren't alone!

July 7, 2016 - 11:29am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kimromancorle)

Hello,
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm married for 3 years and I moved to US with my husband 2 years back. I met him in Middle East while he was deployed and we fell in love.
But when I move to US, I found a different person, very distant and without any respond to my emotional needs. I have times when I think the problem is me. But I read the following online "Emotional unkindness is a failure to provide for emotional needs such as encouragement, understanding, respect and compassion. It includes ignoring you when you start a conversation, showing you none or very little attention and no empathy". This is what I pass through. Moreover, he cheated on me with his supervisor and now he threatens me that he won't sign my petition to remove my conditional visa.
I'm so exhausted and tired, I have to even hide continuing my graduate studies so he does not get mad at me.
I love him but I feel I can't continue anymore. I can never say anything.

July 17, 2016 - 10:35pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Hello,

So I am on the outside looking in and I see all of the comments from each individual about emotional abuse. I am actual the emotional abuser and it has taken me a while to admit that. I love my wife hands down. We've been married for about two and a half years now. We've had many arguments and I have said things that even hurt me for doing it.
I would apologize and things would go back to normal. I am getting the help that I need from a licensed therapist and go to both Anger and Stress Management therapy every week. Quite honestly, I don't like the anger that I feel in my heart and it's eating away at me and it's hurting my wife and my boys. My son, flew off the handle at my wife and said horrible things and in that moment...I saw a mini 17 year old version of who I am now. Angry and spitting venom... I love my boys... they should never have to see me lose my cool and yell at their mother. I grew up in a family of yelling and anger...my father would jack my mother up to show strength... then later on in life my mother became angry and broke my father down by controlling all finances within our house. My Dad couldn't stop spending...so he was given an ultimatum...either give me the money or my mother and I along with my brother would leave. So I saw two sides, one very aggressive from my Dad and one very controlling from my Mother.
I do have a problem with control... because I had joined the military to get away from the chaos within my parent's house. Eversince, I have been brought up on discipline and standards...but when I saw my wife for the first time three years ago...something melted away.
She has taught me so much just by being who she is..and I feel horrible for breaking her spirit. Everyday she questions me and claims to want to leave... and everyday I remain quiet...praying for my next therapy session to evolve into the spouse that she deserves and the spouse that she has always wanted. I know it won't happen overnight...but something struck a nerve when I saw my son yell the way that he did... I have to break the cycle.. my children need me... ladies... any help would be greatly appreciated.

v/r

Cam

June 6, 2016 - 4:18am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Cam, Just wanted to say that it means a lot to me to know that you were able to see your behavior for what it was. I've heard it is rare that the abuser is able to see this. So this step is enormous. It's not enough, but it is so much and it is important. I hope I am not overstepping my boundaries by making a suggestion. You say that every day she questions you and threatens to leave an you remain quiet. What is stopping you from telling her that you are trying? That it is taking time, but you are really trying. You might even have an agreement where she lets you know when your behavior is unacceptable and you change it - or if that is too hard maybe a signal between you. But I do wonder if you being silent might look to her like you not hearing her. And part of changing is hearing her. I hope this is helpful.

June 15, 2016 - 2:27pm
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