Jocelyn - posted on 09/24/2012 ( 17 moms have responded )
This post isn’t about me. It’s for all the women out there who are unhappy, who are shunned by their boyfriends/husbands but the men won’t let them go, who are controlled, intimidated, insulted, critiqued, and humiliated by the men who are supposed to love them. Yet you don’t want to leave because they’re just being selfish (all men are a little selfish), and that’s not like verbal abuse or physical abuse. It’s no reason to break up a family or wedding vows, right?
Last week I was at home searching for the words to describe my marriage. It’s not all-the-way verbal abuse (although he will call me lazy, useless, and crazy it is done in a speaking voice while we’re both arguing and I always imagined verbal abuse to be screaming obscenities with c-words and b-words), yet it’s not quite physical abuse (yet he uses intimidation such as pulling his arm back, then telling me how easy it would be to hit me but his conscience won’t let him, or when we fight he pushes me against a wall and holds me there with his body), it’s… emotional abuse. I came up with that term on my own, never having heard of it before, and decided to google it to see if it’s a real thing, because I didn’t want to misuse it if it was.
Not only is it a real term, but by all definitions of it, I am a victim of it and have been for ten years without even knowing it. I like to think I’m a woman of average intelligence, yet here I am, 28 years old, and I have never heard of ‘emotional abuse’. I think it’s a term every woman should know. We should grow up knowing the signs of emotional abuse so we can get out of unhealthy relationships before they escalate. So I am here to spread the word. Please take a moment to read through the signs, because it could change your life and open your eyes to what you’ve been living with.
“Disrespect vs. Abuse - How Can You Tell the Difference?” at http://www.dayoneny.org/dayone/get_help/... defines abusive behavior as “A pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate or romantic relationship where one person chooses to control the relationship through the use of force, intimidation or fear. The abusive behavior can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's extreme. Without help, the abusive behavior usually gets worse.” It lists these warning signs: “extreme jealousy or insecurity, constant put-downs, possessiveness or treating you like property, telling you what to do, constantly checking in on you, explosive temper, making false accusations, isolating you from your friends and family, preventing you from doing things you want to do”.
The Wikipedia definition of psychological and emotional abuse is "the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. Subtler emotionally abusive tactics include insults, putdowns, arbitrary and unpredictable inconsistency, and gaslighting (the denial that previous abusive incidents occurred).”
The “Counseling Center” at http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu... has its own definition of emotional abuse as “any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased. Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching,” or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones (Engel, 1992, p. 10).”
I searched Circle of Moms for “emotional abuse” and found an article titled “6 Signs You Are in an Abusive Relationship” at http://www.circleofmoms.com/article/6-si... It gives six signs of emotional abuse: 1) your partner blames you for the mistreatment, 2) your partner tries to control you, 3) your partner withholds love and affection, 4) your partner berates, belittles, or humiliates, 5) your partner tries to isolate you, 6) your partner loses his temper quickly.
It’s so weird seeing your life laid out and every sign pointing at "abuse", yet not knowing it for ten entire years. Emotional abuse is a subtle, gradual wearing down of another, so gradual you don't even realize it's happening to you. Verbal and physical abuse are somewhat obvious, but women stay in those unhealthy relationships because they are preceded by emotional abuse. Emotional abuse slowly wears away your sense of self-worth without you knowing it, until you see yourself through his eyes and believe 1) he’s right and the abuse is deserved, 2) no one else would want you, and 3) you have nowhere else to go. If you can detect the warning signs of emotional abuse, you may be able to save yourself before it heads down that road and ten years have passed before you even realize what has happened.
In a relationship like this, you are never happy; your only happiness hinges on if he’s happy. In the rare times I was genuinely happy my husband would see it and he would start insulting me until I was in tears; but I didn’t believe that was reason enough to divorce. If you tell someone you’re a victim of verbal/physical abuse, the usual consensus is “Get out! You don’t have to take that! Make a better life for yourself and your child!” but if you tell someone you’re never happy, the response is “Well, marriage is work. You have to get through the bad times and take your vows seriously.” I did take my marriage vows seriously, but does that mean I have to live the rest of my life feeling like I’m less than a person?
I want to reiterate that I am not looking for advice or opinions on my situation. I am only seeking to help others. If you feel like you’re going through something similar, feel free to respond, but please don’t if it’s just about me. I am making a better life for myself already and you needn’t worry about me. If you know me personally and have stumbled upon this, don’t talk to me about it. I don’t want to know that you know. At least not right now.. maybe in a few years time..
(Edit: Removed personal stories of emotional abuse.. I don't like leaving loose ends lying around the internet.)