Facebook Pixel

Emotional Abuse: The Invisible Marriage Killer

By HERWriter
Rate This
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.

Add a Comment346 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hello there am awfully sorry that I have to go through this pain all in the name of love..But I must tell u withoit reasonable doubt that ur husband doesn't love u anymore.One day ull look back and realize that cu wasted your entire life wishing things were different.wishing u had put ur feelings first.I married a man who has no regard for what I feel.I've said it over and over again to him that am not happy yet he just doesn't seem to care.we have 2 kids under the are of 3 ..however I do intend to leave this marriage..trust me u should leave as well.he doesn't deserve a single piece of u.this is a man who doesn't give a rat ass about how u feel.He does as he pleases and doesn't care about u.u need to put urself first cos u matter as well.Gather the courage pack ur bags and leave ...that's when he will realize he's an idiot.

I wish u well..

April 19, 2016 - 7:10am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi All, I'm very new to all this. I'm 28 years of age been in my relationship with my partner for 11 years, married for one year. He has always shown signs of being controlling and aggressive at times; losing his temper, shouting and I'm fairly passive/calm. He lost his dad to cancer 2 months before we were due to be married. He is grieving for his dad but I am emotionally exhausted having walked on egg shells and losing my identity from a young age. I am supporting him the best I can, but have no more left to give. I do love him but also realise that our relationship isn't as healthy as I like to believe it is. He is the main breadwinner, I just dropped out of work to be with him as he has mild depression and has isolated himself, becoming reclusive. I don't know what to do. Do I support my husband at a time when he needs me most and continue on as we are or take some space/time out for me. I've been unhappy for a long time, he only focuses on himself and his job. He rarely listens to me or plays down what I say. I used to think this was our cultural differences - he is Russian I am British. I'm at such a crossroads, unemployed, no money, no friends, my family are great but worry all the time so I tend to not share too much. There's never been physical abuse only emotional. He also cheated on me after the death of his dad. He came home crying, apologising profusely but damage has been done. I don't trust him much and haven't done all these years.

I want him to just be what I need and crave, but nothing is changing. I'm becoming numb to hurting him with what I say, he's one of the most sensitive people I know. He's dad was abusive to his mum both physical and verbal. He may have learned this behaviour. It's all really sad and I'm lost, I know I probably need to leave but I do love him and care for him deeply. I see his emotional issues and how he may need me. I want to help him change and be better but don't have the energy or patience left anymore.

April 2, 2016 - 3:07pm
(reply to Anonymous)

If you could fix him, you would, and if you staying, dropping away and suffering was going to make him better, then he would heal - but the truth is that won't work or make a difference and your job is take care of you. It all starts with us, with us taking back our power and saying 'that's enough' and with us standing up and leaving the room. He needs counseling, help and tools to deal with everything he has to manage - but taking you down in the process doesn't help anyone. Think of it this way - the ONLY way he has a chance to heal is if you stop the cycle and stop the ability for him to keep damaging both of you. So, cultural differences aside, healthy relationships are built upon trust and respect. I think you are brave to look at this and try and figure out next steps - counseling will help you and getting some space will help you gain some strength. You are on a path to moving forward, take that step and know that there are so many of us that have come before you and done the same. You are stronger than you feel, smarter than you are told and more wonderful than you know. Hang tight and get moving, you are young and you know what needs to happen. Be well and be safe:)

April 3, 2016 - 1:57pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kimromancorle)

Thanks so much for the great advice :)

April 6, 2016 - 2:07am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kimromancorle)

