Verbal/emotional abuse


Does the Church recognize Verbal / Emotional abuse as a deal-breaker for a marriage? I have been married over 20 years and have come to realize that for most of my marriage I have suffered this from my husband. We have talked about it, but he has apologized and wants to stay together doesn’t want to talk about “the past”. He has reformed, but I feel like I have years of pollution in my soul that I can’t express, and I just want to separate for a year or two. He is opposed to this and says I am choosing not to forgive him. I do forgive him, but I don’t love him, don’t want to be with him, and I don’t want to pretend anymore.


It is a deal-breaker before marriage, you certainly would not want to marry someone like that. There are no deal-breakers after a valid marriage. But the Church does allow for separation and even civil divorce if that is necessary to protect the innocent spouse or children from abuse or to protect their interests. That does not however dissolve a valid marriage. Should in the future a divorce result, and one party wanted to remarry and seek an annulment, that pattern might shed light on circumstances that existed at the time of the contract, especially if it was hidden, but by themselves, events after the marriage are not grounds for annulment.


There was plenty of evidence of abuse before the marriage, but I didn't recognize it for what it was back then, I thought it was my fault. I was 18 and he was 24 when we met - I was at a psychological disadvantage. It literally took years to understand what was really happening. Even if I have to forfeit any future possible relationships, I still want to leave this marriage.


The Church, as puzzleannie said, does recognize separation. No one should tolerate abuse. Having been there, I think verbal and emotional abuse is FAR more devastating than physical, but most of society thinks physical abuse is worse.

As far as divorce/annulment goes, I would seek the advice of a priest. For sure, you should seek help from a marriage therapist- preferably a Catholic one. The Catholic Apologists on this website often recommend Pastoral Solutions, which is run by Dr. Gregory Popchak. They do over the phone consultations and can advise you in conjunction with your husband- or, if he is not willing, with you alone.

Please, please keep a prayer life with God as you struggle with this decision. Start a novena to St. Rita if you need help. She also suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and is a great advocate for troubled marriages. Seek God's will for your marriage above all things. He knows what is best for us, and will lead you to the best decision you can make and give you inner peace and strength for whatever you must do. You will be in my prayers. God bless!


It could be a valid reason for separation or divorce.Talk it over with a parish counselor or ask for an appointment to see a priest.Don't act in haste.Consult first.Some priests are excellent in these matters.He may even recommend someone better than himself.This is a serious issue.


If your husband has apologized and is making an effort to be a better husband, then you should stay with him, and work out your hurt along with your husband. You are lucky that he is able to recognize how his words were affecting your well being. (I hope for your sake he really has). Have you considered seeking professional counseling? A therapist can give you the tools to communicate your hurt and anger clearly to your husband. It is important that your husband understand the deep emotional pain verbal/emotional abuse causes. I was emotionally abused by my father for about 5 years before he finally stopped talking to me altogether. After almost 10 years my blood still boils when I think about many of the horrible things he said to me, and perhaps you can relate to remembering most of those things word for word. I always felt like it would somehow be easier if he actually just hit me, so I could have a physical sign of my emotional pain and hurt, and perhaps the people who were supposed to “protect” me would actually have evidence to go off of. (CPS would never do anything since you can’t prove emotional/verbal abuse…seriously? This still irritates me) I cannot imagine being in that situation for as long as you, so you definitely have my prayers. It is a choice to forgive, and to keep forgiving. Perhaps if you spoke with a professional, they could help you process your pain and start the road to forgiveness. Again, if after all these years your husband wants to change, it’s worth giving him a chance. He does need to acknowledge the past and how he hurt you, but as I started to state before, I hope you can find the appreciation for him wanting to change (I, of course, am making the assumption that he truly wants to change his behavior) - many people who are verbally abusive have deep psychological and emotional issues of their own, and are unable to even see how their behavior is detrimental to those around them. If your husband is sincere about changing the way he treats you, I hope you can find the grace and strength to try and heal your pain and marriage, and maybe someday start to forgive him. God bless:gopray2:


I would also note that while your feelings may have changed toward your husband, understand that love of another is a choice on your part, not just a feeling.


[quote="wild_thing, post:4, topic:238532"]
Having been there, I think verbal and emotional abuse is FAR more devastating than physical, but most of society thinks physical abuse is worse.

For sure, you should seek help from a marriage therapist- preferably a Catholic one.

Please, please keep a prayer life with God as you struggle with this decision.


Agreed, agreed, agreed.


Take a look at this document from the USCCB - it does cover some of the emotional aspects as well as the physical but it will give you a place to start. Also speak to a priest. You don't need your husband's permission to separate but I would recommend you start counseling before making any rash decisions that may not be reversible. I also would say that none of this is your fault - we do not ask to be abused although there are some that will argue that point.

When I Call For Help


My best general advice:

Verbal/emotional abuse is a very good reason to separate and possibly divorce.

Take such actions under the guidance of your priest and a counselor, and after consulting with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, talk to a domestic violence center or possibly the self-help section of your local courthouse.

Decide in advance the conditions under which you would consider reconcilliation with your husband. Do not go back just because he told you that he is sorry and has seen the light. If you have been married to an abuser for twenty years, you have no doubt heard this umpteen gazillion times, then when things settle down, the familiar pattern emerges. With the help of a counselor decide which concrete steps your husband must take to demonstrate that this time is different. Also, decide in advance the minimum amount of time that you will need in order to discern whether or not he is going to make the improvements needed. 12-18 months should give you a clear picture. During the first weeks and possibly up to the first 3 months, he will promise you that miracles have been happening to him. If you stand firm, you might find that those are some pretty short-lived miracles.

Something that people who have not been through this do not understand is what it has been like to be brutally hurt by someone that you have made yourself vulnerable to, repeatedly. Once you step away emotionally and can see, almost for the first time, what you have been through over the years, it can make you pretty sick. The thought of staying with the person who has done this to you, fills you with panic and dread.

Whatever you decide, make sure that you have friends and relatives who will be there for you, because you will need a lot of support to stay strong. I also can not stress enough the importance of counseling.

Prayers for you. This is tough but doable.

**And a caveat. If you separate, DO NOT date, become close friends with, or become in any way dependent on another man, single or married. You cannot make clear decisions with such entanglement, and such a relationship will inhibit your abilit to make the growth and changes that you will need to make.


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