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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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I started dating my now husband when I was only 17 and I felt a sense of freedom that I had never felt before. I came from an abusive household where my sister and I were brought up by a mother with very bad mental health issues and we were very secluded and not aloud to spend time with other children outside of school. It took me a long time to free myself of my family, but my now husband really helped me. He wasn't perfect. In fact, he often made remarks about my physique, my weight, my friends and my family, but I let it slide because I was in love and I felt like he was the first person I could talk to about the hell I experienced at home. We lived together throughout our studies, we got married and had kids.
After my first child was born I had some post natal depression and had bad anxiety attacks that made me stay at home a lot. As we live in a town far from any family and friends i was really isolated. When my daughter was nearly a year old I decided I would go back to finish my studies (that I had broken off because I was pregnant) and he made me feel really guilty about it. He talked about how the whole family had to suffer so I could finish my studies and how he had to pay for a babysitter. And I did feel guilty, so I really put my head down and studied hard. I never socialised with any of my fellow students and always turned down their invitations because I thought it wasn't fair on my family and I was scared that it might upset my husband. He never felt bad about socialising though, but I thought he had a right to it because he was earning the money and I was only looking out for my studies. Of course he would also reinforce this by telling me that I wasn't entitled to anything because I didn't work and that it was his money to spend. I should be happy to even have food on the table.
Then, as I was pregnant with my second and just before my finals, he decided to go on a trip with his brother for 2 weeks to Japan. I was shocked because he wouldn't even let me go for a coffee and I thought we had troubles with money, but there we was, flying to the other side of the planet and at a time when I needed his help and support the most.
I almost failed my exams and I was so stressed out that I started having contractions and was so scared that my baby would be born prematurely. Then, when my baby wasn't even a month old he went on another holiday, to Italy this time, for another 2 weeks. This is when my postnatal depression started and I've been finding it hard to cope. I've been caring for 2 children and sometimes have angry outbursts where I lose my temper at one of the children and scream at them. I never hit them, but my husband still manages to make me feel like the worst mother in the world. He compares me to my mother and although I know I am nothing like her (she often became very violent) I still have this knit in my stomach that I could be harming them in some way.
He, on the other hand, feels no remorse whatsoever in slapping our 3 year old girl in the face when she refuses to put on her shoes or has a temper tantrum. And when I confront him about it, because I refuse to let anyone hurt my children, he projects it all right back at me and tells me that he is stressed because he had to do all the work of looking after her while I was taking care of baby.
He makes me feel guilty for eating too much or for buying things that he doesn't use (like my shampoo or moisturiser or a box of cereal). He complains that the house is a mess but if I then ask him to mind the kids for an hour so I can tidy and clean he complains about that. If I tidy but let my baby cry a little so I can get something done he'll complain that I'm neglecting the children.
I just don't know what to think. I feel like such a failure and I hate him for making me feel like this. I try to put myself in his shoes and wonder if there's something I'm not seeing and if I'm the problem.
I don't have any friends or family to talk to because I've always sacrificed everything for this relationship and I have nobody to ask. All of my friends are just his friends that I sometimes get to spend time with when they come over to the house. And they all love him because he's a very charismatic person.
I've considered leaving him, but I'm afraid that he will take my children away from me and use my depression against me. And I have no job and no support system and I'm not a very strong person. I don't think I would have the confidence or know how and I couldn't live without my children.
I'm so lost. Please help me make sense of this.

April 19, 2017 - 2:42pm
(reply to Mulan121)

You are very strong and determined - going back to school, managing all of the upheaval and still noticing what is going on and seeking help takes courage. You are not a failure b/c you are in a controlling and abusive relationship, you are just trying hard to keep things going. First, get to the Dr and find some help for the depression, he/she will also be able to guide you on social services and what is available so you can get some counseling and help. Know that he will complain about any and everything so all you can control is your reaction - if you give his complaints a big mental 'whatever' then you will find that the power he has over your emotions will begin to subside b/c if you aren't worried about keeping him happy, you won't be caught up in his demands. This is easier said than done but you can do it. Leaving him would be the best gift you could give him, you and the children. Abuse and control are cycles and once the explosion/complaint is over, there is a honeymoon period where you think 'ok , things will be alright' and then there comes tension, and then another explosion and on it goes. 99% of physical abuse begins with verbal and emotional abuse so what you are experiencing is considered abuse. Quietly reach out to friends and family and find some support, you'll be surprised at how much help is available once you start down that road. There are websites with tons of information, including Patricia Evan's website, www.verbalabuse.com - I have some other resources if you want to email me at kimromancorle@me.com I will send them to you. Hang tight sweetie, you are on the way to a healthier life. HUGS.

