Facebook Pixel

Emotional Abuse: The Invisible Marriage Killer

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

Like other forms of abuse, there can be apologies and promises to never do it again, and there is hope in the beginning that behaviors and attitudes will change—often referred to as the “honeymoon phase”—but somewhere in the back of many a wife’s mind, she knows that it’s only a matter of time before the abuser settles back into old routines.

The Profile of an Emotional Abuser

At the heart of an emotionally abusive husband is his need to ultimately be in control. He feels inadequate and harbors distorted beliefs about women and marriage, usually learned from an abusive father or other dominant male influence, or sometime due to lack of decent male role modeling in how to treat women. In many cases, but not all, an emotionally abusive husband can be manipulative and heavy-handed in keeping his wife “under his thumb”. The abusive husband is “self-referenced”, which means he only sees and considers things from his point of view; he deliberately refuses to or is incapable of looking at things from another’s perspective. “Selfish” and “self-referenced” are two different words and can be described this way: the “self-referenced person would give you the shirt off his back, but he doesn’t know you need it. The self-referenced person frequently violates the marriage partnership by acting without thoughtfully considering his partner’s point of view and needs” (Amy Wildman White). The abusive husband is also emotionally dependent on his wife; that is, his feeling of self-worth comes from being married. Most emotionally abusive husbands are unable to look at and examine themselves and why they engage in such spirit-killing behavior against a person they have avowed to love and cherish.

The Profile of an Emotionally Abused Wife

Women who find themselves in an emotionally abusive situation often have low self-esteems even though they may appear confident and in control of everything. An emotionally abused wife “looks to her husband’s acceptance of her as the measure of her worth” (White).

Add a Comment340 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

i've be married 8 years to my husband. It started out a little rocky but we were young and figuring things out. I can't even begin to tell you when the control started but I noticed he started using words like "don't cry your just being emotional " or "well that's not smart". then nothing was good enough. i wasn't working enough, i worked too much, i shared too much, i don't talk enough, i dont make enough, i spend to much (when he actually spends more than me). the list goes on. and then the demeaning stuff. how i'm not as successful, i'm not capable of doing things on my own. i am too sheltered. I asked my husband for romance once and he said "he's too busy and too tired and i could never understand because i have it's it easier".
i am 29 year old and stuck in loveless marriage with a very emotionally abusive husband and I will end up the bad guy if i leave.

March 1, 2017 - 1:15pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon

What does it matter if you're the bad guy? You know the truth, that's all that matters. 

Better to be the bad guy than the miserable one. 



March 1, 2017 - 2:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

Someone help. I am a lady.... I am hurting...unshed tears seem to chock me all the time. I cover up my unhappiness with telling jokes at work and generally. I have done all I can to get work..good paying work but have not succeeded yet...I left a good job thinking I will get a better one 8 yrs ago but that has not happened. Then I fell in love. O I fell in love. I have done all in my power to support my family..including venturing into business that have failed...I have hawked soap on the streets to get us a meal, sold my clothes in the same vein so that my unemployed husband survives...borrowed left and right to pay our rent after our house was bought...my husband used most of the money by the way to pay his debts...after all that my husband has stated that I am the cause of our present problems. I am crushed beyond what I can say...everytime he's unhappy he goes silent and even refuses to sleep in our bed...then when he is happy he expects you to respond to his happiness like nothing ever happened. I understand pain and I feel for him, but what do I do after I am drained myself. Even when he had a job, he still threw these silent tantrums, then I would throw the loud tantrums..I remember one loud one specificall, a sign that I too I'm broken ...now I have prayed and I find myself silent but unhappy...so unhappy. What do I do?

February 25, 2017 - 6:58am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

LEAVE this SPOILT CHILD CONTROL FREAK. Is IT really a man OR A DRAG QUEEN? They behave like that!! Rotten parenting - mum and dad must have been selfish too, just like him, to raise this dog.

