Emotional Abuse in Marriage

More than often, spouses try to impose their will over one another by resorting to negative criticism, threats and insults. Yet, all this is done in the name of co-operation and love. It is a fact that emotional abuse is a common denominator in many marriages. However, the irony is that most of the times both the abuser and the victim are unaware of the fact that their marriage is marred by emotional abuse.

This is because emotional abuse often means one thing to the victim and another to the abuser. Both the abuser and the victim play an important role in this vicious cycle. On the one hand, the abuser is both a coward and a bully at the same time. He/she exposes his/her partner to such an inhuman treatment because he/she is sure that there will be no serious repercussions for this act on his part. On the other hand, the victim, often due to ignorance or for the sake of the marriage plays the role of a passive martyr.

What is needed is a heightened level of awareness on the part of both the spouses to save each other from this common vice. Any constructive relationship has to be based on mutual respect and understanding and a genuine concern for each other’s views, beliefs and opinions.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse often comes in the form of a bulky package. It involves a variety of behaviors aimed at battering the heart and the soul of the victim so as to gain effective control over him/her. The various attributes of emotional abuse are:

a) Isolation

Many a times the abuser tries to socially isolate the victim so as to make him/her dependent on himself/herself for his/her basic social needs and aspirations. A series of restrictions and controls are imposed over the victim, to gain control over his/her social life. It is the abuser who often decides about the persons with whom the victim will interact and the friends with whom he/she will socialize. Any external social support system imposes a threat and a challenge to the abusers authority over the victim. The abuser may often deliberately insult the victim’s friends and relatives so as to scare them away. The abuser may resort to emotional blackmailing, mood swings, tantrums and denial of communication to impose his/her will over the victim. He/she may take recourse to actively spying over the victim and may openly question his/her loyalty towards marriage. This is invariably accompanied by unreasonable demands on him/her. The chain of events may include checking on the victim, depriving him/her of any transport or means of communication, enquiring about his/her daily routine, criticizing his/her friends and relatives and so on.

b) Verbal Abuse

By verbal abuse we often understand yelling, shouting and calling names, which is very true. However, many a times the abuser may not be that blatant in his/her modus operandi and may take recourse to a subtle approach by using tacitly insulting or humiliating remarks. The basic motive is to undermine the victim’s sense of self worth and shatter his/her self esteem. Verbal abuse may also include insulting and criticizing the victim’s family, name calling, being sarcastic, making threats, blaming, etc.

c) Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is an extension of the emotional abuse where the abuser uses money as a tool to gain control over the victim. The abuser may deny appropriate financial freedom and support to the victim or may place unrealistic financial responsibilities on his/her shoulders. The abuser may exhibit financially irresponsible behaviour so as to disturb or confuse the victim.

Emotional Abuse is Worse than Physical Abuse

Though emotional abuse unlike physical abuse does not leave us with bruised eyes and swollen faces, still it is worse than physical abuse. The victim often fails to realize that he/she is being abused and may have his/her mind and soul bludgeoned to an extent where he/she may consider himself/herself responsible for his/her plight.

Is Divorce a Solution?

In the long run, emotional abuse may seriously damage a person’s mental and physical health. Under the British Law, emotional abuse is a valid ground for divorce and comes under the ambit of unreasonable behaviour. You have every right to protect yourself and your children from the long term damage of emotional abuse, even if it involves going for a divorce.

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