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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

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
(reply to Anonymous)

Dear Anon, I'm so sorry. I did the same thing, dated for 6 months, got married, things were awful and I was yelled at constantly and wondered what the hell had happened. Guilt means you feel you haven't done as much as you could and as you know, you can only control and manage yourself so I would offer you a pass on this, you can't fix someone, that is their journey. Get a good therapist, keep your boundaries and move along. Life is too short to be someones whipping post - I gave it nine years and it was nine years too many. p.s. Disrespect doesn't below in any house, that is just unacceptable, even if it is your stepson. Hang tight and take care of yourself.

February 3, 2017 - 10:28am
(reply to kimromancorle)

Thank you:)

March 1, 2017 - 2:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm a man and I'm being emotionally abused. This is going on two years now. Is there anywhere where I can get help? Please help me. I can't take it anymore.

January 6, 2017 - 8:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

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
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I feel for your predicament. I can't truly relate, but I do feel that you NEED TO RUN! with every ounce of your being! Seek help, go to counseling. I did. Best decision I've EVER made. Your husband sounds not only like an emotionally abusive drunkard, but also a very Sociopathic Psycho. Sorry to put this so bluntly, but honey, I'm dealing with a gambling addict. He's smooth. He's carefree.... as long as I don't ask him where my things went or argue with him. Once it starts, he accuses me of every disgusting act of depravity I've NEVER heard of, until I make him explain what he's talking about. I've not wanted to touch him or be touched by him for a long time. My christian upbringing keeps popping into my head EVERY TIME I deny him sexual intimacy. But I stopped caring. I've become empty and I now know why. It was not my fault! It was my HUSBAND's!!! Once I realized that, I've never been so clear-headed, never felt so empowered to do what was right. Not just for me, but for my children.

December 14, 2016 - 2:50pm
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