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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 abused for so long. I contemplated suicide around year 7. I decided to get therapy because I was so scared for me. While I am better now and out if a crisis state. The relationship continues to deteriorate because I have become detached in order to survive. I also feel as thought I have to remain closed off to a degree emotionally out of self preservation. Now I am concerned for my spirituality that I am done how being unforgiving. He does not get it and refuses to get help. When I bring up divorce he gets irate. Not to he too is miserable as I no longer feel compelled to have sex with him. I explained how I understood his need and it was based on That need that I continued to have sex. He indicated that he did not want me to if I did not really want it. So I stopped; my giving it myself to satisfy his need was not appreciated. So I simply stopped. Its not that I don't care about him I simply have no desire to be intimate with him nor will I be responsible for his feelings. I feel stuck ....year 18 on the way. How do couples last 40 and 50 years. I am sure some real hurt occurs in every marriage. I feel like something is wrong with me. I don't know what to do with the years of abuse in order to act like it never happened. He still tries to manipulate me by making me feel bad for not having sex: distant... little or no conversation, hurtful or insulting text messages. He actually said he acts that way do.I will know how much it impacts him because it does not seem to bother me. I said so you are trying to.manipulate me? He said no awkwardly. This behavior still continues today after he moved out of our bedroom. His rationale for moving out of the bedroom was because he wanted me to ask him not to. I don't know how to go forward or how to get out.

December 5, 2017 - 12:15am
(reply to Anonymous)

Good for you, you have changed your behavior so now he is forced to change his and you are obviously skilled at figuring out his manipulation. You don't have to pretend it didn't happen because it did. You don't have to forget what happened because it did. And you don't have to take it anymore because it will happen again. It's the cycle of violence that ramps up over time. Protecting yourself from the pain is the first step in taking back your power. You are not responsible for what he has done to you, nor are you responsible for giving him absolution over all of the hurt. I think anyone who has bottomed out from this abuse needs continuous counseling, for at the very least, we need someone in our corner helping us navigate next steps. No one wants you to suffer and once you say 'I've had enough' you can work on pulling yourself out of this harmful relationship and gain your sense of self back. I'm rooting for you and think you are stronger than you know. Sending you a hug.

December 27, 2017 - 3:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

I’ve been verbally abused in my marriage for years and the last few years my husband experienced 3 heart attacks and he is a high risk cardiac patient. This has brought me to my knees as I’ve cried out to God and shared w others but I try to live my life to the fullest. I stay with him because I’m afraid he is too ill for me to walk out on this marriage. I have support but sometimes I can hear the insanity and rage in my husband and he refuses to get help. I think he is willing to see a psychiatrist for medication but in the meantime I meditate and am recovering as I abstain from compulsive overeating which is my addiction. It’s good to express the sadness I feel because I don’t want to live this way. I’m staying for now. Any suggestions? I know I can leave but it’s difficult as he is I’ll.

November 16, 2017 - 7:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

Always blaming the husband. Some wifes are the bully of the couple and they too can resort to emotional, verbal and physical abuse

October 26, 2017 - 2:56am
(reply to Anonymous)

Oh my yes, you are so right, this is not limited to men. This area is a safe place for anyone to vent, share and connect, male or female. I'll share a poem written by a man I connected with, he wrote this regarding his soon-to-be-exwife, I think it's marvelous!

You can crush my soul,
You can burn my desire,
You can have all control,
Go ahead call me a lair;
You can hurt my heart,
You can cause me pain,
You can tear me apart,
Go ahead do it again;
You won’t keep my silence,
You can’t break my will,
You are nothing but fear and violence,
Go ahead and try to kill;
You’re the victim now,
You’ve doing nothing you see,
You haven’t won, no how,
Forever I’m always me.

October 26, 2017 - 1:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is my story for the past 7years and it takes a toll on you you try your best to keep things all together when inside your falling apart in more ways than one ive left 7 times and have been back with my husband for the past 6 or 7 months started my own buisiness on my hubbies schedule just to keep the peace and still be able to give to others and help others and to keep my sanity .Its a up n down slope all the time lately its control of where Im going and where and with who and gas for the one car after or if ill get the car at all .Ive been given vehicles but my hubby will drive them and wreck them in some way so were down to one car and its taking a toll on me .Everyone feels my hubby is a deterance and his control over me is so hard this time to walk away I feel trapped his parents want me to stay because im good for him but there son is so controlling and ive prayed for deliverance ive done everything I can but its never enough or good enough

October 10, 2017 - 5:21am
(reply to Anonymous)

You are so right, this does take a toll on you and it yes, it makes you feel trapped but you have more power than you know. Sounds like it's time to leave the cycle of control and abuse once and for all. You've done it before so you know you can do it, it's time to get your peace back. Of COURSE his parents want you to stay, you are taking care of him and that is their concern = but it's not your job to give up your life and happiness for him or them or anyone else for that matter. Once you stop the madness you will realize how much you have been managing and can put some of this time back into taking good care of you. Stay strong, you've got this and we've got you - we are all here together, sending you a big hug.

October 11, 2017 - 11:11am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to kimromancorle)

Ty so much Im planning a safety plan as we speak what makes it hard is hes doing the honeymoon side as we speak to .Im keeping the peace and being careful .Im so exhausted ty for the hugs they always help.Im scared and feeling so tired.Its so draining

October 13, 2017 - 4:03am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi. Did you ever get out? What is a safety plan? I'm desperate. I want to leave my husband so badly but dont know how! If i tried to pack im afraid of what he will do. Any advice is helpful.

December 8, 2017 - 3:11am
(reply to Anonymous)

You are in a cycle - first there is the honeymoon period where everything is fine, then tension builds and things get 'prickly' and then there is an incident and eruption. And then there is calm and it's back to the honeymoon phase. This doesn't go away and usually shortens in time so you are SMART to get going. I know you are tired, it IS exhausting but stay the path, you are doing great! I can send you some added resources if it would help, email me at kimromancorle@me.com. And stay safe, that is the most important thing to focus on is keeping you safe, sending you HUGS:)))

October 13, 2017 - 4:48am
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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.