All Wives

Emotional Abuse in Marriage

February 26, 2024

Most Christians I’ve encountered aren’t familiar with the subtle ways abuse exists within marriages. Over the next few weeks we’ll dive into the different types of abuse that can exist within marriages, and today we will focus on the most common type of abuse within marriage that I see, which is emotional abuse.

First, what types of abuse can exist within marriage?

Abuse can be emotional, sexual, spiritual, physical, or financial.

Understanding Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves controlling another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate them. It can be subtle and insidious, but it can also be overt and manipulative. The goal of the emotional abuser is to control and have power over their spouse.

Emotional abuse might look like one spouse isolating the other spouse, taking away their network of support. The abuser might feel insecure or afraid of their spouse leaving them or finding or thinking anything different than the abuser, so the abuser attempts to keep them isolated, away from the influence of others. Any time a spouse prevents their spouse from support networks and controls who they can and cannot be with, or when and how they can be with them, this is emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse might also look like the abusive spouse making threats. The abuser might threaten a certain type of consequence be inflicted, they might threaten to leave, to withhold finances or information, they might withhold sex or affection, a car, a place to stay, the abuser might threaten sharing false information with family or friends, or with an attorney – or they might threaten taking the kids away, or they might threaten self harm or suicide. Any type of threat is emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse could also be yelling or name calling. Statements such as “You’re so dumb. You’re fat. You’re a freak. You’re an idiot.” Any verbal outbursts or name-calling is emotional abuse.

It might also look like gaslighting. Gaslighting is when the abuser makes the victim question their reality to gain power and control. It’s a way to create doubt and confusion. The victim will typically make a statement, and the abuser will respond with denial, shifting blame, minimizing, scapegoating (blame another for something that happened), or lie even in the face of evidence. Gaslighters attack and blame OTHERS and make victims doubt their reality and experience, feeling confused and manipulated. Gaslighting is emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse might also look like disrespecting the spouses feelings, requests, boundaries, or experience. Abusers will often trivialize their spouses experience and criticize them for having the issue, invalidating the spouse instead of respecting them. This is emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse might also look like character assassination, which is a deliberate effort to damage the other spouses reputation. The abuser will blame their spouse for issues, will lie about them, or purposely make them look bad through rumors. This is emotional abuse.

Do you question whether you’re in an abusive marriage? Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 817-369-3970

Next week, here on the blog and on the A Wife Like Me Podcast, we will dive into other types of abuse.

Who in your life needs to hear what we’re talking about? Please send them this week’s podcast episode!

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