Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse and one seen frequently in marriages. It begins subtly. You may belittle your partner for not getting that raise or shout at your wife when the kids are acting up. How many times have you told your girlfriends that you have three kids including your husband? Although you may have joked about it, what do you think he heard? Your spouse is your partner, not your child, not your slave, and not your employee.
The problem with emotional abuse is that it’s difficult to admit that you’re doing it. Most people want to think that they are kind to their partner and exclude themselves, pointing the finger at someone else, maybe even their spouse. However, blaming is a type of emotional abuse as is name calling, making your partner feel like they’re always wrong, yelling, making your partner the butt of jokes, or constantly criticizing them. Telling your man to grow up, or punishing him with the silent treatment is emotional abuse just as telling your wife to shut up or criticizing what she fixes for dinner are.
Emotional abuse is not to be confused normal marriage conflict. Everyone has conflict, and you need that in a healthy marriage, but abuse is when one partner uses dominance or the fact that they’re right, and you’re wrong when emotional abuse happens. Your body may know you’re emotionally abused way before you do. Feeling your stomach tighten or your heart pound whenever a conflict needs to be resolved are signs that emotional abuse is happening to you, especially if it ends with a personal attack on you.
How do you stop or prevent emotional abuse in your marriage?
Every marriage needs constant nurturing to survive, and communicating about how you feel, and working on resolving the problem areas keeps your marriage healthy. Emotional abuse is subtle, and when you bring up the topic that you believe your partner is not treating you with respect, expect defensiveness. That is also one of symptoms of emotional abuse.
- If the abuse is severe and you feel numb with shame and as though you’re walking on eggshells, you need to see a professional counselor. Most abusers don’t change, and leaving the relationship may be the best option.
- Confront the abuser. Tell your partner you’ve had enough and don’t listen to any more of their excuses. It’s not your fault that they cannot control their actions.
- Set Boundaries. If your partner is willing to take responsibility for their part and stop controlling or dominating the relationship, you can work together to make your relationship healthy.
- Practice giving each other respect. No couple agrees with every opinion of the other, but respecting the actions and opinions of one another is key to keeping the marriage alive.
- Work on your self-esteem. Don’t internalize every criticism your partner throws your way. They don’t need to like your TV, music or anything else you do. Don’t take it personally. Having differences in marriage is a good thing. Learn to like you…and demand respect from them.
- Take charge of your life. If the abuser is unwilling to stop or work toward building a healthier marriage with you, then leave. Choosing to live with someone who thinks they’re entitled to belittle you is not good for you or your children.
Set the bar high in your marriage and work each day to be a better version of yourself. You can’t control anyone but you. However, allowing your spouse to treat you with disrespect victimizes you and turns him or her into an abuser. Great marriages aren’t given; they’re created with respect and compassion.