Counseling Issues: Domestic Violence–Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is very hard to prove.  It is subtle, unrelenting, and lethal.  It is always incorporated into verbal abuse.  I hope that what you’re going to see as we continue these posts is that all forms of abuse are tied together.  Sometimes, the abuser is just a lot more effective at one than he is at another.

If your partner continuously degrades or belittles you,  that is abuse.  Even if he is not hitting you, it is abuse. Disrespect is abuse, There is no excuse for one partner disrespecting another.

Emotional abuse affects both physical and mental health. It wears the victim out to the point of complete submission. There’s just no fight left, and then the abuse becomes even more pointed and unrelenting.  Here are some examples of how it works:

  • He controls all the money, all the time.  You have to beg for anything extra.
  • He threatens to leave you, knowing you have no way to support yourself
  • He instills fear with looks, gestures or actions
  • He doesn’t hit you, but he throws things; he slams doors, punches walls, and destroys something you love
  • He’s an excellent blame-shifter.  If he broke your favorite heirloom from your grandmother, it’s because you made him. Not his fault. Ever.
  • He ridicules you if you complain about his treatment. He loves it if he can make you cry or go into a screaming rage.  Shows you have no self-control.
  • He shouts, criticizes, and calls you names.
  • In public, he’s a charmer. No one would guess what goes on behind closed doors.
  • He humiliates you in private. If that doesn’t work, he does it in public, managing to make you look like the one who started it.
  • If nothing else works, he simply refuses to talk to you until you come begging him to forgive you.  He can go much longer than you can without speaking.

As a result of this kind of treatment, a woman begins to distrust herself.  She sees spontaneous behavior as childish. She has a hard time caring about anything. She worries about every word she says, fearing it will be misinterpreted. She fears she may be losing her mind.  She may spend time trying to figure out what she does wrong, hoping that if she can change, he’ll be nice to her.  She has no self-confidence, but is full of self-doubt.  She develops a lot of negative self-talk: “I’m so stupid, I’m so dumb, I’m so inadequate; no one could truly love me, I have nothing to offer, I embarrass him because I’m too fat/thin/ugly/old.” The list is endless.

So, what’s a person to do when there seems to be no hope for change?

The best advice I can give you is to stand up to the bully.  A popular television psychologist has said that we teach people how to treat us.  If you have accepted the abuse and tried to improve, then you have taught your abuser that he can continue to mistreat you.

What do I mean by standing up to the bully?  Simple.  Most bullies are cowards.  They pick on those who are smaller or in some way unable to defend themselves.

Stand up. Refuse the bullying. Tell him you will no longer accept the abuse. Walk away if he begins to rant. Have your car keys in your hand, make sure you’re much closer to the door than he is, and GET OUT!  If there are children, get into your car, lock it, and call the police on your cell phone if you believe they may be in any danger.

You have to think ahead.  You have to be willing to leave for a while to let him ponder this new woman in his house. I’m telling you that he won’t change if you don’t change.  Often, when you stand up to a bully, he backs down. Bullying is all about power, control, and ego. Fight back. You’ll be glad you did.

I know I’ve made this sound far more simple than it really is.  At some point, I’m going to devote a whole post to ways you can fix an abusive relationship.

Come back next week to learn what mental abuse is all about.

2 thoughts on “Counseling Issues: Domestic Violence–Emotional Abuse

  1. Lydia

    This was very interesting to read and breaks my heart, as I think of someone very dear to me going through this exact thing. Despite family and friends trying to help her, she has decided it’s not worth fighting against. I keep praying that some day God will give her the strength to stand up for herself.

    I also have another person who has been a wonderful mentor to me, who went through this as well. After nearly 12 years of continually being beaten down by her husband, emotionally and mentally, she finally decided enough was enough. She reversed the role and told her husband that if he didn’t agree to go to counseling, she would leave him. With how firm she was, he knew she was serious. (She even had his first appt scheduled already and had the counselor call him.) He be-grudgingly agreed to go to counseling, and she went as well (to learn how to be confidant in herself and stand up for herself and their children). After a couple sessions, she started wearing makeup and doing her hair again – something he didn’t want her doing – and she wouldn’t let him stop her. That’s just one example. She slowly regained her pride and confidence, and he learned the proper way to treat and respect his wife. Part of the problem was that this was how he had always seen his dad treat his mom. Goes to show how parents’ actions can influence their children. Anyway, this couple is still married and going on almost 30 years of marriage. If you saw them now, you would have never guessed what went on in the first part of their marriage. So, like you said, it IS possible to change the situation if the woman changes herself.


    1. Lydia, thanks for your encouraging comment. I love to hear success stories! These posts on dometic violence have engendered a lot of response. There’s so much going on out there, and we’d all be surprised if we knew what goes on behind closed doors!


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