Yes, SO right on there Kim and I wil just add the LONGER you stay letting him be that way and not informing him its not ok. You need to talk, he needs to see someone, or couples therapy. Make it clear you wont put up wtih that kind of treatment, not in the agnry way, not in the ultimatum way just in the communicative way of this is your truth tostand in it that that behavior is just not ok and any repetition of it, is abusive. Longer you dont do that, the MORE he will stay that way, the MORE he will feel free and justified, and the LONGER you wait the more chance of his bad reaction and divorce instead of working it out together. ALSO if you stand it too long you will start to turn on him and in turn that turns you on yourself and then it becomes an internal and external war zone and it will just slowly detsory you , him and your relationship. I should know, I went through it and thats what happneed, I though I get better he will and no he got worse I could not save us both though I tried for many many years. Much love to you. In gratitude LayaNicole <3

April 5, 2016 - 2:26pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am 45 and living with my partner for nearly 6 years. When we met he was charming, paid attention to me, sent me flowes and listened to me. I loved him, but only moving in with him I realized that his excessive drinking was not only on social occasions but happening all the time. He would not act like a drunk person but his personality would change and he would start saying things that would cause arguments. in the beginning I thought it will stop if he sees how it effects our relationship. When we were having arguments he would ignore me for days and lock himself in the bedroom. I woud stand outside, knock and beg to come in and to talk about it. he would punish me when I raised any issue by not talking to me. the period between these instances became shorter. I am never heard, he does not show affection, he does not make eye contact when he speaks to me. I so wanted this to work. I am living a lie not telling the people in my life how things are at home. I would feel embarrassed in my failure. I started getting ulcers and actually feel physically sick when things are bad in our home. Now no more than 3 days passes withour an incident. I am crying all the time, lost my confidence and hopeless

March 19, 2016 - 8:39pm
(reply to Anonymous)

You are not responsible for his behavior - I know how hard it is to accept this and it can be embarrassing because we want to be in a healthy relationship but the truth is that when you stand back and let his behavior speak for itself, when you stop trying to appease and appeal, things will change. He does this because it works - because you care and you think you can change him and 'maybe this time it'll make a difference' but the truth is that you can't reason him out of this, or love him out of it, or argue him out of it - you can't change him. What you CAN do is focus on you, your decisions, your words, your behavior. This is when change begins to happen and this is when you take back your power. This is ramping up because you are in the cycle of abuse and it will shorten until it's constant - please know you are not a failure. Get some help and get out of this pattern, it's destructive and will continue to pull you down. Hang tight honey. Sending hugs:)

April 2, 2016 - 2:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

Is it emotionally abusive for your husband to hang out EVERYDAY with a mutual friend/neighbor he's attracted to and get drunk with her on a regular basis? Is it emotionally abusive if he tells you she makes him horny? Is it emotionally abusive if he excitedly exclaims that this is the summer he is going places and she is coming with him? Is it emotional abuse if he asks her out on a date in front of you and refers themselves as a couple and tells you that they need you to come with to drive and watch the kids for them? Is it emotional abuse if he shares intimate info with her like purchasing a gun and not telling you? Is it emotional abuse if he makes you watch him whisper in her ear right in front of you and go home drunk with her without a word spoken to you?

I am a Christian person and believe I am supposed to forgive as God has forgiven me for my sins. I am supposed to extend God's unconditional love that he has for me to other people. But it is so hard as I am so very deeply hurt by my husband's intentional poor behavior towards me with this other girl. I demanded he stop seeing her and he has. But the damage is done, his actions have caused me to fall completely out of love with him. He wants to stay and work this out, but I don't know how. I don't know how to get his hurtful words and actions out of my head. It was such deliberate disrespect in an in my face manner. He has damaged my self esteem, made me feel undesirable to him as a wife and woman. I feel like if I stay with him it will cost me my self -respect and self-worth. We have 3 children together and it is hard to leave someone when there are children involved. I wish he thought of them before he decided to treat me so poorly on a daily basis for months.
What do I do? I no longer feel the same about him. He made me watch him make this other girl a priority, above me and above our marriage. He thinks time will heal my wounds, but it's been almost a year and time has not healed my wounds. I don't feel loved. I still feel out of love with him. I don't know how to just get over his awful treatment towards me or how to get over the fact that I am no longer in love with him. Maybe he should be the one to get over the fact that his awful actions caused his wife to fall completely out of love with him, because I don't know how.

