Emotional Abuse In Marriage.

emotional_abuse_by_marcgosselin EMOTIONAL ABUSE: THE SILENT KILLER OF MARRIAGE

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 partner’s (normally the wife) self-esteem and spirit are battered along with her/his 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/men 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 s/he’s done. Take note that abuse started being a gender issue where man were the abusers and whilst it’s still mainly man that are abusers women are catching up faster and we’re praying that they don’t eventually catch up. When the abused become the abuser, when the victim becomes the perpetrator lives are lost.


“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/husband. 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, if there’s, the same abuse is repeated the next day or soon thereafter. Like other forms of abuse, there can be apologies and promises to never do it again, and there is hope in the beginning that behaviors and attitudes will change—often referred to as the “honeymoon phase”—but somewhere in the back of many a wife’s/husband’s mind, s/he knows that it’s only a matter of time before the abuser settles back into old routines. There are a number of types of emotional abuse but we’ll deal with the one’s listed hereunder.


Words can be powerful tools or powerful weapons. The weapon of choice for emotional abusers is often verbal. They use their words to control, to wound, to entrap, to humiliate. Through their words and tone of voice, they imprint messages on the minds of those who hear. These messages, repeated often and forcefully, infiltrate to the inner being of their victims, shaping the way they view While each person is different, there are several distinct methods the emotional abuser can use to dispense his or her abuse. It may be a single form or a combination of forms; however, most are recognizable. As you read through this chapter, think back over people you have known. You probably will be able to come up with at least one name for every pattern of verbal abuse.


I once saw a sign that read, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as long as it agrees with mine!” This is the essence of the overbearing opinion. The sign I saw was in jest, but for the emotional abuser, this is a life statement. It defines how he or she views the world and everyone else in it.


Hand in glove with the overbearing opinion is the person who is always right. Overbearing-opinion abusers have an idea or opinion about everything. People who are always right do not make the same volume of pronouncements, but when they do, they always position themselves in the right and everyone else in the wrong. They will sift through events and information for proof of their rightness, bombarding anyone who questions them with a list of reasons why they are correct in their thinking. There is no room for a second opinion. Living with a person who is always right produces frustration and anger. Events are constantly being turned around in his or her favor. You begin to think there is no justice in the world, since your abuser never has to admit his or her error. More important, you may also begin to believe that your abuser has been right all along. Like living with an overbearing-opinion abuser, you begin to second-guess your ability to make decisions, for they never seem to be the right ones.


The right or wrong of what judge-and-jury abusers decide is irrelevant. To them the most important thing is their position, to be in control of the people around them. It is their call to make, whether good or bad. Others are to obey them, not because they have rendered a good decision, but because they are the authority.


Emotional abuse can come from different sources in a variety of ways. Some of the most destructive abusers are people who habitually put down another person through their words. Instead of using their speech to encourage and lift up the other person, they use it to crush and discourage. Their use of language and their tone of voice are purposely chosen to degrade the feelings of the other person, to make them feel valueless. It is almost as if their words become a verbal heel grinding down the self-esteem of the abused.


The stand-up comedian is just that—only the butt of his jokes is always you. You are his perpetual straight person. He doesn’t laugh with you, he laughs at you. Through sarcasm and exaggeration, he beats down your self-image. Very similar to the put-down artist, the stand-up comedian uses twisted humor. This kind of abuse provides the abuser a way out, an instant excuse for any injury caused. After all, if you are the only one who isn’t laughing, there must be something wrong with you. Everyone else seems to be able to take a joke, so why can’t you? Furthermore, this type of abuse can leave a deep sense of outrage at being used for another person’s pleasure. The abuser gets all the laughs, and you are left to feel humiliated. Often the only defense against this type of abuse is to become a clown yourself, beating your abuser to the punch by beating up on yourself. Better to be the class clown than the verbal punching bag.


While the jokes of the stand-up comic can hit you all of a sudden like a ton of bricks, the weight of the guilt-giver comes on a brick at a time, just long enough for you to adjust to the weight before another one is added. Brick upon brick of guilt, year after year, message after message, remark after remark. Usually not delivered in haste or loudly, but with a sigh, with a sad, disappointed look that communicates that you are the cause of all of his or her problems. If it weren’t for you, life would be so much better. If you were emotionally abused in this way, you may feel as if you have no importance to your abuser. In fact, you may feel as if the abuser’s life would be so much better if you weren’t around to mess it up. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Preachers have a sermon for everything you do. Preachers are used to controlling and manipulating people by their words. Often they love to hear themselves talk. They don’t so much communicate with other people as preach at them. They can be compelling and charismatic, and often they invoke religious themes in their speeches. They use these “sermons” as a way to pontificate on the faults of the person specifically and the world in general. Any small infraction, to preachers, has earth-shattering implications. Their words and messages are grandiose and meant to make the listener feel contrite and moldable. Invoking the name of God in their speeches reinforces the “rightness” of their point of view. It also makes it impossible to argue with them, for arguing with them equals arguing with God.


Historians are a This Is Your Life nightmare. They are people who, remember every bad thing you have ever done or they think you have done. With computer accuracy, all your bad moments are logged and recorded to be brought up in full detail at any future time the historian deems appropriate. There is no getting beyond an event, no putting the past behind you and going forward. Like a heap of heavy luggage, historians drag all of it along with them. Historians’ view of the past is decidedly one-sided. They never seem to remember their own faults or mistakes with the same clarity they recall yours. If you bring up one event in your defense, they can come up with a multitude of others to bury it in a verbal barrage.


No discussion of emotional abuse through words would be complete without including the absence of words as a form of abuse. This is commonly known as “the silent treatment.” Abusers punish their victims by refusing to speak to them or even acknowledge their presence. Through silence, the abusers loudly communicate their displeasure, anger, frustration, or disappointment. Depending on the person, this silent treatment can last for hours, days, or weeks. For some abusers, it is a preferred method of communication because of its ability to humiliate and control the victim. It is used most effectively by those in close relationship, such as a spouse, parent, or child. The silence, the loss of verbal relationship, is meant to exact an emotional toll on the other person, who often will go to great lengths to attempt to restore communication with the abuser.


Verbal abuse is like a tape recorder that never stops playing. On and on the messages run, over and over, year after year. You hear the words in your head whether you want to or not. They repeat themselves softly in the quiet moments when no one else is speaking. Like relentless waves undermining the sand, they steadily wash away the foundations of self-esteem and self-respect. Too often they become the background noise of our lives—too quiet to be clearly heard, too loud to be totally ignored. As unpleasant as it may seem, the only way to deal with verbal abuse is to turn up the recorder. Really listen to what those messages are saying to you, find out when they were recorded and by whom, and begin to erase them by taping over them with positive, uplifting, encouraging messages of self-esteem and self-worth that come through healthy relationships.


It’s time to lift the veil from these situations and recognize how much a person’s soul and spirit can be damaged without physical and verbal abuse. Abuse doesn’t have to come in the form of acting out a form of punishment, or lashing out with temper and words. Abuse can also be withholding affection, or never saying a kind word. It takes a strong woman to stand up against what everyone is telling her is her duty and recognize that this kind of situation is not okay, and to talk about it until somebody listens. If you believe you are in an emotionally abusive marriage—which can take many forms to keep a wife dependant on a husband (a virtual prisoner in her own house)—or you’re not even sure if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse, please send an email to arrange for a chat with some of the facilitators.



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