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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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(reply to Anonymous)

It's awful what happened to you and I think it is FABULOUS that you left, good for you! For me, I found that journaling, therapy, reading and reflecting all helped me understand what had happened. Yet the real key was when I understood family systems and realized that I was raised in a family where some of this was acceptable and I was always trying to please - and as such, I was more tolerant of his initial behavior which started the whole cycle. You have to find out what works for you, but you will get there, step by step, bit by bit:)) Hugs.

September 2, 2017 - 9:36am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I've known my significant other for over 10 years now. He is charming, well liked, a conversationalist, successful and provides us a above average lifestyle. There isn't anyone that wouldn't like him. He has another side behind closed doors at home. He has a history of being physically abusive and anger management issues. When the physical abuse went to far we went to two marriage counselors. The abuse has evolved into belittling, demeaning and coercion. There was two instances of physical abuse since the two marriage counselors. Recently we took a trip and on that trip he used coercion to get what he wanted, threatened to leave if we didn't do what he wanted to do because we spent a day with my lifelong second mom who stood up for us at our wedding. He was going to leave if we didn't share time in doing what we both like to do in the particular city we were vacationing in. He and I had planned for months to look at homes outside this particular city while vacationing. I spent months looking at homes and ran by each home past him prior to leaving. He didn't have to do anything but right along and prior stated we'd put an offer in on a home if we found something we liked. We found something we liked and it was on the second trip to see if we wanted to put an offer on the house he unilaterally without conversation or alternatives decided he didn't want the home and it was too overpriced. He then also said as long as his work was paying him his handsome income he had no intention on leaving. He used more coercion and threatening words, I packed up and left the trip early in tears. Shuttled his butt back to his work. Now I feel I've sacrificed my happiness, dreams for his financial comfort. He says we can look again, why would I look again when I feel placated? I even canceled last minute plans with my friend. I feel betrayed. I am angry, I feel captive and am tired of him. He has lied in the past, he has looked at porn in the past, he has lost his temper, he has been physically abusive even on this most recent trip. I am tired and have sacrificed my jobs to follow my passion that I've finally decided to give up and go into an area that I can get my own job and save money the side while getting an education. No one has a right to tell me where I need to live nor tell me we can do it in a few years when they are ready. This time it went to far. I am tired. I feel that I need to go to a third marriage counselor due to my feelings of anger, betrayal, placated and him putting his job above love (he said he could work from home and then speaks differently when we get home). All he talks about is intimacy and my heart is so far from that.

August 28, 2017 - 10:01pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I have so much to share that I don't know where to start. But let's start with the key to all of this and the most important and alarming aspect of your note - you are being physically abused. This is a line that few cross and when they do, this rarely (!!!) subsides and it's dangerous, scary and completely unacceptable. We don't hit people to manage ourselves. Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning you 'feel' something first (i.e. disrespect, taken advantage of, etc.) and then you get angry. So your significant other is using you to manage his anger and that is why the other aspects of his controlling nature (the belittling, etc.) continue, and none of this is going to go away on it's own. Take the money, the house and the unkept promises and put them aside - this is not a healthy relationship and the abuse will continue to escalate, however it plays out. Instead of marriage counselors, head to a therapist just for you and get to work on realizing that you are not bad, crazy, unacceptable, demanding or anything else - you are trying to squeak out a voice in a controlling relationship and the HARDEST aspect to all of this is that the only one who can change this is you. We teach people how to treat us and the day you say 'no thank you, that's enough' is the day you will begin your new path. Please please please be careful and the next time he abuses you, call the police and/or the National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, both are available 24/7. There are laws to protect you and services that can help you and no, it's not dramatic to ask for help. I have some other resources if you want them, email me at kimromancorle@me.com And stay safe. Sending you a hug.

