I see a lot of posts, particularly about marriage and divorce, that reference Emotional Abuse. It seems to me that this term is thrown about quite cavalierly and is also used to justify giving someone the grounds to leave a marriage.
Before I go farther, I want to separate what is clearly over-the-line from this discussion. There are plenty of people, most of them women, who have been the victim of real abuse; abuse that just happens to be in the form of emotional control and manipulation. These women have been lied to about every aspect of their lives and had their safety and health threatened by the men who practiced this form of abuse. I’m not suggesting that their pain is not real, nor that they did not (do not) have grounds to leave the marriage.
The things I’m talking about are much less severe: a controlling spouse, a spouse who denigrates you, demeans you, refuses to let you have a say in the decision making or who continually threatens to divorce or leave if his/her wishes are not met. A spouse who may withhold affection, sex, affirmation or compassion if you don’t accede to their wishes. A spouse who cannot accept your right to have equal standing in the marriage. This type of person is not going to be capable of participating in a good/quality marriage, but that does not mean that we should counsel the person to leave or separate, does it? A marriage is more that just being happy, no?
If I was being honest, I could easily say that I’ve been emotionally abused the last five years. My health has been affected, to the point where I was unable to hold a pen because of the involuntary trembles; I suffer panic attacks and have severe anxiety. I no longer have the spiritual health I used to have because I’m simply fighting day-to-day. That being said, it does not allow me – in my opinion – to leave my wife because she is behaving in such odd ways – things that were not part of her nature for the first 20 years of marriage.
In the case of simply emotional abuse, things that do not have life threatening consequences, are we not simply to bear our cross? Do we not have to refrain from the selfish desire to get “free” of this and instead pray our spouse will change or seek help?
I would like to hear what people think, especially in light of the easy use of the “E” bomb in posts. I would say that we are bound to withhold from tossing Emotional Abuse around as a code word and only use it in the horrible cases we’ve seen too much of. A harsh, cold, distant, controlling or manipulative person may not be pleasant, but they are not like the real monsters out there.