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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

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).

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EmpowHER Guest

I thought things would change after we got married but it seems like it got worst...im emotionally,physically, and mentally drained I don't have anymore fighting in me...im constantly getting accused of messing around and I'm not. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells since I have to be careful with what I say n do. I lost my Mom n I have no other support since I had to give up my friends n family for him. Everything I do is never right...I feel like I'm done and it's over especially when he physically abused n I ended up in emergency room and ended up with a concussion n neck injury. We have kids n he threatens he's going to take them away from me and I'll be left with noting since he makes more money than me. When we first met I was the one making more money than him n his family is accusing me of being with him just for his money. I don't know what happen to the guy I feel in love with I don't know this person anymore...I just don't feel the love anymore n he doesn't respect me either

January 14, 2018 - 10:09pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Sometimes when controlling people/abusers get comfortable, the gloves come off and they begin their dance of manipulation. This happened to me and sounds like it has happened to you. Honestly, there were signs I ignored when I was dating my ex but I knew that I loved him and could fix him. But that is not our role, to fix others. That is their journey. The problem is that you are not going to be able to love him out of this, or change or plead or anything - nothing you do will change his behavior and the cycle of abuse will only shorten. If you are ending up in the emergency room, things have escalated from awful to dangerous. I wouldn't worry about what he says will 'happen to you' if you leave or divorce, that is another means of manipulation to get you to stay and to keep you fearful. Please Please Please get some counseling and help and get out. Those kids are learning how to hurt others by watching him and learning how to be submissive by watching you. Contact www.thehotline.org for free help and support, call them at 1-800-799-7233 for help and get moving. Time is a wasting and it's time to move along, do this for you, for your children and for future generations to follow. I have some resources if you need them, email me at kimromancorle@me.com. Please be safe. Please leave. Sending hugs.

January 16, 2018 - 1:24pm
EmpowHER Guest


I need some input please: I reconnected a year nd a half ago with a teenage boy I hadn't seen in 37 years. We started dating very quickly hereafter and soon 4 mos later I left my home in NYC to VA to be with him. I had just moved back home from Florida a year before and had left a 9 year relationship there with an alcoholic. Life was a fairytale in love with such a wonderful man who showered me with romance and charm. We later married 8 mos after living together. Once we were married things began to change rapidly for us in our marriage. My husband suddenly slowed down all the things that made me fall in love with him. All the wonderful romance, sex and emotional bank was emptying. This disturbed because when living in separate states that would be why he was so controlling of where I went and how long it would take me to arrive to places. I had to account for all of my days activities and facetime with him all day long. Before I married my husband and I would have arguments and he would say to the "Fu@@ U" word to my face in anger. He continued to curse directly only at times when we would argue. My husband suffers from Compulsive Disorders as well so when things were not to his liking he would tell me about them and provoke the situation later. Everyday we grew somewhat distant from one another. My husband pretty much controlled everything in our home and when I arrived in VA I had no friends or any family connection there to turn to when things became so depressing for me that I felt trapped and lost my identity. I reached out to get therapy to understand what I was going through but he told me to beat this depression on my own and so I could not get any help. I later reached out to 3 times and one final time to please allow me to seek help to find out what made me so sad. He refused me the help and at that point, I felt completely helpless alone and almost crippled with fear. I felt like he wasn't there for me spiritually or emotionally. I then packed a bag with whatever items I could and headed to my parents home in NYC to seek guidance from my family. My husband now has ended our new marriage because of my actions and has trust issues with me. He was disrespectful and controlling as well as a self referenced individual. Finally now I am feeling my identity again and my life back. We tried to get together thereafter but our conversation was mostly about what he expected of me which was to return to VA and seek therapy from there and leave the one I finally am getting clarity from. He is very aggressive and controlling and I fear going back will not resolve our issues as VA now is a scary place for me. Help!

January 6, 2018 - 9:36am
(reply to Anonymous)

Seems as if your soul knows exactly what is going on and you are seeking reassurance for your SMART and POWERFUL decision to end your marriage and move forward. Trying to placate others, please others, and keeping the peace just takes a bit of you away every time you ignore your own power. Seems the help you need is from you. Continue counseling, try to figure out how you got in these 'spots' and bit by bit you will find yourself again. You know that marriage to an addict or abuser is never healthy. Be well and take care of you, you can stay strong and you can take care of yourself. You don't need anyone's permission for this, just yours. Hugs to you:)

January 12, 2018 - 6:07am
(reply to kimromancorle)

thank you so much for your reply it certainly gave me some understanding. I do see Greece or is that my decision was a good one because I feel like I’m a freak just married four months and got depressed in my marriage and left and so I think that people look at me as the predator. I did want to confirm with you on the issue of continuing therapy here where I am until I get well or do as he is asking in return to Virginia and start new therapy there? I tried to contact him after I read your reply to see if we can form a simple communication and who is completely taken back by how hostile his tone was throughout the whole communication he belittled my therapist and accuse my therapist of so many ugly things because she advised that I stay here and continue
here as in so far as my therapy goals. I think my husband was just so upset that he did not have the power and that the therapist is in the middle that he just became so enraged. . I truly know I made the right decision it’s just so hard to understand. How can I get out from under his power control?