August 30, 2017 - 10:10am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

i have been with my husband for 8 years. we have had our fair share of good times but in between is so many bad. my husband every day accuses me of cheating on him every single day. with people at work people at the store anyone who comes in contact with me he even stoops to women. he has been physically abusive towards me not going to lie i try to fight back. he is just so much stronger.i have had to hide bruises on my face at work before feeling very ashamed. he is very controlling he needs to know where i am and what i am doing at all times if i dont answer him when i am at work as a nurse aide he will call my work. he breaks my things when he is mad all the time straightners movies things from my parents pours my perfume out breaks my lotion bottles. he controls all the money i have to tell him when i spending money and ask him to buy stuff even tampons i bought them because i needed them and i was screamed at because it was not on my list.. he disrespects me in public and private and even in front of the kids he calls me fat stupid ugly all kinds of things and now they talk to me so bad. and he says its my fault because i dont discipline them and i try but how can i when they are so young and they are only doing what they are taught. i cant have any friends at all i had best friends when i was younger and i have to cut them off because they know my ex. but all his friends he can have including one who cheats on his girlfriend and one who slaps his girlfriend to the floor mind you he is like 6"5 and she is like 5 ft .i cant go see my family with out asking and he usually tells me no i cant go see them anyways so i just give up on making plans with anyone and just make excuses. i am so depressed and i feel like i cant go on like this in life anymore. i dont know what to do. i am a christian and in the bible the only reason god permits you to leave your husband is infidelity. so its making it hard for me to leave but i cant help but feel God didnt plan this horrible life for me. i am a good person and i havent done anything so bad in life to deserve this and i cant help but feel itsmy fault for all of this. and as crazy as it sounds i do love my husband i couldnt picture my life with out him or another man with me. i dont know if its like stockholm syndrome or what but i hate this so bad and i am so tired of being miserable.

July 18, 2017 - 3:49am
(reply to Anonymous)

My situation is so much like yours, I'm just gonna continue to Pray and give it to God, Sorry what you're going through but it's gonna be ok,

September 18, 2017 - 8:35am
(reply to Anonymous)

The best note in your email is the last sentence, because getting tired of being miserable means you are ready to take back your power. I can't speak for God, but I can tell you that he (no one!) wants you to suffer. There is no gain in letting abusers 'do their thing' while you crawl along, holding onto your sanity and trying to get by day by day. Help is out there but you have to ask. For me, the pain of staying became worse than the pain of leaving. I knew that since others had figured it out and gained independence from abuse, that I could too. Find the Social Services groups in your area, call the National Abuse Hotline, 800-856-4673 and know that as you move forward, you are changing the tide. We are all right with you, and many of us have walked your path, you are not alone. Life is short and your soul is precious, please keep safe, take care of you and those kids and get some help. Hugs to you.

August 15, 2017 - 7:23am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, Anonymous. First, I am so sorry you and your children are subjected to the mistreatment by a man that should love all of you. The Bible also says in Proverbs 22:24 not to associate with someone that is easily angered. Also, in Ephesians 5:25, a husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the church; He sacrificed himself, died for the church and continues to unconditionally love us. Also, study the Bible's definition of "marriage." You do not have a marriage, you have an abusive contractual relationship. Abuse of any kind is not to be tolerated. If you have an issue with getting a divorce, that doesn't mean you have to continue to live with a man that is abusing you and your children. You and your children are precious and speaking from someone with the same experience...20 years (married) later my husband left me and our daughter destitute the year of her high school graduation, in a house in foreclosure and cut off all the utilities to be with another woman and start a new family. I pray that will not be you and your children or worse if you decide to continue to stay. God bless.

July 26, 2017 - 2:38pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I'm not sure I'm in a mentally abusive situation either, and if I am, there isn't much I can do about it...honestly...and he knows it. My husband admits that he controls certain situations for the good of our marriage and 5 children. I mean there is so much through the last 10 yrs. that seems off or unfair and I could probably write pages about it all. There again, he is a great provider. And he's not always mean or rude...everything is usually fine as long as he gets what he wants when he wants it and how he wants it. I never know what kind of mood he's going to be in and I feel like there is a lot of "do as I say do not as I do." Anyway, we split up once and he was so sweet. Cards and flowers everyday, he looked miserable. Of course I went back and it was months of mental and emotional torture. Now, I have no family to back me up or take me in, no smart phone, no internet in the house, 5 kids and a lot of mutual debt, living in rural redneck USA where everyone knows everyone. I work but not for much money...what can I really do?

June 26, 2017 - 6:41pm
(reply to Anonymous)

You can know that you have a voice and you can go to marriage counseling (even if it is by yourself, I did this, it still helps) and you can take notice of the fact that you have been isolated with no phone, internet or family. Read up on the cycle of abuse and learn about the honeymoon period - which is like a seductive pull that brings us back in because we want so badly to believe that 'they have changed' or 'they need help' or 'no one understands them like I do' - it's all a journey and if you left once, you can do it again. There are numerous options, I hope you reach out to get some help, being controlled is a tormented way to live. Hugs to you.

August 15, 2017 - 7:32am

Nice Information ..

June 22, 2017 - 10:44pm
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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.