Understanding Emotional Abuse in a Marriage


Jan 2, 2018


In romantic relationships, shame shrouds an all-too-common phenomenon that wreaks havoc on one (frequently physically or financially weaker) partner. Abuse transcends racial, religious, and socio-economic boundaries, and yet it is rarely discussed openly. In India, an estimated 30% of women reported at least one instance of spousal violence in a recent survey. But the less recognized, yet equally harmful, impact of emotional abuse is almost never addressed. It’s insidious precisely because the torment is not as definitive and identifiable as an instance of physical violence.

Emotional abuse usually escalates gradually, and is characterized by the abuser’s effort to undermine the partner by systemic emotional manipulation and control, to the point that it diminishes the victim’s self-esteem. This only reinforces the cycle of abuse, as the victim experiences a sort of “frog in the pot” problem: the abuse starts subtly, but as it escalates, it becomes increasingly difficult to break the cycle. The perpetrator is so adept at perpetuating feelings of helplessness and isolation that the abused spouse finds it impossible to leave or fight back.

Many victims of emotional abuse may feel unhappy and helpless, yet they may not even realize that these feelings are the result of an abusive relationship. This happens in part because abusers are so adept at blaming others, but it’s also because emotional abuse is not clearly defined by one specific event. Rather, it’s a pattern of behavior through which the abuser seeks to dominate, intimidate, and undermine the partner.

Emotional abuse can include:

  1. Verbal abuse that undermines and humiliates
  2. Stonewalling and lack of emotional support
  3. Belittling accomplishments
  4. Mocking
  5. Constantly blaming others for the abuser’s bad behavior
  6. Need to control money and finances
  7. Highly possessive and jealous behavior
  8. Expecting obedience from the victim
  9. Creating a feeling of isolation; blocking the partner off from access to friends and family, or preventing the partner from working
  10. Making threats about to scare partners into staying with them; threats can be about violence or issues relating to children or other family members
  11. Denial that the abuser’s actions are problematic or blameworthy

Emotional abuse happens because the abuser is seeking to control the victim. Abusers are particularly good at shifting the blame for their behavior, or making their partners feel that the abuse is somehow their fault.

Every couple fights, and every couple has fights that occasionally provoke someone to say things they later regret. So how can you tell the difference between normal, healthy conflict and emotional abuse?

Many experts point to the “walking on eggshells” test; if you are constantly modifying your behavior so as to avoid triggering a reaction from your partner, and worrying about the next time your spouse will react, this is a good sign that you are experiencing a pattern of abuse.

Other signs include feelings of powerlessness and isolation, embarrassment in front of others (when the abuser makes humiliating comments), and constant self-doubt stemming from these conflicts.

Emotional abuse creates a cycle that is particularly difficult to break, and for this reason, it’s especially important for anyone who is experiencing this type of abuse to recognize it, and seek the support of a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional.


Written By The Swaddle Team

  1. Rashmi Raj

    This is the story of so many couples. They look perfect for outside world but inside they are unhappy and scared . But put a fake happy and confident face for outer world .It is a very painful situation to stay in . you are bond to be with your abusive partner because of no financial support or some times physical weakness . What I want to say that every single soul have the capability to enjoy the goodness of the world. No one is allowed to abuse you emotionally or physically . Boost yourself and gather the courage to solve the problem . I know it is not easy but believe in yousert it is not impossible either. Remember in the word ‘ impossible’ is hidden “ I m possible.”

  2. Darren

    What about when a man gets abused by a woman she’s a gold digger I’m going through hell will the world understand it also from abusive women aswell

    • Vini Gupta

      Yes , if that’s the case, you’re in an abusive relationship yourself. The abuse is just not restricted to one gender. In case you find yourself in trouble and talking isn’t helping out , I suggest you to record a few instances proving the same and get rid of all the toxicity as you deserve a happy life and you’re the one to take a stand on that.

  3. Neelam

    I also these things each and every day or seconds of every hour…
    Feel pitty 4 myself
    Becoming wk day by day …
    Jst feel like breaking this was of relationship nd b free…
    Bt emotionally sad 2

  4. Aishwarya

    Emotional abuse is one of the toughest abuses. It makes u feel cheated & takes away all your self esteem. It makes u energyless & worthless. But one must not let such negative emotions get into their system & make them feel weak. One must be a fighter, talk it out. If conversation don’t work, then just get busy. One must make sure that one is working so that one is too busy to think about all this. Never let anyone destroy ur self esteem!!


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