January 15, 2018 - 4:31pm
EmpowHER Guest

Every day, I ask God to forgive me for not waiting for my true soul mate. I met my husband at the age of 27yr. and am now 38yr. with four years of marriage. I am a Registered Nurse and he is a security guard which asked me to loan him money when we dated, so he can go to school for nursing. Immediately after marriage he began to use hurtful words like “your now old and no one want you anymore” and do many hurtful things. He made me sit in the back seat in the car so that his friend can sit up front. Opened doors for everyone but me. I told him this was wrong he said, "fine he won't do it again" but he did. He also immediately dropped out of college and brought three cars for himself, a Mercedes, a Lexus, and a truck. I am Christian and have been told that one should remain married unless there is abuse or under certain conditions cheating. About two years ago he made me give up my seat in a public place for a girl in her twenties. She actually laughed at me for this and that may be the moment I began to be extremely disgusted and lose any love for him. I told him that I will not file for a divorce since I am Christian but that I wanted to live separate from him because I can no longer stand the site of him. He cried hard and swore he would change. He is now a lot better, but I told him that I have fallen out of love with him and now see him differently. He now does things like open doors for me and go to church with me. The one important thing I have not mentioned is that we have only been through foreplay all the years we known each other. He said he is too scared that he will hurt me with penetrating sex. My mom swears that I am messed up in the head by now and that he is probably cheating and gay. Every day, I have prayed that God separate us somehow or help me to actually want him. I know something is wrong with me, but I haven't brought myself to the point of looking for a counselor. I need help.

December 13, 2017 - 12:18am
(reply to Anonymous)

God helps those who help themselves and I can't imagine anyone wanting you to stay in such a destructive relationship. You already know this so I'll put it out there - your relationship is lacking true intimacy between husband and wife. Something is missing and I think running to the nearest counselor is a good first step. His answer for not wanting to have sex with you doesn't make sense. Stand up and move forward, you can do it and he's only one man in a sea of billions. It'll be ok, there is nothing bad about you for having married him, just take your power back and get some help. Hugs.

December 27, 2017 - 3:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been emotionally abused for so long. I contemplated suicide around year 7. I decided to get therapy because I was so scared for me. While I am better now and out if a crisis state. The relationship continues to deteriorate because I have become detached in order to survive. I also feel as thought I have to remain closed off to a degree emotionally out of self preservation. Now I am concerned for my spirituality that I am done how being unforgiving. He does not get it and refuses to get help. When I bring up divorce he gets irate. Not to he too is miserable as I no longer feel compelled to have sex with him. I explained how I understood his need and it was based on That need that I continued to have sex. He indicated that he did not want me to if I did not really want it. So I stopped; my giving it myself to satisfy his need was not appreciated. So I simply stopped. Its not that I don't care about him I simply have no desire to be intimate with him nor will I be responsible for his feelings. I feel stuck ....year 18 on the way. How do couples last 40 and 50 years. I am sure some real hurt occurs in every marriage. I feel like something is wrong with me. I don't know what to do with the years of abuse in order to act like it never happened. He still tries to manipulate me by making me feel bad for not having sex: distant... little or no conversation, hurtful or insulting text messages. He actually said he acts that way do.I will know how much it impacts him because it does not seem to bother me. I said so you are trying to.manipulate me? He said no awkwardly. This behavior still continues today after he moved out of our bedroom. His rationale for moving out of the bedroom was because he wanted me to ask him not to. I don't know how to go forward or how to get out.

December 5, 2017 - 12:15am
(reply to Anonymous)

Good for you, you have changed your behavior so now he is forced to change his and you are obviously skilled at figuring out his manipulation. You don't have to pretend it didn't happen because it did. You don't have to forget what happened because it did. And you don't have to take it anymore because it will happen again. It's the cycle of violence that ramps up over time. Protecting yourself from the pain is the first step in taking back your power. You are not responsible for what he has done to you, nor are you responsible for giving him absolution over all of the hurt. I think anyone who has bottomed out from this abuse needs continuous counseling, for at the very least, we need someone in our corner helping us navigate next steps. No one wants you to suffer and once you say 'I've had enough' you can work on pulling yourself out of this harmful relationship and gain your sense of self back. I'm rooting for you and think you are stronger than you know. Sending you a hug.

December 27, 2017 - 3:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

I’ve been verbally abused in my marriage for years and the last few years my husband experienced 3 heart attacks and he is a high risk cardiac patient. This has brought me to my knees as I’ve cried out to God and shared w others but I try to live my life to the fullest. I stay with him because I’m afraid he is too ill for me to walk out on this marriage. I have support but sometimes I can hear the insanity and rage in my husband and he refuses to get help. I think he is willing to see a psychiatrist for medication but in the meantime I meditate and am recovering as I abstain from compulsive overeating which is my addiction. It’s good to express the sadness I feel because I don’t want to live this way. I’m staying for now. Any suggestions? I know I can leave but it’s difficult as he is I’ll.

November 16, 2017 - 7:14pm
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