March 16, 2017 - 2:41pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Leave. This sounds like my life. Leave, and the sooner you leave, the sooner you can eventually begin to heal. Leave.

February 26, 2017 - 8:09pm
EmpowHER Guest

i have been emotionally abusive to my husband of almost 14 years. we have 3 kids together and things got noticeably worse after our first child was born (9 yrs ago). i put my baby at the top of my priority list and i treated my husband with little to no respect. each new baby put my husband lower on the totem pole. i have demeaned him in public and in front of the kids, i have cheated on him 3 times, i have used anger and emotions to control and manipulate him. i have also just learned that this is emotional abuse. i see clearly that i learned this behavior from my mom and have been modeling her behavior as an adult - despite being determined "never to be like my mom!". my husband had an 'awakening' about 2 weeks ago and as a result is dealing with a level of depression and anger ive never seen. he has been bed-ridden for a week and basically lives in our basement. he was prepared to divorce me almost immediately because of the trauma ive put him through. we have since put a pin in that plan as i have done everything i can to rectify the situation. i am now in therapy to understand my problem better and to unlearn this behavior but my husband is so so doubtful that i can make the changes necessary for him to stay in our marriage. i want to change for many reasons - the biggest ones being i dont want my kids to model my behavior with their partners, i dont want to rip their worlds apart and i feel devastated that ive created this huge, heart-breaking hurt. i know i cant erase the past but i could really use some guidance and support from others who understand my story. thanks in advance

February 21, 2017 - 11:27pm
EmpowHER Guest

Wow I honestly didn't know that what I have been experiencing for the past 11 years was abuse. The first time he ignored me for three days. We were in our first year of marriage and I felt like my heart was literally being ripped out of my chest. I would try to speak to him to find out what I'd done that was so terrible and he looked right past me as if I was invisible. I cried myself to sleep every night until finally he broke the silence and told me what the issue was. His reason was valid so I accepted that his reaction was valid as well until this became a pattern. Minor "infractions " resulted in three days of silence as well. Early in our marriage I'd do my best to fix it. I felt like his affection was vital to my sanity as well as my self esteem. We have 4 children in our home and I felt that him leaving would be devastating to all of us so I'd smooth things over. Massage his back. Speak softly and lovingly even though he refused to respond or even acknowledge what I now realize was groveling and begging like a dog. Sometimes it worked and I'd feel so accomplished. If he wanted sex of course I suffered through it even though I felt nothing because the emotional connection wasn't there and I blamed myself because I love my husband and didn't understand why my body would not respond. When he completely rebuffed my apologies I'd feel even worse than if I'd stayed in my corner. Now 11 years later I'm finally aware that this behavior cannot continue. I thought that I could or should continue to suffer in silence until my children were older but I am going to have to rely on my real source of support and that's my creator. I can't continue to make my husband my God. I won't allow him to control me and my emotions not one more day. Thank you for this article. It confirmed what I knew in my heart was true.

February 4, 2017 - 7:22am
(reply to Anonymous)

You are brave to stand up and notice this - it's not easy and we all have our paths to walk as we figure out what is happening to us. Your children are learning from you, what works, what doesn't, and what is acceptable. Facing this and saying 'no thank you, I won't be treated like this anymore' is a healthy decision that will empower all of you. Big hugs to you.

February 4, 2017 - 9:27am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kimromancorle)

Thanks so much

February 9, 2017 - 12:17am
EmpowHER Guest

My wife is emotionally abusing me. We have been married for a little over a year and we dated about six months before marriage. At first, I thought her angry assaults were my fault, until I started doing some research. The more stories I read, the more I realize my wife fits the description of Borderline Personality Disorder exactly. She explodes on me for the smallest of things. She blames me for everything. She calls me awful names and cusses me often. If i disagree with her, there is hell to pay. I really want to leave badly, but feel guilt for leaving her and her two teenage boys. Although, her 17 year old son is very disrespectful and hateful towards me.

February 2, 2017 - 9:58am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.