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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
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I've been there. I almost ended my life but I managed to get out in time. Getting out was so much easier than I thought and so much less painful than staying. The whole time I kept trying to change things, but it takes two. Think about if you were your daughter, what you would want her to do? What you advise yourself to do?
As badly as I wanted to change things, only 3% of abusers actually can and do change. I'm really sorry you are going through this, and you totally do NOT deserve it, you deserve way better whether it's with or without him. I've found so much happiness since, it's unimaginable. Please put your self-preservation foremost and remember you have a family that loves you very much.

February 23, 2016 - 2:33pm

I've been married for 20 years, and during the last ten my I believe my husband has been slowly using emotional abuse to strip me of my self-confidence, my security, my happiness, my social life, and basically all of the spark of the woman I used to be. I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject, and the signs and feelings I am experiencing are identical to those who are emotionally abused - I am edgy and stressed when I am around him, constantly feeling like I'm being judged, I feel utterly isolated from any family and friends because of the disapproval I will get if I attempt to go somewhere without him. I feel as though in his eyes nothing I do is right. He will absolutely never admit he is wrong about anything, and I can't remember the last time I heard him apologize - everything is my fault. We go long periods of time without speaking. I've become depressed and lonely and I stay in bed a lot. I feel completely isolated and alone.
In addition, I've become far less employable than I was when we first married and I had a career. After I stopped working to concentrate on becoming pregnant (we had issues conceiving and ultimately never became pregnant) I did not return to the workforce, and to do so now would be difficult for several reasons, so I am dependent on him for all financial support.
I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. I've lost the vivacious person I used to be. I don't remember what it feels like to live normally...
My question concerns filing for divorce. As I mentioned, I have no source of income outside of him. He makes an excellent living (close to $400,000/yr.), largely because we relocated to CT to follow his career pursuits, while I left mine back in NJ. Will any of this have any bearing on the spousal support I might be awarded in a divorce settlement? I don't expect to live the same way we live now, but I believe that after all of these years and the sacrifices I've made, that I deserve to live decently. Does anyone have any similar experience, or any knowledge that might be helpful? Many thanks...

January 31, 2016 - 2:33pm
(reply to trapped in ct)

I hope you know that you aren't alone and many of us have walked your path. It feels awful to become pushed down by this control and abuse but the best news is that you know something is amiss and you realize you are meant for more. I would quietly work on getting my affairs in order, find a lawyer to consult with, a therapist who can support you and any friends or family who can lend a helping hand or sympathetic ear. My ex-husband was verbally abusive and then after a few pushes I realized that physical was next and he absolutely refused to work with me. I took the kids and pets and left - at the time I owned a marketing agency that was doing well. In the next three years that followed he sued me for everything I had and I ended up closing my company and then he sued me again so I had to pay him off for the next 12 years. It wasn't fair and it was awful but I didn't care b/c I was out and the kids and I were ok. There are thousands of stories like mine and all of us started with a step forward to say 'enough'. You have to reach the point where the pain of staying becomes greater than the pain of leaving - then you will have the energy and determination to leave and heal. It sounds like you are there and you know that this won't change. He certainly isn't going to change anything b/c this situation is working for HIM and not FOR you. If you can remember that he is putting you down to control you, that will help. You can't logically argue with someone that is illogical, so save your energy for moving yourself forward. When my ex-husband told me he didn't like the 'way I walked' I remember thinking 'how the hell can I change that?' - and then I read everything I could get my hands on about abuse and I worked hard to figure out how I got in this mess of a situation and I left. You can do this, you are already thinking it through and reaching out - no need to share your next steps with him b/c he will only push you back and argue you out of moving forward. We are your cheerleading team so go for it and know that we are all here. I have some articles and other resources for managing verbal and emotional abuse i you want them, send me your email and I will get them to you. Hang in there sweetie, the best is yet to come:)))

February 1, 2016 - 12:02pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to trapped in ct)