April 20, 2017 - 7:19am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I have been married to my husband for almost 11 yrs now. We have two children together. He has cut people out of my life. I have no family or friends. He talks like I don't need them in my life because they are not perfect. Because they have problems Yet so does he and he doesn't even talk to his own family. He is on SSI and I work full time and have the one car when I am at work. But if I am not at work I am with him. He complains that I don't love him or give him enough attatien when he is the only person I conversate with other than co-workers at work. He makes me call him and take pictures with my cell phone when I leave work, arrive at work and go on break. He has a camera in the car to watch me. He tells me who I can and can not have on my Facebook page. Today I got off of work 10 mins late and he started yelling at me, saying I must be cheating on him with someone because I should not be getting off late everyday. I work in customer survice so I don't always get off on time. He argued with me for two hours about this and brought up other old stuff from 8 yrs ago when I told him little white lies. When I arrived home I forgot to lock the car door. Later that night he came down staris to check the car (he does this everynight because he doesn't trust me to lock the car) This is the first time in over a year I forgot to lock the car door. He came up stairs and be littled me, yelled at me, told me it's over (he always does this when he is angry, and he's angry every few days) how I am a bad mom and a stupid person. In front of the children and the agurement went on and on and on. I have to leave the apartment to end it because he does not stop. I feel trapped in this marriage and I don't know what to do. :( We have two children, no family around us and we have one car. I can't even leave if I wanted to because I can't leave him with the children with no car and I can't leave without a car. I have been trying to keep this marriage alive but I just can't take this abuse anymore. Also if I refuse to have sex with him he get's angry and says that I don't love him and he says this is way he is the way he is and why he doesn't trust me because I don't want to have sex every few days. I used to be a happy person with lot's of friends, now I am a shadow of my formor self with no one but my children keep me going in this life. Help me.

April 13, 2017 - 9:37pm
(reply to Anonymous)

The funny thing about being controlled is that you never know what is coming next - you didn't clean well enough or you shopped at the wrong store or you can't talk to other people because they are bad or whatever......so know that it will always (!) be something b/c people who need to control others have fear and insecurities. They have their path and you have yours. You are in a tricky situation b/c of the car and distance issues but there is help out there. This is unhealthy for all of you (including him b/c it continues his illness) and the hard reality is that you will have to take back your power and begin to make changes. I had such a hard time realizing that my ex didn't 'make me feel guilty' but that I was buying into his craziness. So step by step I got help and figured this out. It takes great bravery to move forward, find some counseling or social services that offer some help and stop the madness. Reach out to family members when you have some privacy and see if they can help. Let us know how you are, we have all been there and you aren't alone and you aren't a bad person and you aren't a bad Mom. You are tangled in a controlling and abusive relationship and need to untangle this cycle. If you want some additional articles and info, email me at kimromancorle@me.com Don't give up, you can do this, sending you a big hug. Stay strong.

April 20, 2017 - 7:05am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

ON MY LOVELY
have you sat down with your husband and told him exactly how he is making you feel.. this is not just abuse hun hes controlling you. no one should have to live like this,
you might be his wife but he doesn't own your life hun.. you should be doing things you like to do. not what he wants you to do.. this control has to stop hun put your cards on the table and tell him straight,. as for the camera watching you.. I cant believe it. tell him this is not happening . I sure feel for you , infact I could cry

April 18, 2017 - 6:20am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

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
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Did I write this?? Also 29.. turning 30 in a couple weeks in a pretty sad and lonely marriage. Hoping to leave this world sooner than later. Good luck to you.

April 9, 2017 - 8:27pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

"Hope to leave this world sooner than later". Don't allow another person to influence you so deeply, please. You are worth more than you believe - allow yourself the chance and time to realize this. Please keep us posted. If you have nothing else, you've got some anonymous people rooting for you - that's a lot more than nothing. Hang in there...

April 11, 2017 - 11:03pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

'I will end up the bad guy' are words that keep you in place and being judged is what you are used to - sounds like you are married to my ex-husband, there was never 'enough' of me to do anything right. And then one day I realized that it didn't matter what I did, it would never be enough and he wasn't changing. More importantly, it wasn't my job to change him, that was his journey. So I got busy. I learned about verbal and emotional abuse and I stopped trying to please. The better I became, the worse things got and that was b/c he couldn't manipulate me anymore. Get some education (go to verbalabuse.com for starters), go to a therapist and get moving. You are young and your soul knows you are hurting which is why you are seeking help. I also have some tips to share. Stay strong, we are warriors and this takes bravery. Hugs.

March 29, 2017 - 10:38am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I know its really hard to just up and leave. This can also potentionally put you in alot of danger. First off, realize "I am being abused." accepting it is hard, feeling valid is hard as your abuser makes you feel like its not bad or you're not supposed to be suffering from this, but take my word that you are valid. This is allowed to hurt you. I'd say to go to a friend's or relative's house, and there, talk to them about it, then discuss with them the options you have. If they invalidate your abuse, find someone else.
You are not the bad guy. You never are when being abused, its not your fault. This will be hard, but its better than staying there right? I believe in you, and best of luck in your healing process. Love, a abuse victim, we're strong, we're not the bad guys.

March 29, 2017 - 9:57am
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