March 16, 2016 - 10:49am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I'm going to put this simply. Do yourself a favour and leave that a**hole husband. How dare he treat you this way. Yes God tells us to forgive but He doesn't want you to be a doormat. Throw him back at his whore and get on with your life then he won't hurt anymore

March 22, 2016 - 11:33am
EmpowHER Guest

I started realizing my husband was emotionally abusive after he cheated on me for the first-time,the day after I told him I was depressed. I had been broken down by him for so long and hadnt even realized it but was feeling exhausted and devatlstated and extremely sad and weak all of the time since dating him. I couldn't put 2 and 2 together. I didn't realize it was him making me feel these terrible ways because he had a way of manipulating everything. He would make it seem as if I were just dramatic every time he would backhandedly insult me. I was working 12 hour shifts at the time and if I came home tired he would of course listen about my day and "sincerely" care. But then when the next day or at a moment when he felt upset he would suddenly make a random comment like, "man I hate it when people complain about their jobs. It is not something I care about its so selfish for people to say without being asked". He is military and would always say little things like," yeah everyone knows civilians are lazy".. If he posted a picture of me on social media or if someone commented on a picture of us he would always reply eith," yeah she doesn't look that good in person lol it is the makeup" stuff like that. This went on for months and for progressively worse and worse and then he started to sprinkle in issues with other women. I would catch him looking up random women, talking to exes, but every time I brought it up her make me feel insecure and controlling. He offered up all of his passwords and social media information to prove he was doing know wrong and then I caught him making different new accounts I didn't know about. I was molested as a child, and when I told him this on the phone I didn't get too much of a response. I asked what he was doing and he said he was masturbating. He explained that it was a compulsion he got when he felt uncomfortable, he wasn't doing it out of stimulation of my story. Then proceeded to tear into me about how that's disgusting and he would never do that. Making me seem like the crazy one. I then found out he cheated on me. Everything changed because I stopped taking the abuse and became extremely defensive and shut him out. He is in the "trying to make things right" phase and attempting to be better. But little pieces of his true abusive self still shine through. When asked why he cheated he still says things like,"you made me feel unwanted" or "I thought we were going to end anyways" because I was repeatedly telling him he was hurting me and that I was unhappy with how he was treating me. He asked me for a threesome, completely faultless and blind to how I feel. He would text me constantly while I was at work l. Demanding me to go to the bathroom and touch myself and take pictures. He would do the same when I was hanging out with friends. If I didn't comply I would receive silent treatments and backhanded sly insults or he would do something like show interest in other women. I would constantly be in competition with him. I play piano it is my passion. When I played beethiven front of him he wouldnt look at me. He would be EXTREMELY careful to avoid eye contact. He would ignore my performance and talk to others around him. Never a compliment unless I asked for one. And when I brought that up to him I was told my accusations were ridiculous. In the bedroom he claims to be aroused by my pain. At first I went along with this I didn't see any harm in sexual exploration and nothing he did was too painful. Until he started completely ignoring my feelings and doing whatever he wanted. Then he would cheat and say it was because he knew he couldn't please me in bed. He has choked me on numerous occasion out of the bedroom but then explained that he was only being sexual or "joking around". On valentines day he couldn't take me out to do anything because he had gone to a strip club and spent all of our money. He told me it was because he was sad that I was going to leave him. I am now so clearly seeing that this man is disturbed and abusive when i thought before that he was just hurt and needed help that we could experience together. I am in the process of leaving. It is a lot harder than it seems considering he is the breadwinner. My situation is not the worst but it is emotionally and physically affecting me. I have never been so thin and malnourished, and have repeatedly had stomach ulcers throughout the relationship.

March 14, 2016 - 3:41am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

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.