Emotional Abuse


#1

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.

Thoughts?


#2

*I’m sorry you’re going through this, Chosen. That said…I think if you are so affected by this abuse, to the point of trembling when holding a pen…that is not a healthy marriage whatsoever. Marriage shouldn’t be viewed as a license to accept any and all behaviors from the other spouse. I am not suggesting separation or divorce…but, if one’s health is deteriorating to the point that yours is, when does it become life threatening? Your life is being threatened (your health being compromised) bit by bit, daily…weekly.

Some abuse is very visible, scars, bruises, etc…other kinds of abuse cause internal pain…that leads to health issues. I think both are equally bad.

I think you should pray for your spouse, definitely…but, stand up for yourself, also. I would not take one more day of that treatment…NOT ONE MORE DAY. You have to tell yourself that–say, ‘‘self, you’re done taking this garbage. You deserve better.’’ And when your spouse acts like this…say, I’m not taking this from you anymore…if she says I’m leaving you say nothing. Other than maybe fine, go…I’m not taking this one more day from you. Period.

I bet she doesn’t go. That is how you know someone is abusing you…they threaten to leave, and never do. Never will. It’s just an empty threat, to keep the other person begging for them to stay.

We get what we accept. If you continue to say nothing and accept this, she will continue to do this to you. I will pray for you to get help, for your spouse to get help, and for your marriage to improve. I pray for your courage too…you have it in you, just have to exercise it. Marriage isn’t about one spouse making the other feel badly day in and day out. We are to bear our crosses, that doesn’t mean, you are to stay silent and take abuse.

God bless, and praying for you! :console:


#3

I personally think emotional abuse is rampant and that could be why so many people use that term. My own relationship with my husband can take a turn toward that direction sometimes. We have been seeing a counselor for over a year now and just went through the Retrouvaille program that so many people here recommend and those two things are really helping. As far as leaving him because of emotional abuse, I have considered it more for the sake of my children than for my own sake. I have a pretty healthy self esteem so there’s not much he could say to me to take that away, but my biggest worry is how my children see him treat me. They need to know their mother deserves respect, my daughter needs to see how a wife deserves to be treated by her husband, and my son needs to learn how a husband should treat his wife. For this reason I have put my foot down in this area and will not stand for emotionally abusive behaviors in my marriage. Thanks be to God that I have a husband who is willing to put in the all the effort to seek counseling, medication, and spiritual help to make that happen. If he weren’t willing to work on it, I’d probably have to leave him for the sake of the kids. We still go through rocky patches every now and then, but it is much much better. I highly recommend Retrouvaille (retrouvaille.org) for this type of situation. It has really softened our approach to one another.


#4

Yes - well. Sounds like you’ve been a fly on the wall at my place while I was married to my wife for 18 years.

I have the attitude that you stick it out and do the hard yards but when your wife is so controling that she thinks the ultimate way to get her way is to leave… what can you do?

But yes if you do the hard yards stick around and the marriage continues on, then yes that is the right and proper thing to do.

Your doing the right thing by everyone, and if we think about the whole message of Easter
which is - Meeting the needs of others- then that is what we are called to do.


#5

I’m not sure if someone who thinks marriage is about denigrating the other spouse on a daily basis and using threats of divorce to get his or her way in everything is capable of validly entering matrimony.


#6

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?

As Whatevergirl said, at what point does the constant taking of this abuse begin to wear away at someone’s health, sanity and faith? Do you wait till you’re suicidal because your spouse has worn away your self esteem from those denigrating and demeaning comments? (Don’t underestimate the power of that coming from the one person who vowed to love you till you died!) Someone who takes away your freedom and your rights and abuses you with threats of abandonment is to be tolerated? (Yes, they do sometimes leave, thank God!) Someone who blackmails you and treats you as less than a human being goes beyond “a good quality marriage.” And by the way, someone who treats their spouse like that will not reserve that behavior just for the spouse . They also treat children like that. And other relatives. Who may not have the psychological strength to put up with it. In any case, you’re breeding future head cases who will grow up and think watching a parent treat another like garbage is normal.

