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Is This Emotional Abuse?

scowl.jpgEmotional abuse can do just as much harm as physical abuse. While anyone can hurt you physically, someone who knows you as well as your husband or wife does has a real advantage when it comes to doing emotional harm.

What is emotional abuse? It is using whatever causes a person fear, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, or rage for the purpose of manipulating them.

If you argue with your spouse to the point where he or she gets emotionally flooded and can't think straight, because it lets you win the argument, you are an emotional abuser.
If you repeat a story of the time your spouse froze up while making a presentation in order to discourage him or her from running for office or seeking a promotion at work, you are an emotional abuser.
If you really, really want your husband or wife to agree to something and you hint or say that you will refuse sex if you don't get it, you are an emotional abuser.
If you get your mate to change clothes before going out by painting a picture of how he or she might be embarrassed, just so that you will not be embarrassed, you are an emotional abuser.

I point these out because most of us briefly resort to emotional abuse at some point in our marriage. These are strategies that gave us some of our first power as children. They don't die easily. But they are inappropriate for adult relationships.

If your spouse is emotionally abusing you, recognize that it might be a sign of feeling overwhelmed or powerless, returning to childish ways just as we do when we whine or curl up in a fetal position. If you can do something about whatever is overwhelming your spouse or giving you too much power in your relationship, do it.

If you are able to ignore or avoid the manipulation attempts until your spouse recovers from a temporary period of great stress, do it.

If it is related to alcohol or drug abuse, deal with the addiction.

But it may also be that you are being manipulated by a spouse who has little or no real love for you. If you think this might be the case, you are going to need a bunch more information. I recommend The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel. Wiley, 2003.

[Note: This is an Amazon Affiliate link, which means they pay me a very small sum for suggesting you buy from them.]


Great post Patty! I think emotional abuse is very hidden, and Beverly Engle's books are very illuminating. It is very difficult to be victimized and not act like a victim. Choosing to act to protect oneself is the only way to avoid being a victim. It's what the victim owes herself or, sometimes, himself.

Thanks, E. Glad to hear you also found Beverly Engle's writing helpful.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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