Hang in there girl! I recently finalized my divorce with my emotionally abusive partner. His income is similar to your husbands. It was a long road but in the end it's better. I would start by going to a domestic violence agency in your area to help you execute a plan. You should also find bank accounts and see what money you can access to hire a divorce attorney (most abusers don't let their spouse have access to money as a tactic to keep them dependent) but make sure this is executed properly, with the help as above, as this could be a dangerous time in the relationship. The good news for me is I now have a really good new job (that he didn't know about while I was going through the divorce and living with him and was able to save money).
With his salary and you not working for a while, you will be able to get both child support and maint. like I did. You should be able to get a decent amount - at least 8,000 a month but try to get more than that. I am doing now what I never though I could do - be a single, full time working mother running 2 houses (yes, I kept the beach house) but the most important part to note is I'm at peace

January 31, 2016 - 8:32pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I've only been married a little over 2 years and I just filed for divorce from my abusive husband. I thought it was smarter for me to get out sooner than later . Once I separated from him I realized more than ever how I had been trapped and isolated from family & friends and I never want to live like that again . The humiliation I suffered from him kicking me out of the house and forcing me to move back in with my mother 3 times in 2 years all because he wasn't getting his way so this was punishment. All the break up games just to " test " my love for him . All the never accepting responsibility for his actions because his actions were my fault . I really think he hated my confidence in myself because he didn't have any for himself . All the constant need for reassurance.... I'm exhausted!!!! We tried counseling but it didn't help . His latest break up game right before Christmas where he helped to pack me up and moved me to my moms was it for me . Of course 2 days later he wanted me to come back but that was the LAST time I will allow him to hurt & humiliate me just to stroke his ego . I know I'm a good person and I was a great wife to him and I didn't deserve any of that . He's learning the hard way right now . I love him but I love ME more ! I hope you ladies find the courage to get out . You deserve better

January 29, 2016 - 9:07pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I've only been married a little over 2 years and I just filed for divorce from my abusive husband. I thought it was smarter for me to get out sooner than later . Once I separated from him I realized more than ever how I had been trapped and isolated from family & friends and I never want to live like that again . The humiliation I suffered from him kicking me out of the house and forcing me to move back in with my mother 3 times in 2 years all because he wasn't getting his way so this was punishment. All the break up games just to " test " my love for him . All the never accepting responsibility for his actions because his actions were my fault . I really think he hated my confidence in myself because he didn't have any for himself . All the constant need for reassurance.... I'm exhausted!!!! We tried counseling but it didn't help . His latest break up game right before Christmas where he helped to pack me up and moved me to my moms was it for me . Of course 2 days later he wanted me to come back but that was the LAST time I will allow him to hurt & humiliate me just to stroke his ego . I know I'm a good person and I was a great wife to him and I didn't deserve any of that . He's learning the hard way right now . I love him but I love ME more ! I hope you ladies find the courage to get out . You deserve better

January 29, 2016 - 9:04pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I left a 45 yr marriage due to "emotional abuse" 16 months ago. Although I am dealing with a lawyer, etc, I would not go back for anything!! No more stress.

January 13, 2016 - 9:30pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

That's wonderful! I pray I can find the courage to do the same one day..

January 14, 2016 - 10:37am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I have been married almost 28 years. I didn't start counseling about our dysfunctional marriage until I was pregnant with our 2nd child (12 years in)... Two different counselors who did not consult with one another labeled me as being emotionally and verbally abused by my husband. He has vexed accepted the labels/diagnosis. I filed for separation in Jan 2008 but dropped it later that year. I chickened out. The patterns continue. The anger is still scary. My kids are now 12 & 14 and after reading a journal from 4 years ago I worry about what I've subjected them to. I told him I want a divorce 4 months ago. He has not said a word along the lines of "what can I do to save our marriage", etc. A cool or days ago he told our daughter he thinks I'm stressed. He has used this excuse to deflect before. Little nuggets like this make me think he isn't capable of changing. And I'm not even sure that is he WERE to change it would make and difference. My trust is so broken. My new counselor said he has some BPD traits and I am sure he has Asperger's (our son is a high functioning Aspie... I guess I'm wondering if men can really change? He's 53 by the way.

January 5, 2016 - 8:11pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Do you really think that someone at the age of 53 is going to change. After all you have been through and done.

January 6, 2016 - 10:27am
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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.