No one said marriage should be happy 100 percent of the time. But someone like this ends up making everyone miserable 100 percent of the time.

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.

If your wife’s behavior has changed suddenly, she needs to see a doctor. You had 15 years of normal. Some of us had no years of normal. If you put up with this five more years, see if you come back saying you shouldn’t be allowed to leave. Are you waiting for a nervous breakdown? So your kids can see what “marriage” did to you and vow they’ll never marry? A few more years of not being able to hold a pen, and you may come to agree with those of us who recognize that sometimes emotional abuse can be worse than physical. And the damage can last longer.

This is destroying you. And may I also say, maybe you’re tougher. You’re a man. Try putting up with this with someone bigger and stronger, who has financial hammers they can crash down on you, along with fluctuating hormones and childbirth and just being female.

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?

You don’t know they’re life threatening till your life is threatened. And my xh tried to drive me over the brink so he could then use the emotional chaos he created as an excuse to declare me unstable and take away my children. Do we wait for someone like that to get his way? Self preservation is not a selfish desire! This is exactly the attitude that keeps people in bad situations until someone kills them, or drives them to do it to themselves!

Pray they seek help? Change? Many of these people only change for the worse. Meanwhile, it eats at your faith that you are praying for something that just won’t happen (they have free will which they exercise with abundance) and you continue to suffer.


#7

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.

No one uses that word easily. And I cringe every time I read a post that drags up the old emotions. It’s not a code word any more than myocardial infarction is a code word in a hospital emergency room. Sometimes I think I won’t post here anymore because reading all of this brings back so much pain. It’s hard for those of us who lived it, but we’re here because we don’t want other people like us with consciences who tried to stick it out end up where we did. The normal people with a spouse who gets snippy without morning coffee don’t come here and say the things that indicate there are real deep lying problems. It’s like recognizing a poisonous spider. Once you’ve been bitten you know just by looking what the characteristics are and which ones to avoid. There is a difference between the woman who writes and says “My husband was annoyed with me because I smashed the car.” And the woman who says “My husband is always angry with me. He calls me names and sometimes goes weeks without talking to me.” Those of us who lived it know which woman is married to the sociopath. Her own descriptions, whether she realizes it or not, are all the same, no matter who writes. I’d tell one of those women her husband was emotionally abusive. Guess which one?

A harsh cold distant controlling manipulative person may not only be unpleasant, they are real monsters in the heart of their homes victimizing the people who depend most on them.

Don’t make excuses. Just because you’ve chosen to stay or think you can endure decades of this abuse, don’t try to denigrate those who flee so their children can grow up in a measure of peace and safety and so they don’t lose the one parent who hasn’t surrendered to complete evil. Please understand we’re not throwing any words around carelessly.


#8

My goodness this irks me. Did you not read the second paragraph at all, or did you simply want to take offense at the subject and rail against me?

If you can read what I posted with any sort of open mind, you’d see I was talking about people equating everyday bad behavior with real emotional abuse. I was actually saying that people who loosely use the term denigrate it for people like you who really suffered. I was attempting to point out that we cheapen the real costs for people who have to deal with the most horrible situations by using the words in places they don’t belong.

My goodness, this is just frustrating. If you seek to take offense to anything that even resembles a post that in some way reminds you of your own situation, then I am at loss with how to even discuss some things here – they have to be off-limits because they offend you.

I’m really quite angry, to be honest, at the attempt to change the tone and position of my original post. I feel like you have sucker punched me.


#9

No, you don’t get to do that. You made a blanket generalization of people here at CAF saying they were using a term here loosely. You didn’t specify which instances you thought the term was used too loosely. You thus left your accusation open for everyone to be blamed who ever called something emotional abuse.

Nowhere in your post did you speak of everyday bad behavior. Unless in your world, “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” is just simple "everyday bad behavior and not sufficient reason to separate at the very least.

YOU were the one who called those behaviors “much less severe.”

