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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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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
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Help.I am so glad that I found this page. I have been with my husband 10 years and I have never felt so mistreated and so low in my life.I have become a shadow of who I once was but am still holding onto a very tiny piece of myself with all of my might. I have been through infidelity, physical abuse only twice(breaking my ribs one time) but that was 6 years ago, and a severe mental breakdown that put me on disability and kept me in the hospital (mental) 12 times in 2 years. I haven't been in the hospital since 2012 but I feel myself on the brink of a breakdown again all whilst really trying to hang on to myself and not completely lose me in it all. He is a very controlling husband in a passive aggressive way. He has allowed me to pay all of our bills for all of these years and since 2009 it has been a disability check....but not because he doesn't make any money. He makes almost 700.00 a week and I am not allowed to ask for money...he used to give me a small allowance a week(under 100) and that was supposed to buy any and everything for the household, gas,groceries,medicine,anything....but only gave when he wanted and never if I needed, even if I need groceries, he will eat somewhere else and take his clothes somewhere else to wash and all so he can say these are my bills not his(my house).If I ever ever ask for anything then that makes my wait period longer if he decides to give.If I leave home even to go to see my grown children for an hour he will leave home to control me into coming home, he snatches my wedding ring off my finger for weeks at a time because he says I don't deserve it, he gives me silent treatment for days on end and I never even know the reason why. He has pushed my family away,I have no friends as anytime I would speak to or meet up for lunch with one he would leave me...so I was always making excuses as to why I couldn't go somewhere until no one talks to me anymore. I can't use my phone or laptop even just for researching because I always have to be doing something wrong and we have to argue about it so Ive learned to never pull them out when he is home. I have 3 dogs 2 I have had the entire time we have been together and 1 he gave me and brought in the house 3 years ago.And now all of a sudden the past 6 months or so he has argued with me Everyday about how he cant stand the dogs and they are nasty(and which is a lie I am OCD and my house is spotless) and he wants me to get rid of or euthanize them. As a matter of fact the past 3 nights he has slept in the living room and not spoken to me and when I tried to tell him how hurt and could he just come to bed he tells me he cant stand my dogs anymore(EXCUSES and control) and those dogs are the only happiness I have in this house and seem to love me more than him anyway so I refuse to budge on this issue but it keeps me confined as I'm even scared to go to the store or leave with the threat of him harming or taking my animals, because he did take one of them before to be cruel(remember, he hates them)I am struggling so hard with this as I am trying to live a life pleasing to God and I don't know what to do. I know God is against divorce and I made vows...I have prayed for him, for me, for us and have been the best wife and step mother to his kids that I know how to be. I cannot say anything indisagreement to him or he leaves or threatens to leave me and when he does it stresses me so and he even takes my clothes(that he did not buy). But everyone he knows loves him and thinks he is the best thing since sliced bread. He is very charming, nice to others and lies and tells everyone that he has such a hard time because I refuse to help him and that he pays all the bills and that is much untruth. I thought a husband was supposed to be a partner, a best friend but I feel like he is my complete enemy as I hear him talking about how not good of a wife I am to other people. I am in such turmoil. I am a good wife, I do get a disability check but he makes me feel worthless.I keep a very clean house and cook a 5 course dinner everyday, mind you if I don't fix his plate he will not even eat. If we have sex one time a day he talks bad to me about it about how he is so displeased that is all he gets that he don't want it one time,he wants it 4 times. I am completely worn out emotionally and physically by this man and he has beaten me down so that I don't even know how to leave or make him leave, the confrontation is something I fear deeply.. I pray everyday that IF this is not what God has for me that he will take it away in whatever form he sees fit, I truly don't know how much longer I can take this. As I am writing this he is packing things and leaving me, again(although he wont really leave or he will be back and I will feel threatened to open the door for him. I know theres probably no one that can help me but I had to get this off my chest...so I am daily believing that God will help me just because I believe and have hope in a better life for me. This somehow made me feel better just to release this to you all in conversation if even just for a moment.Thank you for taking the time to read.

January 1, 2016 - 1:20pm
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