My next question is: Is this type of emotional abuse a symptom of a more serious problem in the marriage or a character flaw that could have possibly been apparent prior to marriage?
Oh, yes, it’s a symptom of something that can be so profound as to render any supposed consent at the time of the wedding invalid. And yes, 20/20 hindsight makes everything clear. The abuse was always there. But when you are in love and dating and engaged, you try to explain the behavior in charitable ways. (He had a bad day at the office. She is having her period. His mother was mean to him.) The mind does not want to grasp that some people are downright evil. Much less the person you think you love. So you explain away bad behavior to yourself and unwittingly give them permission to abuse you.
Oddly, abusers seem to gravitate toward really really NICE people. Because really really nice people try to see the good in you and think that you are nice too. For the record, I’m not really really nice anymore. Now I’m open to the idea that some people are really jerks. And I call them on it in the very beginning. And they avoid me. Abusers tend to immediately dislike people who see right through them.
Finally, you wake up to just how evil they are when they say things to you in front of your children like, “Why don’t you just crawl off and die somewhere. The world would be a better place without you.” (BTW that’s a mean thing to say to a post-partum woman.)
Usually, though, you really realize how awful they are once you are married to them. Then once they have you in a no-way out scenario, they show their unbridled real colors. The facade drops away. The courtesy ends. They do thinks like walk into the room where you are reading and pass gas and leave a stench that could kill a cow. Then they leave with a nasty smirk on their face. That, my friends, is pure contempt.
By the time you are in the situation where you realize how bad it’s getting (and they have to ratchet up their behavior to achieve the same effect. They thrive on your emotional pain. It’s like they are emotional vampires or something.) you are married maybe with children.
Then they wear you down and cut you away from family. So the only voice you hear is theirs. And it tells you how much you suck all the time. And no one else is allowed to give a realistic appraisal of you. Sometimes, the last shred of sanity deep down leads you to ask on a board like this “Is it me? Or is that person abusive? Should I stay?” Then someone comes on here and accuses you of seeking permission to break a sacred vow and inferring that this board is a place where people encourage each other to break up a marriage.
Well, if you are living like that, it is not a holy sacrament that brings you closer to God. When you are having to ask strangers if a loving God would make you live like this, there is something wrong.
And no, there is nothing wrong with your relationship with God that makes you end up with a person like this. Sometimes you think you followed the rules and love God, and obey all His commandments and you are trying to help someone else get to heaven, and for the life of you you can’t understand why it’s a complete failure no matter how you try to obey and love God. People like this often gravitate toward those who love God especially. And they take advantage of goodness and kindness. And Satan uses people like this to break down a soul that loves God.
It’s as simple as that.
A spouse who engages in emotional abuse often ends up committing physical abuse. At the very least, they are attempting to destroy a soul. God does not demand that you stay with someone who is destroying your health, safety or sanity.