I say they are part and parcel of behavior that will drive people to the edge if they live with it long enough. And usually people who do this only escalate it over time as it becomes “more normal” feeling in the home and so they have to up the ante in order to achieve the same effect on their victims.

Sir, that IS real emotional abuse, the words YOU used and the situations YOU described.

If you seek to take offense to anything that even resembles a post that in some way reminds you of your own situation, then I am at loss with how to even discuss some things here – they have to be off-limits because they offend you.

I’m really quite angry, to be honest, at the attempt to change the tone and position of my original post. I feel like you have sucker punched me.

I didn’t take offense. I told every reader that might be tempted to think you had a point and might just keep their head down and “offer it up” or something that the results could be disastrous. I didn’t say discussions were off limits. I said they pained me to read them and I sometimes have difficulty reading them.

Save your anger for the woman who really makes you mad. I’ve had enough of a man being angry at me because I took his words at face value. I didn’t sucker punch you. I pointed out the idea that you have lost perspective on what a real abusive environment is.

I call it like I see it. If that’s a sucker punch to you, I can’t help that.


#10

*Chosen, you said something that jumps out at me in your initial post…you mentioned that your wife wasn’t like this 20 years ago. No defense for someone becoming abusive, but there could be REASONS…what has changed do you think? Has your core relationship changed? Have you chanegd? What has changed that she is behaving in ways that weren’t evident earlier in the marriage? Is she depressed? (I would ask the same too if you were a woman asking the same question)

I think that often times, we think women can’t be abusive. They do so in these ways, verbally assaulting those they love. My sister did this to her ex once upon a time…she STILL cries to me about her behavior…and how could she be so cruel. :frowning: So, because you are a man, there is this sense that you can ‘‘take’’ it or something. But, while men can be more intimidating from a physical standpoint than women, women can wield a mighty sword, verbally. :o You don’t deserve to be treated that way…marriage doesn’t make it so. Is your wife open to serious family counseling at all? Communication counseling? Anger management counseling? Something that in your mind’s eye, you could see helping?

Just throwing ideas out there. I feel bad that you’re trembling when you hold a pen…that made me so sad reading that. :(*


#11

If those are what you call “everyday bad behaviors”, goodness!
God protect my children from routinely exhibiting that sort of behavior towards their own spouses when they grow up! :eek:


#12

I give up; you choose to be offended by way too much and to lash out at people. I am sorry that you cannot see I was actually in complete agreement with you. I will refrain from responding to anything you post so as not to get into arguments. We’ll just have to politely ignore each other. It does neither one of us credit to bicker back and forth.

Peace to you.


#13

I really don’t want this to be about me. i was trying to engender a conversation about what is real emotianal abuse and the smaller offenses that are distaseful, but bearable. I feel like there are too many instances where someone is told the are expereincing Emotional Abuse and those who really are. We see people lied to about adultry which could lead to health issues. We see finances controlled, jobs controlled, living conditions, etc. That is real abuse.

I don’t see controlling or manipulative behavior as always being emotional abuse. sometimes were just married to someone who has those tendencies. Sort of like being married to somone who drinks and once in a blue moon has too much and being married to an alcholic. Not that the first is good, but if is really only very infrequent, then we don’t say the marriage is doomed. Likewise, some people have bad habits or do things that hurt the other party, but they are not life-threatening. When we call those people emotional abusers and elavate them to the same level as the monsters, we denigrate those in true suffering.


#14

you choose to be offended by way too much and to lash out at people

Another insulting overgeneralization.

For the other readers, I was not insulted by his original post. I was pointing out the dangerousness of his logic, that one should endure the litany of emotional abuse he termed everyday behaviors and stay and that somehow we use the term too much on this forum.

I disagreed with that and told him to understand please, that we do not use that term lightly, and now he disagrees with me.

I didn’t lash out at him. I just pointed out how unfair it was FOR THE OP to label people as “selfish” who want to be free from the daily behavior of name-calling, threats and verbal abuse from controlling spouses who withhold respect, affection and compassion.

Many of us were accused of being “selfish” for years by our spouses, so that word has a trigger to it that when someone comes along and says leaving abuse is “selfish” it hits the person who is being abused in a different way.

NO YOU ARE NOT SELFISH IF YOU WANT TO PRESERVE YOUR HEALTH AND SANITY!!!

Okay. I’m done. :wink:


#15

*Okay…then, my reply to you is this…the litmus test if there is one, for how one can “tell” he/she is being abused…is if your health, sleep, and overall peace of mind is affected negatively, more often than not, due to the verbal attacks from a spouse…you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. I think it has to do with what a reasonable person would consider to be abusive…and the effects thereafter. If your health is compromised because you are constantly walking on eggshells, to me, that is the definition of living with an emotionally abusive person.

I had a wise old Italian aunt who had a saying…’‘who you are married to, tells a lot about who you are.’’ I always thought that was profound. *


#16

*I agree with what you say in caps. Being married doesn’t mean you accept any and all behaviors. I love my husband, but I also love me. lol And guess what? Jesus loves us, so we need to love ourselves, too. Allowing someone to continually treat you like you don’t matter, you’re worthless, etc etc…is not the definition of a Christian marriage. That is a definition of an abusive marriage.

And the more downtrodden we feel, will cause us to not be as useful to Christ, and His kingdom. That is a truth. If we are constantly saddened and hurting over what our spouses are doing to us…we are not available 100% to Christ. That is why staying in an abusive relationship is not a wise idea. (on a variety of levels) *


#17

So the larger argument is what are we called to bear? Surely, for instance, if our spouse is too ill for sexual relations we are not called to desert him/her. If they are hit by a car and cannot work, we do not abandon them. These are different from emotional abuse because they are things that affect our spouse, not things our spouse may do, but they are examples of crosses that we might have to bear for our spouse.

So, how much should we bear? Is it an individual thing? Are there limits that cannot be crossed (like adultery )?

And, as fellow posters, how should we refrain from using tems like Emotional Abuse so as not to plant the seeds in someone’s mind that might not arise otherwise? Or, are we simply not telling them all they need to know and it might hurt them?

I guess what started this is the ease with which some people toss around the phrase. Hubby won’t agree to your going to mum’s house for the weekend? Emotional Abuse.

If it is a single instance, then maybe you just did not do a good job in planning. If it’s part of a larger pattern when he cuts you off from your family, then it’s something else entirely.

If we - getting only one side of the story - jump on a bandwagon and tell some poor soul he/she is being emotionally abused, when it is simply bad communication or a failure to understand the real circumstances are we complicit in causing the poster to become more disabused about their spouse?

Sure the forum is anonymous, but the people are real. I just think we may too casually offer advice that is not sound due not to bad motives, but lack of real understanding.


#18

*Good points, but I don’t (personally) think I’ve ever seen someone broadbrush that way on here, to be honest. I think when presented with a story (of course, it’s one sided, but let’s go with that) people here don’t leap to that conclusion all that often. :confused: I honestly think it’s dubbed appropriately, when it is posted. When someone is abusive, it’s not by accident. It’s willfull. To hurt another, takes an act of will, to an extent. So, it’s hard to miss, if it’s done repeatedly, and thus the pattern is what makes posters suggest that it could be abuse. *


#19

I think emotionally abuse is VERY common in families and relationships. Why? Because it is effective. You can manipulate someone into doing something that you may never be able to convince them to do. Once you introduce fear into them…fear of not being loved, fear of them hurting your fragile health by you not doing everything you want.
The abuser is usually a person with no sense of themselves and an inability to relate to someone healthfully…so they resort to manipulating them and manipulation is the vehicle of abuse. It is sysematic and purposeful…and it is usually very subtle.


#20

I was at a presentation given by Msgr William Lesr, who is on the Tribunal for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and he said that the head of the Roman Rota is very clear that emotional abuse is not acceptable in a marriage. The quote that he gave was, “No one should have to live in hell to go to hell.” Emotional abuse is soul killing. It is both systematic and comprehensive. I would not underestimate how harmful it is.


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